Monday, April 15, 2024

Hunger strike a slow death sentence


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Starving yourself of food and water will eventually lead to organ failure which can result in death, says Dr Varma Deyalsingh, secretary of the Association of Psychiatrists of Trinidad and Tobago

He was responding to questions from the Express with respect to risks that can be expected as environmentalist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh continues his hunger strike, which enters day nine today outside the office of the Prime Minister in St Clair.

Kublalsingh is protes­ting against the Mon Desir-to-Debe section of the Point Fortin Highway, and although Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar clearly indica­ted she will not meet him and the project will continue, Kublalsingh continues to starve himself.

Deyalsingh said while a hunger strike may be a method of political pro­test, after a few days without nutrients or water, the body begins to protest the lack of sustenance and starts attacking the muscle and affecting the organs, particularly the heart, lea­ving the person at risk for organ failure where the kid­ney can shut down, leading to coma and death.

He said three main things are affected: the glucose level, dehydration and salt imbalance.

“The body goes into what is known as a starvation mode and starts to use up all the glycogen or glucose stores in the body. We get glucose when we eat carbo­hydrates like rice, roti, bread, etc,” he said.

Deyalsingh explained the body needs glucose for energy and proper brain functioning.

“With less glucose going to the organs, our body senses this and starts to breaks down muscles to try and make the protein in muscle con­vert to glucose. It sacrifices the muscle for the important glucose, hence the wasted, emaciated look of Mahatma Gandhi, who fasted 17 times,” Deyalsingh said.

He said as the person’s metabolism starts to slow down, they will get fatigue, headaches, and dizziness.

Without water, he said, they will experience dehydration, which cau­ses thickening of the blood, which may preci­pi­tate strokes or heart attacks in those at risk for such.

“The salts in our blood, called electro­-lytes, become off-balanced. If potassium levels increase, the heart could stop beating. Starved indi­viduals could also experience psychological effects and could become hysterical, have impaired judgement and display irrational and impulsive behaviour, and if they have the strength to move, may act out in a way dangerous both to themselves and others,” said Deyalsingh. (Trinidad Express)





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