Health Benefits of fasting -Dr M.R Sa’ad

Ramadan, the month of blessing, is here again which is known as month of fasting in the Islamic Calendar. In this holy month, Muslims are prescribed to fast from dawn to dusk. Achieving the satisfaction of Almighty Allah by spiritual means is the main objective of fasting. Other than spiritual benefits, fasting has many psychological & physical well-beings as well.
Ramadan is the 9th month of Islamic Calendar (Hijra). Since Hijra is a lunar calendar, Ramadan occurs at different times in the seasonal year over a 33-year cycle. In recent years, Ramadan has moved increasingly into the hot summer season which brings long day times in the northern hemisphere and sweltering heat for many countries including Bangladesh.
There are lots of adverse effects of general fasting as well as dieting. In most cases, general fasting, commonly known as starvation or dieting leads to malnutrition, physical weakness, inadequate calorie intake etc. But Islamic fasting is different from such fasting, starvation or dieting.
This article will take a look at some of the advantages & health benefits of Ramadan.
It is noted that The International Congress on Health & Ramadan which was held in Casablanca, Morocco in 1994, covered 50 studies on the medical ethics of Ramadan & noted various improvement in the health conditions of those who fast. The effect on physical and mental health of the month-long intermittent fasting has been studied by many international research organizations but the majority of the studies have found momentous health benefits but few health problems arising from the fast. Here are some health benefits we can achieve from fasting.

Lowers Cholesterol level
A study conducted in 1997 in the Annals of nutrition metabolism demonstrated that fasting lowered bad LDL cholesterol levels by 8 percent, triglyceride by 30 percent and increased good HDL levels by 14.3 percent. Thus low cholesterol promotes cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases or a stroke.

Lessens blood sugar
When anyone spend extended hours without eating or drinking, your blood sugar goes down and your body uses up stored glucose for energy. Fasting increases breakdown of stored carbohydrate so that the body can get energy. A team of Cardiologists in the UAE found people observing Ramadan enjoys a positive effect on their lipid profile which means there is a reduction of cholesterol in the blood.

Controls blood pressure
Fasting is one of the non-drug methods of reducing blood pressure. It helps to decrease the risk of atherosclerosis, clogging of arteries by fat particles. During fasting, glucose and later on fat stores are used to produce energy. Metabolic rate is also reduced during fasting. The fear-flight hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline are also reduced. This keeps the metabolism steady and within limits. The benefit is a reduction in blood pressure.
Promotes detoxification
Ramadan acts as a detox for our body. Processed foods contain lots of additives that may become toxins in our body. Most of these toxins are stored in fats. Fat is burnt during fasting especially when it is prolonged. And the toxins are released. The liver, kidneys and other organs in the body are involved in detoxification.

Rests digestive function
During fasting, the digestive organs rest. The physiological functions continue such production of digestive secretions but at reduced rates. This exercise helps to maintain balance of fluids in the body.

Boosting of Brain
A group of scientists carried out a study in the USA found that the psychological focus achieved during Ramadan fasting increases the level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor which improves brain function. The brain-boosting powers of Ramadan are even more significant.

Promotes weight loss
Though fasting promotes weight loss but it is not good weight loss strategy. Fasting promotes rapid weight loss. It reduces the store of fats in the body. Weight loss is a passive effect of fasting.

Absorbs more nutrients
By not eating throughout the day during Ramadan, metabolism becomes more efficient meaning the amounts of nutrients absorb from food improves. This is because of an increase in a hormone called adiponectin, which is produced by a combination of fasting and eating late at night, and allows your muscles to absorb more nutrients. This will lead to health benefits all around the body.

Defeats detrimental habits
Ramadan is the perfect time to overcome bad habits like smoking, nicotine, sugary foods etc. Abstaining from them, our body can gradually acclimatize to their absence.

Enhances healthy life styles
Ramadan promotes healthy food habits and life styles. In Ramadan people usually eat healthier food that richer in nutrients but lower in calories. Ramadan also promotes desire for natural foods especially water and fruits etc. As we fast during day time, we can concentrate more on our works. Foods that we eat take time to convert into glucose can keep us energized for more hours and can help us to control cravings and hunger during the day.
Besides these, fasting in Ramadan has other benefits like boosting our immunity, resolving inflammatory response, tranquility of mind and soul, lasting appetite reduction etc.
However, as fasting in Ramadan has a link with our physical status, we should take some medical condition into consideration. People with type-1 diabetes, uncontrolled migraines, peptic ulcer disease, pregnant mother, breastfeeding mothers, individuals with cardiac arrhythmia and people on dialysis are advised not to fast or approach fasting with caution. But before taking any decision about fasting, we should make a conversation with specialized doctors for better instruction and information.

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