alt=a woman peeks out the window, looking concerned as the sun sets and the Yom Kippur fast begins.

IBS Symptoms and Religious Fasting

September 15, 2021 marked the start of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, which requires fasting (no eating or drinking or consuming anything of any kind), for those that are physically able to. I have always been someone who has considered myself physically able to do so. I have been fasting every year on Yom Kippur since I was 12 years old, which is the age of "adulthood" for Jewish females (ie. the age that women take on more responsibility in their Judaism; for men, it's 13). Some fasts have been harder than others over the years but overall, nothing too terrible. My IBS has also not affected my fasting in any noticeable way.

This year

This year, I woke up stressed about fasting. We all know how stress affects IBS symptoms... big sigh there. I had gone out the previous evening to the first in-person work event in a year and a half. So, I had a little bit to drink (okay, four or five drinks) and a lot of food ranging in the severity of IBS triggers (too spicy, too deep-fried, and/or too rich). I was so thrilled about actually seeing my colleagues for the first time in a year and a half that I overdid it. So, I woke up the next morning slightly dehydrated and had a slightly unhappy digestive system.

I ate oatmeal with cinnamon and almond milk for breakfast after waiting it out for my stomach to feel better. I had a turkey sandwich on a bagel with spring mix and mayonnaise for lunch. I had also a smoothie and two granola bars. I drank tons of water in hopes to hydrate myself enough for the fast. It is quite possible that I ate too much food (ie. overcompensated).

Then, my sister made me dinner: Mediterranean-style chicken, potatoes, celery, and pita. The flare that had begun to build over the day (again, it is *quite* possible I ate too much in an attempt to prepare for the fast) went into boiling point during dinner. I finished my dinner and then cleared my dinner quite quickly... in the toilet, with less than 20 minutes to go before the fast started. Going to the bathroom like that meant that some of my progress hydrating myself had dissipated and I was left feeling slightly hungry already.

By not being properly prepared, I ruined my digestive state for the beginning of the fast. However, I managed to drink some water in the last few minutes before starting the fast.


Until I find myself truly physically unable to fast, I still don't see a reason not to follow the fasting rules of Yom Kippur, despite the hiccup. I have been doing it for so long and it is an important part of my Judaism for me.

For those reading this, I was wondering what other people who are part of religions with fasting holidays do? Do you fast with IBS? Let me know in the comments!

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