As the festive season begins with the coronavirus pandemic still lingering, doctors have advised people to avoid fasting during Navratri or Karwa Chauth and make necessary changes to safeguard their health, especially if they are recovering from a Covid infection or belong to the high-risk group.
Doctors believe that fasting could reduce the innate defence mechanism, as well as adaptive immune responses of the body.
"People who are Covid positive or are recovering from Covid infection should avoid fasting during Navratri or Karwa Chauth. Those who are considered highly susceptible to the virus -- elderly, people with diabetes, hypertension or other comorbidities, and pregnant and lactating women -- should in no way fast during the pandemic," said Col Vijay Dutta, senior consultant, internal and respiratory medicine at Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, New Delhi.
"Intermittent fasting shifts the primary energy source of the body from glucose to free fatty acid (FFA) which helps burn fat. However, fasting may reduce the body's innate defence mechanisms as well as adaptive immune responses as immune cells which rely on glucose to sustain their function and proliferation. Reduced glucose availability and hypoinsulinemia during fasting may have negative effects on immune mechanisms," he explained.
Hypoinsulinemia is a condition in which the body doesn't respond well to the effects of insulin. The pancreas tries to compensate by making more insulin. Insulin resistance may eventually lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.
The festivity of Navratri has already started and will continue till October 25. The Karwa Chauth will follow on November 4. While the doctors advised against the fasting, they also said that those opting for fasts should ditch traditional diets which are heavy on fried cuisines.
"Those who are fasting should opt for healthy food as they break their fast instead of the usual fried and oily food. Take fruits to stay hydrated and fill with natural glucose whereas packaged juices add sugar in the blood. Fruits like banana, pomegranate, papaya, apples, and berries add fibre while nuts such as walnuts, almonds and pistachios can be a good source of protein and healthy fat. Opt for light meals comprising multigrain chapati with vegetables or paneer instead of oily and deep-fried pakoras or parathas," said Rakesh Pandit, senior consultant, internal medicine, Aakash Healthcare, New Delhi.
The doctors also advised pregnant and lactating women not to fast in such conditions. They cautioned that the whole day fasting could interfere with natural metabolism causing hormonal imbalance which may lead to acidity, bloating, nausea and discomfort.
Gauri Agarwal, senior gynaecologist & fertility expert at Seeds of Innocence, New Delhi, said that the whole day of fasting can affect the blood sugar levels in pregnant women.
"Pregnant women or lactating mothers should avoid fasting on both Navratri and Karwa Chauth. Day-long fasting can create stress on the body and adversely impact the blood sugar level, pushing it higher than normal.
"Long-term fasting in pregnancy and breastfeeding can cause hormonal imbalance and interfere with natural metabolism - both have adverse impacts on the women's body. If one is insistent, make sure she is taking fluids such as fresh juice, coconut water, milk or fresh fruit smoothies," she advised.