The practice of voluntarily going without food. It can be undertaken as a religious observance, a sign of mourning, a political protest (hunger strike), or for slimming purposes.
Fasting or abstinence from certain types of food or beverages occurs in most religious traditions. It is seen as an act of self-discipline that increases spiritual awareness by lessening dependence on the material world. In the Roman Catholic church, fasting is seen as a penitential rite, a means to express repentance for sin. The most commonly observed Christian fasting is in Lent, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, and recalls the 40 days Christ spent in the wilderness. Roman Catholics and Orthodox usually fast before taking communion and monastic communities observe regular weekly fasts. Devout Muslims go without food or water between sunrise and sunset during the month of Ramadan.
Total abstinence from food for a limited period is prescribed by some naturopaths to eliminate body toxins or make available for recuperative purposes the energy normally used by the digestive system. Prolonged fasting can be dangerous. The liver breaks up its fat stores, releasing harmful by-products called ketones, which results in a condition called ketosis, which develops within three days, an early symptom of which is a smell of pear drops on the breath. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, severe depression, and irritability. Eventually the muscles and other body tissues become wasted, and death results.