The blessed month of Ramadan is a time for inner reflection, self-discipline and self-improvement. If put into proper practice these self-checks lead to the purification of the inner-self. The fasting performed in Ramadan is one of the most successful ways to formulate good habits. Allah says:
يَا بَنِي آدَمَ خُذُوا زِينَتَكُمْ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسْجِدٍ وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا وَلَا تُسْرِفُوا إِنَّهُ لَ
“O Children (of) Adam! Take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink but (do) not be extravagant. Indeed, He (does) not love the extravagant ones.” (Surah Al-A`raf 7:31)
When conducted for the worship of God, fasting gives one control over personal desires and drives. Some of the benefits of fasting include the elimination of toxins, reducing blood sugar and decreasing body fat. Fasting also helps in boosting our immunity and promotes good eating habits.
Here are some health benefits of fasting — backed by science:
- Promotes Blood Sugar Control by Reducing Insulin Resistance: Intermittent fasting and alternate-day fasting could help decrease blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance but may affect men and women differently.
- Promotes Better Health by Fighting Inflammation: Some studies have found that fasting could decrease several markers of inflammation and may be useful in treating inflammatory conditions, such as multiple sclerosis.
- May Enhance Heart Health by Improving Blood Pressure, Triglycerides and Cholesterol Levels: Fasting has been associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease and may help lower blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol levels.
- May Boost Brain Function and Prevent Neurodegenerative Disorders: Animal studies show that fasting could improve brain function, increase nerve cell synthesis and protect against neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.
- Aids Weight Loss by Limiting Calorie Intake and Boosting Metabolism: Fasting may increase metabolism and help preserve muscle tissue to reduce body weight and body fat.
- Increases Growth Hormone Secretion, Which Is Vital for Growth, Metabolism, Weight Loss and Muscle Strength: Studies show that fasting can increase levels of human growth hormone (HGH), an important protein hormone that plays a role in growth, metabolism, weight loss and muscle strength.
- Could Delay Aging and Extend Longevity: Studies show that fasting can increase levels of human growth hormone (HGH), an important protein hormone that plays a role in growth, metabolism, weight loss and muscle strength.
- May Aid in Cancer Prevention and Increase the Effectiveness of Chemotherapy: Some animal and test-tube studies suggest that fasting could block tumour development and increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
- Fasting, unlike starving oneself, can help you lose weight safely.
- Increases Body’s Resistance to Stress
- Fasting May Help to Overcome Addictions
- Fasting Promotes Healthy diet
- Fasting Promotes detoxification
- Fasting Increases Fat breakdown
- Fasting Resolves Inflammatory Response
Ramadan is a month of self-regulation and self-training, with the hope that this training will last beyond the end of Ramadan. If the lessons learned during Ramadan, whether in terms of dietary intake or righteousness, are carried on after Ramadan, their effects will be long-lasting. Moreover, the type of food taken during Ramadan does not have any selective criteria of crash diets such as those which are protein only or fruit only type diets.
Everything permissible is taken in moderate quantities:
1. Detoxification: A lot of the additives that are found in processed foods end up becoming toxins in our bodies. Fats store most of these toxins and during fasting, fat is burned especially when the fasting is long. This results in the toxins being released.
2. Beneficial for Digestive System: When a person is in a state of fasting, his or her digestive organs are in a state of rest. The processes of the digestive organs continue obviously but at a slower rate. This helps maintain a balance of the body fluids within. Food gets broken down at steady rates and energy release is also gradual.
3. Inflammatory Response Resolves: Several studies show fasting promotes the resolution of inflammatory diseases and allergies such as rheumatoid arthritis, arthritis and skin diseases such as psoriasis. Some experts assert that fasting may promote the healing of inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis.
4. Reduction in Blood Sugar: Fasting increases the breakdown of glucose so that the body can get energy. It reduces the production of insulin. This rests the pancreas. Glucagon is produced to facilitate the breakdown of glucose. The outcome of fasting is a reduction in blood sugar.
5. Reduction in Fat: The first response of the body to fasting is to break down glucose. When the store of glucose is exhausted, ketosis begins. This is broken down of fats to release energy. The fats stored in the kidney and muscles are broken down to release energy.
6. Beneficial for High Blood Pressure: Fasting is one of the non-drug methods of reducing blood pressure. It helps to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the clogging of arteries by fat particles. During fasting, glucose and later, fat stores are used to produce energy. The metabolic rate is reduced during fasting. The fear-flight hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline are also reduced. This keeps the metabolic steady and within limits. The benefit is a reduction in blood pressure.
