Teej: to fast or not to fast

September 9, 2012

Teej is upon us once again. A Hindu festival, its origin dates back to union of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.  The story goes that Goddess Parvati fasted and prayed for many births and rebirths to have Lord Shiva as her spouse, and seeing her devotion to him, Lord Shiva eventually accepted her as his wife.  Thus, today Teej is celebrated by Hindu women to commemorate their union and to pray for similar marital bliss in their lives. The festival in recent years has gotten much wrath from feminists and  progressive women and men alike. Specifically for, system of patriarchic hierarchy they say it perpetuates. The act of women fasting and praying for their men’s well being and longevity, “male worshipping”, is seen by many as way to maintain male status quo.

Whether you take ‘fasting’ as a subjugation of women and not participate in this aspect of the festival, or you take it as a test of your will power and discipline, or a day to pray for your loved ones’ well-being and willingly participate it, as long as it is a choice you make and that you are not coerced into it, we at didibahini.com think that we should respect each other’s decision.

However, having said that if you are feasting as well as fasting, it is important to know their implications to your health and be mindful of your own health while praying for well being of your loved ones. Happy Teej!

Effects of fasting on your health

We have all heard of women fainting while cuing at Pashupatinath temple. In fact that Nepal Red Cross even places booths and aid centers to treat women suffering from side effects of fasting in the temple area during this time. Below are a few reasons why such side effects are seen in those women while fasting.

Fasting slows your metabolism

Once your body has depleted readily available source of energy, i.e. energy from food you eat, it will tap into stored energy in liver, usually two to three hours after a meal. Your body will go into energy conservation mode and metabolism will slow down. You will experience starvation, weakness, nausea, fatigue, impaired vision, slowed heart rate, lowered mental alertness and lowered temperature.
If fasting is prolonged the stored energy too will be depleted and your body will burn muscle and lean tissue to fuel your brain, nervous system and other bodily activities. Alternatively, to spare muscle loss, your body will burn stored fat.  This seems like a great idea for weight loss. However, fat burnt during this process will produce ketone bodies, which are acidic in nature, and in excess will make your blood more acidic, and as a result they can damage your vital organs like liver, kidney and heart.

Fasting can result in gastrointestinal problems

Our body is very intuitive and adoptive. Secretion of digestive enzymes peaks during certain time of the day, when we usually take our meal, for example during breakfast, lunch or dinner. If you don’t eat any food during these times, the enzymes will build up and damage the lining of digestive tracts, leading to many gastrointestinal problems such as acid reflux, gastritis and even ulcer.
Formation of stones in your gallbladder is also another consequences of prolong starvation. During digestion of food gall bladder deposits bile, so in absence in food, bile accumulates inside the gall bladder, which can eventually turn into sludge and then stones.

Fasting lowers your immunity to disease

Depriving your body of food, thus nutrients, vitamins and minerals essential for proper bodily functioning and production of antibodies mean your body will be more susceptible to diseases causing viruses and bacteria.

Be mindful while feasting as well

The first day of Teej is daar khane din, day of feasting. Feasting the day before to compensate for the next day of fasting seems like a logical approach. However, weight gain aside, the overindulgence of spicy and greasy  ‘festival food’ can take a toll on your gastrointestinal system, causing bloating, acidity, abdomen pain and indigestion leading to headache, lethargy, nausea and vomiting. So easy on the fried and spicy food, eat as you would normally.

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