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What are the Risks of Fasting?
Though fasting does have potential dangers, these risks are mostly limited to people who are sick, undernourished, and who have eating disorders. (Remember, we all practice some level of fasting every time we sleep or go without food!) Read on to find out what risks are possible when fasting:
- Prolonged fasts of three days and up have been linked to refeeding syndrome — a dangerous electrolyte/fluid imbalance. But this most often occurs in people who are severely malnourished.
- Pregnant women aren’t advised to practice fasting because of potential pregnancy complications.
- Dehydration can occur while fasting. People who fast need to consume more water than usual, because food alone can account for 20-30% of total fluid intake.
- Headaches are a very slight but common issue at first.
- Eating disorders can be magnified in those with anorexia or bulimia.
- Electrolyte imbalances can happen if you go too long without enough minerals – which could lead to dizziness, heart palpitations, and feeling weak. (Doctors recommend taking a multi-mineral tablet and/or adding salt to water during longer fasts.)
- Hunger is a standard risk for all fasters. But it doesn’t last! Studies actually report less overall hunger when participants adhere to an IF practice.