As Muslims start the holy month of fasting at Ramadan, this post from Hygeia HMO, your friendly neighborhood HMO helps to clarify the health benefits of fasting as Islam recommends and the corresponding risks as well.
A number of studies have concluded that intermittent fasting – abstaining from food and drink intake periodically – can be good for us, it is actually one of the more popular diet trends worldwide.
During Ramadan, devout Muslims don’t eat or drink in the hours between dawn and sunset. This frequently means up to 12 hours without food and lets your body get into a ‘fasted state’ where it is burning fat instead of digesting food. It takes about 8-10 hours after a meal to get into this fasted state and this is why fasting is great. Without fasting, our bodies rarely ever get into this state.
- Weight-loss – During fasting, the body cannot get its energy from food so it dips into glucose that is stored in the liver and muscles. When the stored glucose has been used up (this usually happens 8-10 hours later), the body then begins to burn fat as a source of energy and this can result in weight loss
- It preserves muscles and reduces cholesterol levels.
- Detoxification – Toxins stored in the body’s fat are dissolved and removed from the body
- Feel better – after a few days of fasting, higher levels of endorphins are produced in the blood and this can have a positive impact on mental well-being
- Boosting immunity – Prolonged fasting may also be effective for regenerating the immune cells. Fasting cycles can help generate a new immune system
- Better skin – Fasting lowers blood sugar which improves skin integrity and supports healthier collagen in your skin
- Fasting kick starts protective mechanisms of the brain because the neurons in the brain benefit from being mildly stressed from minimized food intake
- It decreases the risk of inflammation through better hormone balance
- It encourages better insulin sensitivity and reduces insulin resistance that would cause weight gain.
- It improves cardiovascular function, blood composition, and blood pressure perhaps due to reduced salt intake and increased loss of salt through urine
- It boosts your metabolism by increasing thyroid hormone production and improving leptin sensitivity
- Dehydration – this is largely because your body is not getting enough fluid from water and food. So drinking a lot of water prior to fasting periods is encouraged
- Fasting can increase stress levels and disrupt sleep patterns
- Headaches – The expected dehydration, hunger or lack of sleep during a fasting period can lead to headaches, especially in the first few days
- Fasting can also cause heartburn; abstinence from food leads to a reduction in stomach acid that digests food and destroys bacteria. Smelling or even thinking about food during fasting periods can trigger the brain into telling the stomach to produce more acid than necessary, leading to heartburn.
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