‘Not even water, Herbs?’ I get that question a lot from my non-muslim buddies who lack the knowledge about Ramadan, and Islam in general, when I try to explain to them I’m fasting during the Holy Month. Still, it makes me wonder how I can better connect with certain friends who are not spiritual at all, and don’t believe in God whatsoever.
Therefore, this is just a quick heads-up for my readers, muslim or not who may be drawn to the scientific evidence instead. There’s a difference between starvation and intermittent fasting. As a muslim, the main reason why we fast during the holy month of Ramadan is to experience the plight of the hungry, and to discipline ourselves in order to refine our closeness to God. Many of my non-muslim friends who may not be aware of the bodily health benefits there are to be gained from fasting, may be surprised, or even inspired (fingers crossed) by the following scientific advantages that come with this.
Even if you are not muslim and don’t fast for the spiritual reasons, the science may help you further appreciate this form of worship.
1. Fasting Re-Charges your Immune System
Intermittent fasting improves the immune system because it reduces free radical damage, regulates inflammatory conditions in the body and starves off cancer cell formation. Many diseases and illnesses are caused, and made worse, by a weak immune system in both kids and adults.
In nature, when animals get sick they stop eating and instead focus on resting and healing their bodies. This is a primal instinct to reduce stress on their internal system so their body can fight off infections. We humans are the only idiotic species who look for food when we are ill, even when we do not need it(!)
2. Fasting Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Fasting has shown to have a positive effect on insulin sensitivity, allowing you to tolerate carbohydrates (sugar) better than if you didn’t fast. A study showed that after periods of fasting, insulin becomes more effective in telling cells to take up glucose from blood.
My dear Mother is a Type-2 diabetic, so although I try to explain this fact to her, it’s a double-edged sword with diabetics because they can’t go long periods without eating or drinking. A tricky one this, but a meal plan and short-term fasting can help achieve the desired results.
3. Fasting Detoxes your Digestive System
Intermittent fasting gives your digestive system a rest, and this can energise your metabolism to burn through calories more efficiently. If your digestion is poor, this can effect your ability to metabolise food and burn fat. Intermittent fasts can regulate your digestion and promote healthy bowel function, thus improving your metabolic function.
It also helps ‘clear your guts’, guys. A period of fasting will help your body get rid of all the crappy waste and shit that may have been stuck in your large intestines for years.
Ever heard of ‘colonic irrigation’? It’s a medical process which involves shoving a tube up your ass, through-which hot water is rinsed through your intestines to dis-lodge shit and waste that may be as stubborn as me getting out of bed on a Saturday morning, when I don’t have to do the school-run.
I’d rather endure a fast than a tube up my ass, to be frank(!)
4. Fasting helps Clear the Skin and Improves Skin Conditions
Fasting can help clear the skin because with the body temporarily freed from digestion, it’s able to focus it’s regenerative energies on other systems.
Not eating anything for just one day has shown to help the body clean up the toxins and regulate the functioning of other organs of the body like the liver, kidneys and heart.
I, myself, suffered from atopic eczema throughout my early teens and twenties. Every Ramadhan though, I noticed my skin being less inflamed and clearer. Take it from me, your skin will clear up after a few days of fasting.
5. Fasting Improves and Enhances Weight Loss
Fasting can be a safe way to lose weight as many studies have shown that intermittent fasting – fasting that is controlled within a set number of hours – allows the body to burn through fat cells more effectively than just regular dieting.
Intermittent fasting allows the body to use fat as it’s primary source of energy instead of sugar. Many athletes now use fasting as a means to hitting low body fat percentages for competitions.
For women who have tried every diet in the book eg: Atkins’ or High Protein and are always fighting their ‘yo-yo weight’, try fasting. It may be the answer you’ve always been looking for.
6. Fasting May Help You Overcome Addictions and Bad Habits
Do you smoke like a chimney? Drink like a fish or use drugs (illegal or prescription) like you really shouldn’t? Are you a sex or porn addict like a rabbit with a packet of Viagra and high-speed internet connection? Rather than try all the traditional ‘treatments’ or going cold-turkey, a period of fasting can help you ease of the dependency at your own pace.
For muslims, sex isn’t allowed during the fasting hours. I’ve gotta admit, I enjoy sex like the next man, but keeping my willy under control always helps me concentrate, whilst making it more intense and satisfying when I finally ‘get-down’. Lol!
7. Fasting can Improve Brain Function and Help You Concentrate Better
Fasting has shown to improve brain function, because it boosts the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF.)
BDNF activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons, and triggers numerous other chemicals and brain activity that promote neural health. This protein also protects your brain cells from changes associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
As a designer, I find it helps me concentrate and zone-in better on artwork when I’m staring at my computer screen for hours-on-end. Food and drink always acts as an incentive to take more breaks, but I find when I don’t have that as an option, my design sessions are longer and more productive.
8. Fasting can Raise Your Self-Esteem, Confidence and Discipline
There’s always a sense of achievement felt every time we eat at sunset to end our fast, during Ramadhan. I feel as if the meal is a ‘reward’ for enduring the fast and not giving in to temptation. You may learn things about yourself you never knew existed. You may learn you are more patient than you thought you were. This can have positive effects in other areas of your life like family, business and relationships.
I hope the above helps my readers and friends understand the scientific aspects better, if the spiritual reasons don’t stimulate you enough. If you have other benefits of fasting which you’d like to share, please do-so in the comments section below.
Happy Ramadhan, everyone. May God bless your sacrifices and reward you abundantly.