Why Do People Fast?
There are, in fact, several reasons for fasting. This action has been taken by thousands over the centuries, with some making the conscious decision not to eat for religious reasons and others making the same decision as a way of protesting against government or official actions. Others may fast for medical or health reasons, under certain guidelines set by doctors.
People may also fast for health and weight-reduction purposes, though many medical personnel and nutritionists emphasize that this is not the best way to achieve your goals. Fasting generally includes abstaining from the intake of food but can also include refusing to drink liquids, even water.
Religion-based fasting can be a formal part of religious observance or an informal action taken by one or a few individuals. In cases where fasting is a part of religious education and observance the church may have specific guidelines for how the fast is to be conducted. One of the key words associated with religious fasting is “penance.” This means that people punish themselves in certain ways or show that they are repenting for sins committed. In general, fasting is an extreme method of denying oneself all food or a particular type of food.
The word “penance” comes from French and Latin and means that the person has a desire to be forgiven. People fast so that they don’t enjoy earthly pleasures, according to some religious guidelines. In other religions fasting is a way to prevent sins and promote a feeling of togetherness among followers.
Among the guidelines set for various religions are: diet restrictions; particular days during the year that call for penance fasting; fasting during daylight hours – dawn to dusk for members of particular faiths. As explained by encyclopedia entries, such “spiritual” fasts have roots in ancient religions and mysticism of centuries ago.
Dozens of people have chosen to fast as a form of protest, commonly known among those in prison as a “hunger strike.” At first, a fast is non-violent, a method of protest that often captures the attention of the public and sometimes the prison or government leaders at whom it is directed. This type of protest has had some effect, after changes were made in prison or government rules. But in some cases the people who refused to eat became very ill and even died from the experience.
One other reason for prolonged abstinence from food and/or drink relates to health – cleansing of the body and loss of weight. Fasting can help clean out the digestive system as the body uses all available nourishment in the body, while no additional food is put in. When a person fasts properly, with medical supervision, the method can remove germs and other items from the body that could produce disease. This is commonly known as “detoxification.”
Fasting in a medical setting is sometimes used before certain medical procedures. If doctors need to take measurements or conduct some other test they may ask the patient not to eat for 12 hours or more so that food in the system doesn’t interfere.Category: History, Government & Society