By Qasim Swati (United Kingdom)
Fasting is the practice of refraining from all or some kinds of food or drink, especially as a religious observance. This is the act of deliberate and intentional abstinence from eating and drinking for a certain period of time.The practice of fasting can be found in some way, in, almost, all religions of the world, including Bahai Faith, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism and Islam.
While fasting in Islam, you will need to abstain from drink, food, sexual activity, smoking (the use of all tobacco products and illegal drugs), from dawn to sunset and keep away from all evils, wicked habits, bad behaviours, wrongdoings, sins and crimes. This is a time when you will have to improve your taqwa (piety) by performing good deeds, worshipping Allah the Almighty, reciting the Holy Qur’an and acting upon its teachings, helping and respecting others and improving your character and ethical competencies.
If performed perfectly, efficiently and accurately, fasting has many social, physical, mental and spiritual advantages (in particular) for those who observe it, and for the rest of the society, in general.
Rachael Link is a registered dietician, based in New York City, and holding a master’s degree from New York University. She is a member of Health-line’s Nutrition Team, who has written an article, titled “8 Health Benefits of Fasting, Backed by Science,” and published on Healthline.com on July 30, 2018. One of the benefits of fasting, discussed by Rachael Link in her article, is that fasting may help in blood sugar control while decreasing insulin resistance, as it emerged from one study in 10 people with type 2 diabetes that short-term intermittent fasting reduced blood sugar levels, to a considerable extent. Thus, this is helpful in reducing blood sugar levels and decreasing insulin resistance, if you observe intermittent fasting and alternate-day fasting.
Chronic inflammation can be very dangerous for your health, but fasting could be beneficial in promoting better health and reducing levels of inflammation, as found from some studies.
Fasting is also said to be useful in reducing cholesterol levels, triglycerides (esters formed from glycerol and three fatty acid groups, and being the main constituents of natural fats and oils) and blood pressure, thus, boosting your heart health.
Notwithstanding the fact that the research done so far is mainly limited to animal research, several studies in animals have found that fasting could increase nerve cell synthesis, improve brain function and help in protection against such neurodegenerative conditions, as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, etc.
The practice of fasting was also found, in research and several reviews, to be effective in assisting the preservation of muscle tissue in order to decrease body fat and weight and increase metabolism.
As concluded from some studies, it is believed that fasting could increase levels of human growth hormone (HGH), which is very helpful in such body functions, as muscle strength, weight loss, metabolism and growth.
Although the research done is just restricted to animal studies and there is still the lack of human research, yet Rachael Link claims that, in light of these studies, fasting could be effective in increasing longevity (long life) and delaying aging/ageing (the process of growing old).
Despite the fact that most research done, is confined to animals again, it is still hoped that fasting could be beneficial in the prevention of cancer (by blocking the development of tumor/tumour) and improving the effectiveness of chemotherapy (the treatment of disease by the use of chemical substances, especially the treatment of cancer by cytotoxic and other drugs).
Similarly, Realbuzz.com is a healthy, active living website that helps those who want to have and lead a healthier and more active lifestyle by challenging themselves. Various health benefits of the Holy month of Ramadan have been mentioned by the Real-buzz Team, titled “7 Surprising Health Benefits of Ramadan” on this website.
One of such advantages of Ramadan is the opportunity for people (Muslims) to fast and eat some dates at the beginning of their iftar, which is very good for their health. Fasting is also beneficial for improving brain function, as claimed by the team. Another benefit of fasting is the chance for the relevant people to adopt positive ethical habits and keep away from smoking and other drug addictions as well. If someone fasts, this can also help in lowering or decreasing his/her cholesterol levels.
Other merits of fasting, as explained in the same article, include such health benefits, as detoxifying your digestive system, weight loss and being useful for your metabolism.
As mentioned earlier about its advantages, fasting has many social, physical, physiological, ethical/moral and spiritual benefits, which can benefit those who observe fasting properly. This is an opportunity of learning self-discipline, obtaining God-consciousness, fear of God, improving stamina, developing self-restraint, and self-control (from indulging into doing bad things), purification of body and soul, creating empathy for the poor, the needy and all those who are hungry, thirsty or in some sort of trouble, in the society around you and all over the world.
Whilst fasting, people need to be nice, friendly and good to their relatives, neighbours, friends, colleagues in a workplace, employees, employers, clients, customers, various professionals and people in general.
In spite of all these benefits that fasting has for the majority of the people, it may have some side effects for some as well and may not be beneficial, recommended and good for everyone, for example, like someone with diabetes, low blood sugar and such other medical conditions. In such a situation, it is important for such impacted people to talk to their doctors/GPs and discuss with them first about their health, otherwise fasting can prove to be hugely dangerous and fatal, in some cases, for them.