The holy month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar during which many Muslims across the world fast for 29-30 days. Ramadan falls at a slightly earlier time every year because the Islamic calendar follows the lunar cycle.

Fasting during this holy month is one of the five pillars of Islam, which also include prayer and charity. The month of Ramadan is the month in which the Holy Quran was revealed as a guidance for mankind – to know the right from the wrong, and to live life with virtue and kindness.

During Ramadan, Muslims around the world do not eat or drink anything during the daylight hours, eating one meal before sunrise and one meal after sunset. The end of Ramadan is marked by ‘Eid-ul-Fitr’, the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast. This holy month is an opportunity to focus on building a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Fasting allows one to learn how to manage their eating habits and how to practice mindfulness regarding their food and health.

The Spiritual Importance of Fasting

Linguistically, the word fasting in Arabic translates more to “self-restraint” aligning more with  ṣawm (Arabic: “to refrain”). Although, sawm is mostly understood as an obligation to fast during Ramadan, it’s more broadly interpreted to mean “restraint from indulging physical needs”. This includes eating and drinking but also immoral behaviour such as violence and unkind thoughts. Thus, false words or bad intentions are as destructive of a fast as eating or drinking is. 

Fasting is a deeply personal form of worship; it’s a way of feeling closer to God.

7 Health Benefits of Fasting

Apart from the spiritual benefits, there are many other physical health benefits to fasting as well. While many Muslims see it as a spiritual journey, fasting during this month also results in positive physiological and psychological benefits.

Scientifically speaking, numerous studies have suggested that fasting can have powerful benefits for your brain and body.
Here are 7 benefits of fasting:

1. Changes the Functions of Cells, Genes and Hormones
When you don’t eat for a while, your body digs into the reserves of carbohydrates to give you energy. Important cellular repair processes are also initiated to make stored body fat more accessible. 

2. Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Fasting can have a positive effect on insulin sensitivity, allowing your body to take up glucose from sugar more effectively. This, in turn, lowers risk of type 2 diabetes.

3. Improves Metabolism
Fasting gives your digestive system a break, which can energise your body to burn calories more effectively. This can help in weight loss and burning extra fat. Regulated fasts, such as the ones observed during Ramadan, promote healthy digestion, and result in improved metabolic function.

4. Promotes Healthy Eating Patterns
Fasting is a helpful practice for those who find it difficult to establish a consistent eating schedule due to work or other priorities. During Ramadan, eating before sunrise and after sunset, helps you stick to a set time where you can allow yourself to eat your daily amount of calories and not eat till the next day.

5. Boosts Immune System
The process of fasting improves the immune system because it reduces free radical damage, lessens inflammation in the body, and also lowers risk of cancer cell formation.

6. Improves Brain Function
What is good for the body also translates into being good for the brain. Fasting improves various metabolic functions known to be important for brain health. This includes reduced oxidative stress, reduced inflammation and a reduction in blood sugar levels.

7. Contributes To Positive Psychological Effects
Fasting has been considered by many to be an important step towards self-enlightenment. Without giving in to the demands of the body, many people become aware of their hunger and are more empathetic towards the lesser fortunate who have no means to satisfy that need.
It fosters a feeling of community and compassion.

The holy month of Ramadan is more than just feeling a harmony with God, it’s also about cultivating unity amongst each other. Amid the current global crisis, being a source of support is important and helping others begins by helping yourself first. This Ramadan, take care of yourself and your family, so that you can take care of others who may need your help.

TABIIB wishes you and your loved ones a blessed, healthy Ramadan. Stay home, stay healthy.

I am a writer, covering the sprawling expanse of healthcare, among many other things that I love writing on. I write on healthcare because I want to do my part in informing people about the health industry, When I am not blogging about research and medicine, I enjoy reading, playing squash and backpacking around the world.