Keywords: fasting, Ramadan, Muslim, benefits, biopsychosocial, spiritual, biology, psychology, social, health.
Having a healthy body is the desire of many people. There are various ways to go from maintaining our diets to take additional supplements. However, we can get health from fasting. The biopsychosocial approach systematically considers biological, psychological, social factors and their complex interactions in understanding health, illness, and health care delivery. Together with spiritual approach, the benefits of both of these approaches, help people in taking care of their health, especially us as Muslims. The benefits of fasting which are very good for the health of the body are many.
A. From biopsychosocial approach
1. Improves our heart health
This is one of the main benefits of fasting, especially for people with health problems related to metabolic syndrome. It has many direct cardiovascular benefits. Fasting can improve heart function, blood composition, and blood pressure. People with type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol may be able to undergo fasting to address some of the associated health problems.
The health benefits of fasting can actually make our heart healthy. Although research is limited to animals, the result is that fasting may improve heart health. The researchers also found that intermittent fasting improves heart muscle performance, reduces free radical damage, and promotes the growth of blood vessels in the heart, said Lichtash et al (2020) and Rominger et al (2021).
2. Lower blood pressure and blood sugar (glucose)
When fasting, many people experience low blood pressure, especially during the first week of Ramadan. It's not only the benefits of fasting that can lower blood pressure. Significantly, lower salt intake and increased loss of salt through the urine.
Just in the first few days of enduring hunger and thirst, fasting can also lower blood sugar (glucose) levels. More than 30%, a significant result for anyone with hyperglycemia or high blood sugar levels. Decreasing blood sugar usually makes people feel less energy, but glucose levels in the body must remain stable while fasting (Henry, P., et al, 2002).
3. Helps get rid of fat
Fasting or eating healthy fatty foods helps the body reduce fat or ketosis. Ketosis helps the body burn stored fat. Excess central fat that is stored around organs, such as the liver and kidneys, interferes with organ function. Fasting can help our body reach ketosis more quickly than caloric restriction. One study found that the benefits of fasting can increase levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine which can promote weight loss.
4. Protects our brain
Research on aging and brain function has increased substantially in the last decade. Life expectancy has increased far beyond what was once thought possible. The huge public interest in brain health at all stages of life reflects a desire to stay young, healthy, and with healthy mental faculties. The good news, the health benefits of fasting seem to specifically help the protective mechanisms in our brain, said Jip Gudden (2021) and Matthew C. L. Phillips (2019).
5. Reduces the production of harmful proteins
Many proteins and metabolic products that cause inflammation, especially in the brain. Fasting and calorie restriction can avoid the production of free radicals and irritating proteins such as inflammatory cytokines. Evidence shows that it can also slow brain aging and that fasting can reduce the production of free radicals, protecting you from their effects. Interestingly, mounting evidence suggests that not only does free radical damage and inflammatory cytokine production slow down, but that protective cytokine production increases during fasting.
6. Encourages a healthy stress response
Light and infrequent stress is good for you. It's a challenge for the body, and you are stronger after going through it. Moderate, short stress on the brain gives a similar result. The health benefits of fasting put less stress on the brain. This stress causes a series of actions that protect neurons from damage and death in experimental animals.
7. Improves the function of our organs, includes the reproductive organs
The benefits of fasting for health will provide stimulation to all cells, tissues and organs of the body. This stimulating effect will produce, restore, and improve organ function according to its physiological function, for example the senses become sharper. This is related to the rejuvenation of cells that affect urogenital cells and other reproductive organs. Hormones related to sexual behavior problems are not only produced by the organs of the ovaries (estrogen) and testicles (testosterone), but also by the pituitary gland (a certain hormone-producing gland).
8. Prevents cancer
Fasting can help the body's cells clean themselves through a vital process called autophagy, forcing them to repurpose cell components to function. Autophagy was discovered in early 1990s by Yoshinori Ohsumi.
9. Social benefits
When one observes the fast, one understands hunger and thirst, which makes one aware of the difficulties of others in getting something to eat. From the aspect of social life, one would be aware of the hardships of those who suffers from hunger. How many people fast but only get hungry and thirsty, as the words of the Prophet ﷺ, "Many people fast, but they get nothing from their fasts other than hunger." This hadith is taken from Imam Ahmad (The Hadith, n.d.).
B. From spiritual approach
This is the main aim of fasting: to develop our quality of righteousness or God-fearing piety (taqwa) by abstaining from sinful deeds and training ourselves to control our desires. Through fasting, we are taught to control ourselves because the toughest opponent is ourselves.
Fasting in Islam is not only in Ramadan. There are a lot of fasting in Islam teaching. Fasting in holy month of Ramadan has a very important value in human life because believers are ordered to fast according to the commands of Allah in Q.S. Al-Baqarah verse 183:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
“O, believers! Fasting is prescribed for you—as it was for those before you—so that you may attain the mindfulness of Allah.” (The Qur’an 2:183).
From these explanations we can finally see that fasting is surely healthy. No doubt about this. References Lichtash, C., Fung, J., Ostoich, K. C., Ramos, M. (2020). Therapeutic Use of Intermittent Fasting and Ketogenic Diet as an Alternative Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes in a Normal Weight Woman: a 14-month Case Study. BMJ Case Rep., 13(7), e234223. DOI: 10.1136/bcr-2019-234223. PMID: 32641437; PMCID: PMC7342268. Phillips, M. C. L. (2019). Fasting as a Therapy in Neurological Disease. Nutrients, 11(10), 2501. DOI: 10.3390/nu11102501. PMID: 31627405; PMCID: PMC6836141. Rominger, C., Weber, B., Aldrian, A., Berger, L., Schwerdtfeger, A. R. (2021). Short-term Fasting Induced Changes in HRV are Associated with Interoceptive Accuracy: Evidence from Two Independent within-subjects Studies. Elsevier, (241). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2021.113558 Sedwick, C. (2012). Yoshinori Ohsumi: Autophagy from Beginning to End. J Cell Biol, 197(2), 164–165. DOI: 10.1083/jcb.1972pi Henry, P., Thomas, F., Benetos, A., Guize, L. (2002). Impaired Fasting Glucose, Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality. Hypertension, 40(4), 458-463. https://doi.org/10.1161/01.HYP.0000032853.95690.26 Sunnah.com. (n.d.). Whoever Observed Fast in Ramadan out of Sincere Faith with Honest Intention. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from https://sunnah.com/ramadan Quran.com. (n.d.). Al-Baqarah (2:183-187). Retrieved November 23, 2022, from https://quran.com/en/al-baqarah/183-187
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