Intermittent Fasting: An Ancient Health Science -Dr Shakir Bin Wali
Peace be upon all of you. While I have sat to write this article, Central Asia is suffering from a huge rate of obesity and overweight (almost 49.25% in the adults). This obesity comes along with many different comorbidities like diabetes mellitus, hypertension, arthritis, menstrual problems, increased chance of cancer and also many others. The science for health is looking for a solution to these problems for almost a hundred years.
In 2016, Japanese medical scientist Youshinori Ohsumi achieved Nobel Prize in Physiology (a branch of medicine) for discovering the mechanism of autophagy. And this autophagy is thought to be the only effective treatment for diseases like diabetes and hypertension. And here comes another amazing thing! The procedure used for boosting up autophagy in the human body were described almost 1450 yes ago by the last prophet of Islam, Muhammad, peace be upon him.
What is autophagy?
In very simple words, this is a self-cleansing mechanism in the human body. Some cells in our body degrade the “bad materials” and eat them up. Thus our body gets purified. Excess of fats and proteins are cleaned up and a healthy environment is created within the human body. As a result, our organs and blood vessels get freed up from unnecessary fat and they start to function very well again. When pancreas and liver are working well, we get freedom from Diabetes mellitus. And when the blood vessels are no more narrowed down by fat, our blood pressure also comes within the normal range. Furthermore, the loss of overweight status brings us relief from any other comorbidities stated at the beginning of this article.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting means to refrain from any calorie intake for a certain period. Medical science implies this period to be minimum 10 to 12 hour as this allows the body to start a special process named Ketogenesis. And the more ketogenesis you can ensure in 24 hours, the more autophagy occurs in your body. In studies on some rodents, scientists found that the rats who took their food within 4 to 6 hours and were deprived of any food for the rest of that day, had almost double the lifespan than the normal eater rats had. In a study among 100 obese and diabetic women, six months of intermittent fasting brought their insulin sensitivity within the normal level. So they got freedom from Diabetes mellitus.
These studies suggest that the magic wand of autophagy can be started in our body not by many expensive drugs but only by simple intermittent fasting.
What to do now :
Lifestyle having 3 features can bring us back to health fitness.
First, the intermittent fasting should be maintained for 16 to 18 hours per day, while only water is allowed. Your meals, which must not cross the limit of your daily calorie intake, must be taken within that 6 to 8 hours. Besides, As-Saom, a term used in Islam (fasting from Dawn to Dusk without even a sip of water), should be maintained in 2 days a week. This is called Prophet diet or 5:2 intermittent fasting.
Secondly, eat and drink healthy natural foods and juices but within your daily calorie requirement. You may learn about your daily calorie requirement from your nearby nutritionist.
Thirdly and finally, lead an active lifestyle. A daily based regular 30 minutes workout increases your metabolic rate, your muscle mass and most importantly your autophagy. But this workout must be according to your age and health status, and also this exercise should be taken with rest. Upper and lower body exercise in every alternate day is the best option.
The ancient health science :
The last prophet of Islam, Muhammad (PBUH) suggested this 5:2 intermittent fasting long before. According to him, we should fast every Monday and Thursday in a week without even water. This method is very much supported by recent discoveries in the field of health science.
To conclude, we are now for sure, thinking about the lifestyle we should lead to keep us healthy. As it’s already proved that fasting doesn’t harm your stomach rather improves its status, nothing should stop us from deciding to start intermittent fasting from today onwards. It’s just to leave the tendency of having 3 meals a day, rather maintaining intermittent fasting which can be from 7 PM to 1 PM the next day. As a beginner, you may try to extend this fasting period from 12 hours gradually up to 18 hours. The result will satisfy you hopefully only within 6 months.
And at last, this study encourages the scientists for more researches on the suggestions of our ancient scholars like Muhammad (PBUH). We hope more researchers to come forward in this highly potential field.
The writer is an Intern Doctor at Cumilla Medical College Hospital, Bangladesh.