How does fasting affect body, mind and heart?

Here I explain the benefits of fasting in Ramadhan. What is happening to your brain, heart and liver? Scientific studies suggest fasting boosts health, promotes longevity and keeps you trim and smart. So how does fasting make you kind, resilient and patient?

“Believers, fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so that you become mindful of Allah” (Baqarah: 183).

This verse makes fasting a duty for the faithful during the month of Ramadhan. It makes clear that this historic ritual was common among Jews, Christians and Greek philosophers. Hippocrates the father of medicine, in the fifth century BC, recommended fasting to patients, since it helped in the healing process. Fasting has been an important therapy in Indian Ayurvedic medicine too, they recommend fasting once a week. So, the Quran puts fasting in its global context when it says, ‘as it was prescribed for those before you.’

Allah is Al-Hakim, the Wise and since no action and utterance of a wise is without wisdom, we would naturally expect fasting to be a beneficial activity. Not a mere ritual. The Majestic Quran points out its moral, social and spiritual benefits in one word, Taqwa, piety but doesn’t exclude its bodily benefits.

The New England Journal of Medicine, a prestigious journal of medicine, published a review of research carried out on fasting. It was titled, “Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease” by Rafael de Cabo PhD, and Mark P Mattson PhD. Their conclusions were, “Preclinical studies and clinical trials have shown that intermittent fasting has broad-spectrum benefits for many health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, Mellitus, cardiovascular disease, cancers and neurological disorders. Although we do not fully understand the specific mechanisms, the beneficial effects of intermittent fasting involve metabolic switching and cellular stress resistance” (NEJM: December 2019).

My devotional and Allah-centric fast

You will agree with me that Ramadhan is a time for worship, devotion and reflection on the deeper meaning of life. I like to understand that it has these amazing bodily benefits, fasting and prayer are to help us change, it’s an opportunity to focus on living a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Other benefits include:

  1. Builds self-control and discipline.
  2. Gives the stomach a break from the laborious job of digestion and excretion.
  3. Helps us to think about our eating habits.
  4. Aids in expelling toxins – detoxifies the body.
  5. Improves our mental and bodily well-being.

The table below shows the impact of fasting on different organs of the body:

Liver:
Fasting increases insulin sensitivity, decreases insulin resistance and lowers blood glucose levels.
Immune System:
Fasting reprograms T-cell populations, damping down autoimmunity and a decrease in inflammatory cytokines. Fasting clips away autoimmune T-cells.
Heart:
As fat is used for energy in the absence of incoming dietary calories, blood lipid levels go down and reduction in cholesterol leads to a decrease in blood pressure.
Brain:
Fasting results in improved memory, learning and neurogenesis in rodents and has been shown to repair some neurons.
Cancer:
By making tumour cells more susceptible to chemotherapeutic agents while protecting healthy cells from the treatment’s toxicity, intermittent fasting is showing promise in slowing the progression of breast cancers and melanoma in mice.

Conclusion

Whilst fasting acts as a purifier, decontaminator of the body and mind, if we couple it with giving Zakat in this month it will multiply its impact. The payment of the annual Zakat is a purifier. Many people take advantage of this and pay Zakat in Ramadhan. So, I humbly request you to pay Zakat.

Karimia Institute is running projects that are fit for Zakat, like the new Muslims project, winning hearts and minds through the Trust Building Forum, Dawah through The Majestic Quran, the Alim course, the Invitation Magazine and British Fatwa Council.

I hope you will give your Zakat and Sadaqat to Karimia Institute, it will help us to build strong Muslim Institutions here in the UK, at home. By ignoring these institutions, Muslims are getting weaker. Allah says “Oh son of Adam! Spend and you will be rewarded” (Bukhari).

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