Fasting : royal road to healing


With only a few days left for the holy month of Ramadan to end, surely no one can hide the satisfaction and pleasure of being able to eat whatever they like whenever they like. Nobody likes feeling hungry ,especially with so many delicious foods to choose from in our time . It’s scientifically  proven that food deprivation causes serotonin levels to drop , which is a chemical and neurotransmitter that contributes to the regulation of mood and appetite among many other things ,low levels of serotonin have been shown to cause a whirlwind of uncontrollable emotions such as anxiety ,anger and depression , so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that nobody likes to fast ; that’s pretty obvious at this point to say the least but what most certainly isn’t clear to most of us is that fasting the right way could be a gateway to having a better health and therefore a better life. The benefits of fasting are too many to count ,they vary from physiological to spiritual and from psychological to behavioural.  There are even different types of fasting , other than our Islamic fasting there is also intermittent fasting where dieters are allowed to drink water . Many might find taking up Islamic fasting quite hard due to the lack of water consumption unlike in therapeutic fasting ; well , i’m here to tell you that it doesn’t really matter as long as you abstain from food ,because it is the main cause for obesity , high blood pressure and skyrocketing cholesterol levels ; 《the proposed theory is that people may consume fewer calories if they are significantly restricting food intake on certain days or times of day , which might alter their metabolism in beneficial ways》~whitney linsenmeyer PhD. Feel free to take up any kind of fasting as long as you stick to it , but one thing for sure is that our Islamic way is the best way , and my point will be proven later on. Some fast for a number of hours each day , others engage in a 24 hour fast for one day a week or eat regular meals for five days a week and fast for the remaining two ,which in how the prophet (peace be upon him) used to do it. The first thing you need to know is that you can’t reap the real benefits of fasting unless you do it the correct way : part of the system of fasting is knowing how to break your fast.

“anyone can fast . Only the wise knows how to break his fast” ~ GHANDI .

First thing to note is , when breaking his fast , one should not eat to compensate for the whole day . If you do that you’ll be surprising the body with a large quantity of food and giving it extra work after a long day of inactivity ,which leads to weight gain .One example to note here is a technique that sumo wrestlers use in order to fatten up ,they would fast for long periods of time and then eat large amounts of food all at once ,which leads to a fast way of gaining weight. One good advice in regards to weight gain in fasting is to try your best to count your calorie intake ,it will help you know how much you eat which in turn will help you stay in control of your weight. A 2018 study found that following a 16:8 diet where dieters fasted for 16h & ate regular meals for 8h helped obese participants consume 350 less calories and lose 3% of their weight over 12 weeks . Recent research published in the American journal of clinical nutrition found intermittent fasting was no more effective than traditional diets. The 150 obese women who were put to a 5:2 diet (unrestricted eating for 5 days and 2 days with significant calorie restriction) lost more weight during the 12 week study period mentioned earlier . Which is basically what the prophet used to do.

Another benefit of fasting is that it generally heals the body and gives the dieter a boost of energy . This isn’t only with humans , but even animals fast in order to heal. It was  found that when bears accidentally eat something poisonous ,they deliberately fast for 36h ,they just drink water and sit all day until all the poison’s expelled from their bodies. For us humans , fasting turns on certain genetic repair mechanisms that enhance cellular rejuvenation. This  appears to allow certain cells to have longer lifespans during times of famine. These genetic repair mechanisms are turned on through the release of human growth hormones (HGH) which are known to create physiological changes in metabolism to favour fat burning and protein sparing . The spared proteins and amino acids are utilized to repair tissue collagen which improves the functionality and strength of muscles , tendons , ligaments and bones. Researchers at the Intermountain Medical Centre Heart institute found that individuals who had fasted for 24h had a 1300% to 2000% increase in circulating HGH. The researchers also found that the fasting individuals had significantly reduced their triglycerides ,boosted their HDL cholesterol (beneficial cholesterol) and stabilized their blood sugar .

Most conventional diets only consider the total caloric value of foods. However , weight gain is not the result of excess calories , but hormonal effects of the food that instruct our body to gain weight ,the primary hormone involved is insulin , which is opposite in function of the HGH previously mentioned. One of the mechanisms by which insulin stays elevated , is the phenomenon of insulin resistance ; which is when body cells don’t respond properly to insulin ,  when that happens ,the body tries to cope by producing more insulin ;which means that glucose is more likely to build up in the blood and lead to high blood sugar levels and pave the way for obesity . Periods of very low insulin ,as can be achieved by fasting , will prevent the development of insulin resistance and help with weight loss efforts in the long term. The main reason why fasting boosts energy levels is it because it gives our bodies a break. Nowadays we are eating all the time ,this amount of consumption forces our bodies to work constantly in favor of digestion ; that’s why abstaining from food gives the body some time to recover. The NHANES survey in the USA showed that in 1977 , the average american ate 3 times a day (breakfast ,lunch , dinner). By 2005, that number doubled by adding 1 snack after every meal ,it became 6 meals a day , which is basically Morocco all over again. Essentially the body can only exist in two states… the fed state (high insulin,storing energy) or the fasted state (low insulin,burning energy). It cannot do both at the same time. So , instead of like 1977 where the two states were balanced ,we now spend 80% of our time in the fed state , telling our bodies to store energy as fat . Miraculously ,fasting was also found to slow down aging processes , in the period of the great depression in the 30s in America,  there was a lot of poverty & unemployment and people went hungry and there was a huge economic recession that lasted for 10 to 15 years. It was a tragedy , so they expected ,due to hunger and illness, that the average american lifespan would decline… to their surprise they found the complete opposite, they found out that the “great depression” generation had their average lifespan increased by 6 years . When they analysed this they found that the main reason was that people were eating less and were basically just fasting all day due to the lack of food.

In addition to all the benefits fasting has on our bodies , it also greatly affects our spirits ; fasting is a practice that trains the mind and spirit before the body ,it teaches us to have patience in the toughest of days and be generous and forgiving in our best ones; it gives us a great opportunity to learn to control our emotions , wishes and flaws. Through fasting , you gain power over what you desire , if you can master your hunger , you can master your anger , lust , pride and so on and so forth. Fasting also helps us grow in gratitude ,it’s hard to be grateful for something when it is so abundant , we can’t be thankful for food when we have never truly experienced hunger. So fasting was imposed on us by Allah to teach us to appreciate food and water among many other blessings . So what was the wisdom in what the prophet (pbuh) said in his hadith ?

《no human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach》-《 ما ملأ ابن آدم وعاءا شرا من بطنه》

Avoid gluttony . Gluttony is one of the greatest sins that lead to doom; it causes many diseases and sicknesses ,both spiritual and physical. Gluttony is one of the worst defects a person can have , it could alter one’s morals and ideals ,it affects the mind more than it does the body , it’s a bottomless pit that drains a person from his mercy and compassion . Through fasting the spirit becomes cleansed and becomes more accustomed to the hardships and tribulations of the weak and is more drawn to helping the poor and reaching out to them , rather than ignoring them.

Sources :

Médecine : Avant/Après. par Tawab Ait Abdelmoula

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