7. Reduction in Weight: Fasting promotes rapid weight loss. It reduces the store of fats in the body. However, fasting is not a good weight-loss strategy. Reducing fat and sugar intake, and increasing fruits and rest are better measures to achieve weight reduction.
8. Healthy Diet: It has been observed that fasting reduces the craving for processed foods. It promotes a desire for natural foods, especially water and fruits. This is one way fasting promote a healthy lifestyle.
9. Boost to Immune Systems: When an individual is on a balanced diet in between feasts, this can boost immunity. Elimination of toxins and reduction in fat storage also help the body. When individuals take fruits to break a fast, they increase the body’s store of essential vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A and E are good antioxidants readily available in fruits. They help to boost immunity.
10. Helps in the reduction of Addictions
Fasting is a special act of worship that is only between humans and God since no one else knows for sure if this person is fasting. Thus God says in a hadith Qudsi that “Fasting is for Me and I only will reward it”. In another hadith, the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) has said: “If one does not give up falsehoods in words and actions, God does not need him giving up food and drink”.
Here are some incredible health benefits you can derive from fasting:
- Fasting gives rest to the digestive system. For example, it is recognized that fasting is one of the best treatments for acidity in the stomach as well as inflammation problems.
- Fasting can strengthen the skin and bones, reduce the risk of gallbladder stones and improves heart function and blood circulation.
- Fasting helps to improve blood fat levels. A study conducted in the Annals of Nutrition Metabolism in 1997 determined that fasting lowered bad “LDL” cholesterol levels by 8%, triglyceride by 30%, and increased good “HDL” levels by 14.3% so that protecting the heart from cardiovascular disease.
- Fasting promotes detoxification.
- Fasting reduces blood sugar. Fasting increases the breakdown of glucose so that the body can get energy. It reduces the production of insulin. The outcome of fasting is a reduction in blood sugar.
- Fasting promotes fat breakdown and weight loss. Calorie consumption is decreased in Ramadan. If you maintain your usual eating habits, you are very likely to eat fewer amounts of food and lose weight. When your source of Energy during the fast is mainly fat. Trying to stay lightly active during the day can promote fat break-down even more. Fasting is a great chance to get your body in shape.
- Fasting improves high blood pressure. It is considered one of the non-drug methods of reducing blood pressure. It helps to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. That is the clogging of arteries by fat particles. During fasting, glucose and later, fat stores are used to produce energy. The metabolic rate is reduced during fasting. This keeps the metabolism constant and within limits. The benefit of all this is a reduction in blood pressure.
- Fasting promotes a healthy diet. It reduces the craving for processed foods, promotes the desire for natural foods, especially water and fruits. This is one way fasting promote a healthy lifestyle.
- Fasting boosts immunity. When an individual is on a balanced diet during fasts, this can boost immunity. Elimination of toxins and reduction in fat storage also help the body. When a person takes fruits to break a fast, he/she increase the body’s store of essential vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A and E are good antioxidants readily available in fruits. They help to boost immunity.
- Fasting may help to overcome addictions. It can help addicts to reduce their cravings, for alcohol, caffeine and other substance abuse. Although there are other regimens required to resolve addictions, fasting can play a vital role in this manner.
فَمَن لَّمْ يَجِدْ فَصِيَامُ شَهْرَيْنِ مُتَتَابِعَيْنِ مِن قَبْلِ أَن يَتَمَاسَّا فَمَن لَّمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَإِطْعَامُ سِتِّينَ مِسْكِينًا ذَٰلِكَ لِتُؤْمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَتِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ
“Then whoever (does) not find, then fasting (for) two months consecutively before [that] they both touch each other. But (he) who not is able then (the) feeding (of) sixty needy one(s). That – so that you may believe in Allah and His Messenger, and these (are the) limits (of) Allah, and for the disbelievers (is) a punishment painful.” (Surat Al-Mujadilah 58:4)
Many people observe fasting as a religious obligation but only a few of them know the health benefit which is its secondary nature. Fasting is a good practice as it promotes healthy eating habits, elimination of toxins from the body, reduces blood sugar and fat stores. Some authors show that fasting can help addicts reduce their cravings, for nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and other substance abuse. Although there are other regimens required to resolve addictions, fasting can play a role.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:183)
Fasting is a practice that has been associated with a wide array of potential health benefits, including weight loss, as well as improved blood sugar control, heart health, brain function and cancer prevention. The self-improvements that occur during Ramadan should continue throughout the year. As we all know that fasting is an exceptionally important part of the Islamic faith and has many more benefits which can only be perceived by one who diligently fasts with sincerity this Ramadan.