Health Benefits of Fasting Ramadan: a True Story from Muallaf Sister
Millions of Muslims can attest to the peace and tranquility experienced when fasting during the month of Ramadan but western medicine is only just catching up to the bodily health benefits associated with it. When I first took shahadah in 1998 and began my first fast of Ramadan there were dozens of questions from my family members and friends. Questions like: are you sure that you should do this? Won’t fasting be hard on your body? Is that healthy for you? I took the faithful stance at the time and explained that fasting Ramadan is prescribed in Islam and that there are spiritual benefits to it as referenced in the Holy Quran, Surah 2:183:
O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you, as it was prescribed for those before you so that you may (learn) self-restraint.
And again in Surah 2:185:
The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Quran; a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, a number of other days. Allah desires for you ease; He desires not hardship for you; and that you should complete the period, and that you should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that perhaps you may be thankful.
The spiritual benefits of fasting Ramadan are primary, but there are newly discovered medical benefits to fasting as well. Modern western medicine is just beginning to document its positive effects in spite of the fact that religious communities have been fasting for centuries and I can attest as a cancer survivor of thirteen years that Ramadan has improved my spirit, mind and body every year, even during the years when I was not healthy enough to fast the full thirty days.
Americans eat 51% of their diet from processed foods and foods low in phyto-chemicals and antioxidants so there is a buildup of waste products in the cells. This buildup of toxins in cellular tissues can lead to atherosclerosis, aging, diabetes, nerve damage, and the deterioration of organs but it has been found that along with an improvement of the overall diet, fasting is one solution to that buildup. Fasting allows our bodies to most effectively remove these waste products because our bodies are designed to fast; we do it every night.
In addition, fasting removes toxins from the body when the body goes without eating for more than a day or two because the body enters into ketosis. Ketosis occurs when the body runs out of carbohydrates to burn for energy, so it burns fat and since the fat is where the body stores many of the toxins it absorbs from the environment, fasting in turn facilitates the removal of those toxins. There is also medical agreement about the benefit and necessity of fasting before surgery and the requirement of fasting to get an accurate reading for medical tests like tests for cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Fasting advocates also claim that the practice can effectively treat serious health conditions, from arthritis and colitis to heart disease and depression and fasting may yield psychological benefits as well and has been used to treat stress and depression.
Nearly every religious text you can name, from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible to the Quran and the Upanishads, calls upon followers to fast periodically as a rite of spiritual purification, penitence, or preparation for union with God. Muslims worldwide observe total fasting with no food or water between dawn to sunset in the month of Ramadan but we do not do so not for losing weight or any medical benefit, but as it is ordained in the Quran.
This Ramadan I received the news from my doctor that the recent tests performed to check for the recurrence of the stage 4B Hodgkin Lymphoma have come back negative and I am experiencing my thirteenth year of fasting Ramadan, Subhana’Allah! Fasting and prayer has certainly been a blessing in my life, and insha’Allah, may it continue to be of benefit to the millions of believers observing this blessed month around the world.