What are the health benefits of fasting during Ramadan?
Abstaining from food and water doesn't only have spiritual rewards, but can also benefit the body from a physical perspective.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan helps with wellbeing, by giving your body a break from digesting food or water, for long periods of time spread over 30 days. Even at a cellular level, it can be liken to giving your system a reset to heal itself.
Intermittent fasting has gained in popularity in recent years, even amongst athletes, as it is believed to promote fat loss and muscle gain. Fasting in Ramadan produces similar results, albeit over a shorter time frame.
The practice of fasting dates back centuries, and people see it as one of the oldest therapies in medicine. In the 5th century BC, Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, recommended abstaining from food to aid the healing process. In Ayurvedic medicine, fasting once a week is thought to promote digestive clearance.
It isn't just Muslims who fast in Ramadan either. It also plays a central role in cultural and religious practices. Fasting plays a role in all major religions in one form or another: Christians fasting during Lent, or abstaining from certain foods, being a prime example. Whether it involves the abstinence from food and drink or a lighter, lower-calorie form of eating, many argue that going without food for periods of time is something we have evolved to do.
Some studies suggest that fasting may protect against and improve Parkinson's and Alzheimer's patients' outcomes and improve brain function by supporting memory and brain processing. And this isn't just limited to humans. Similarly, animal studies suggest fasting may protect brain health and increase the generation of nerve cells.
What are considered to be the top health benefits of fasting?
- lower the risk of diabetes
- promote weight loss
- reduce the risk of heart disease
- improve insulin levels
- optimal brain function,
- boost the immune system
- blood sugar control
- lower blood pressure
- promote weight loss
Of course, fasting is not for everyone. It's advisable to speak to your GP or healthcare professional before attempting to fast during Ramadan, especially if you're elderly, have a pre-existing medical condition (including diabetes and high blood pressure) or are on medication.
In Islam, those who are ill are exempt from fasting, as are people who are travelling and women who are pregnant, menstruating or breastfeeding.
But please remember, Ramadan is not primarily for improving health physically, but for the spiritual benefits of getting closer to Allah (SWT).