People observe fasting as a religious obligation with only a few knowing the medical benefits
By Sheikh Umar Ahmad:
Fasting in Islam is a religious obligation and good practice to ameliorate the health condition of the body. It promotes the elimination of toxins, reduces blood sugar and fat stores, thus purifies one of the harmful residual reserves that damage the physiological makeup of the body.
It promotes healthy eating habits, develops patience and boosts up the immune system to prepare body against various pathophysiological conditions. Here are some medical benefits of fasting in Ramadan which in quite some good ways to help to develop a healthy bio-system.
As the month of Ramadan starts in a couple of weeks from now, we must keep track & acknowledge the medical benefits if offers in addition to it being as a religious obligation.
Fasting promotes Toxin Detoxification:
We eat a lot of processed foods in our day today consumables. These contain lots of additives which in some cases become toxins in the body and are stored in fats deposits. These promote the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). In prolonged fasting, fat is burnt down and these toxins are released. The liver, kidneys and other organs in the body which are involved in detoxification eliminate out these toxins.
Fasting Rests Digestive System:
Fasting provides rest to digestive organs. The normal physiologic functions especially the production of digestive secretions continue but at reduced rates. This helps to maintain the balance of fluids in the body. Breakdown of food takes place at steady rates with release of energy also following a gradual pattern. Stomach acids, however, continue to secrete, that is why patients with peptic ulcer are advised to approach fasting with caution or not to fast till their health condition improves greatly.
Fasting Resolves Inflammatory Response:
Research studies claim fasting promotes resolution of inflammatory diseases and allergies as rheumatoid arthritis, arthritis and skin diseases such as psoriasis, with some experts asserting that fasting may promote healing of inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis.
Fasting Reduces Blood Sugar:
Fasting increases the breakdown of glucose so to continue the required energy supply to the body. It reduces the production of insulin which rests the pancreas. Glucagon is produced to facilitate the breakdown of glucose. The outcome of which is a reduction in blood sugar.
Fasting Increases Fat breakdown:
The first response of the body to fasting is to break down of glucose to supply energy and to keep normal metabolism in check. When glucose reserves are exhausted, ketosis begins. This is broken down of fats to release energy. The fats stored in kidney and muscles are broken down to release energy which cleanses the body of unwanted residual fats that promote cardiovascular and sclerotic diseases.
Fasting stabilizes high blood Pressure:
Fasting is one of the non-drug methods of reducing blood pressure. It indirectly helps to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis which is clogging of arteries by fat particles. During fasting, glucose and later fat stores are used to produce energy with metabolic rate also reduced to a steady state and kept within limits. The fear-flight hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline are also reduced. This all benefits reduction in blood pressure.
Fasting Promotes Weight loss:
Fasting promotes rapid weight loss by reducing the stores of fats in the body. As the weight loss happens gradually over a series of time, it helps to maintain a steady state of health.
Fasting Promotes Healthy diet:
It has been observed that fasting reduces the craving for processed and dry foods which promotes a desire for natural foods, especially water and fruits. This is one-way fasting promote a healthy lifestyle and thus maintains the normal physiological well being of a person.
Fasting Boosts Immunity:
When an individual is on a balanced diet in between fasts, this can boost immunity. Elimination of toxins and reduction in fat store also helps the body rejuvenate out of a bad health state. 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.
Fasting May Help to Overcome Addictions:
Fasting has been found help addicts reduce their cravings, for nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and other substance abuse by developing patience in them. Although there are other regimens required to resolve addictions, fasting can play a role.
Despite these benefits, fasting has some demerits. It may cause a reduction in body water called dehydration and disturb the osmolarity of the body. This may lead to headaches and even trigger migraines in predisposed persons. It may worsen heartburn and peptic ulcer. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, malnourished people, and individuals with cardiac arrhythmias, renal or liver problems are advised either fast after properly consulting a physician or not to fast.
The author is currently DST INSPIRE Fellow pursuing Doctorate in Biotechnology at CSIR, Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine, Jammu (J&K).