THE BLESSINGS OF RAMADAN: Through the Prism of Medical Science
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar is having greater significance over rest of months as fasting is generally being observed by Muslims around the globe. Fasting is one among the five pillars of Islam and is obligatory upon all Muslims. Abstinence from eating, drinking and smoking from dawn to dusk are forbidden during this Holy Month. As mentioned in books of Hadith, Fasting has many special spiritual benefits. Among these, the most important are that it is means of controlling one’s desire. A person who abstains from permissible things like food and drink is likely to feel conscious of his sins and makes a person focus more on devoting oneself to God.
The rules of Islam, however, don’t govern just the spiritual development of its followers, but also provides guidelines for their daily routine and influences physical health. Almost every Islamic practice carries health benefits apart from spiritual advantages and fasting is among one of them which has scientifically proven with medical benefits.
Three fathers of Western medicine, Hippocrates, Galen and Paracelsus prescribed fasting as greatest remedy and physician within. The outstanding physicians called ‘Fasting’ as being; the medicine for the 21st century. Germany’s fasting therapist Dr Otto Buchinger says; Fasting is, without any doubt the effective biological method of treatment and describes it “operation without surgery”. He further says, that therapeutically fasting cures many of our modern illness including; allergies, cardiovascular diseases, diseases of digestive system, glaucoma, degenerative and painfully inflammatory illnesses of the joints, initial malfunction of the kidneys, tension and migraine headaches, as well as skin diseases.
Kris Gunnars, the nutrition researcher after profound research, notes several evidence-based health benefits of intermittent fasting in his research journal. According to him, Fasting has powerful benefits for body and brain, not eating for short-terms produces several things to happen in our body; Blood level of Insulin drops significantly facilitating fat burning. Fasting promotes cellular repair processes involving removal of wastes from cells. It also enhances levels of growth hormone in blood much as five-fold which induces fat burning and muscle gain. As per his findings, fasting helps to lose weight and belly fat. Scientific studies reveal that fasting reinforces hormone action to facilitate weight loss. Lower insulin levels, increased amounts of noradrenaline, enhance breakdown of body fats that are utilised as energy. According to 2014 review of the scientific literature, intermittent fasting can cause weight loss of 3-8% over 3-24 weeks, which is a huge amount. It was also found that people lost 4-7% of their waist circumference, which indicates that they lost lots of belly fat, the harmful fat in the abdominal cavity that causes diseases.
It is known that various health markers (so-called “risk factors”) are associated with either an increased or decreased risk of heart disease. Kriss Gunnars believe that fasting impacts cardiac health by improving these risk factors including blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides and blood sugar level and proves beneficial to cardiac health. A noted professor of endocrinology Dr Fereidoun Azizi, mentions that fasting has an impact on Cardiovascular function. Although bradycardia and hypotension may occur during prolonged fasting, heart rate and blood pressure remain normal during the fasting and any deviation from normal functioning is not seen.
Dr Jason Fung, a nephrologist (kidney specialist) and the author of the book, ‘The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day and Extended Fasting in which he elaborates the effect of intermittent fasting upon diabetes and kidney related problems and recommends fasting to renal and diabetic patients.
Dr Joel Fuhrman mentions in “Fasting and Eating for Health”, that fasting has been found to alleviate neurosis, anxiety and depression – Brain related disorders. Findings suggest fasting improves various metabolic features known to be important for brain health. This includes reduced oxidative stress, reduced inflammation and a reduction in blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. Several studies have shown that fasting may increase the growth of new nerve cells, which should have benefits for brain function. It also increases levels of a brain hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), deficiency of which may lead to depression and various other brain problems. Animal studies have also shown that intermittent fasting protects against brain damage due to strokes. Animal studies also suggest that fasting may protect against other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. In addition to this, fasting has also been found to be influential in cancer treatment. There is also some evidence in human cancer patients, showing that fasting reduced various side effects of chemotherapy.
Moreover, studies have shown that intermittent fasting extends lifespan. In some studies, the effects were quite dramatic. In one of them, rats that fasted every other day lived 83% longer than rats that did not. Despite it has not been proven in humans, Intermittent fasting has become very popular among the anti-aging crowd. Given the known benefits for metabolism and all sorts of health markers, it makes sense that intermittent fasting could help you live a longer and healthier life.
In short, we can say, Ramadan is blessing of Almighty Allah that not only cleanse us spiritually but also benefits us to live healthy life and our claim, that Islam is the complete code of life is not a false or shallow claim, rather after going through Quran and teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) we find our claim has strong and provable groundings as it is this religion which guides a person on all fronts and in every sphere of life.
The author is a Postgraduate student of Zoology and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position of Oracle Opinions.