3 Mental Health Reasons to Delay Religious Fasting

3 Mental Health Reasons to Delay Religious Fasting

People of various faiths, such as Judaism, Islam, Christianity or Hinduism, participate in fasting – temporarily abstaining from food and sometimes drink – as part of their religious practice as a means of repentance, purification or self-discipline.

In addition to the religious and cultural significance of fasting, some people also experience mental health benefits from it. “Some observational studies have suggested fasting to improve mood and reduce stress levels,” says Ketan Parmar, MDa psychiatrist based in BombayIndia, who identifies as Hindu.

For example, a study published in the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research showed that fasting during Ramadan, a month-long Muslim holiday that occurs every spring, was associated with lower depressive symptoms and subsequent stress levels among nurses.

Although religious fasting is safe for most people, there are exceptions. For example, during Ramadan, Muslims who are sick, pregnant or breastfeeding are advised not to fast, according to another article in the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research. And while fasting can benefit the mental health of some, it can be detrimental to the mental health of others. That’s why some experts believe there should be mental health-related exceptions for religious fasting.


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