7 Amazing Health Benefits of Ramadhan Fasting You Need to Know
Dear Malaysians, it is that blessed time of the year again – Ramadhan – where Muslims draw even closer to Allah. This year, Muslims in Malaysia will be observing the fast until Monday, 3rd June before Hari Raya Aidilfitri ushers in a month of celebration.
Fasting during the holy month of Ramadhan is strictly observed every year throughout the world. Ramadhan is a time of self-regulation and moderation for Muslims; apart from abstaining from foods or water from dusk to dawn, they are also advised to stay away from sexual relations, vulgarity, and lies among others.
A common misconception held about Ramadhan is that all Muslims must fast. However, this is not the case for those who are ill or vulnerable, not to mention exceptions to pregnant women, the elderly, and younger children. You can perform the fasts once you are in better shape after you’ve discussed this with an ustaz.
Beyond spiritual rewards, Ramadhan also brings immense health benefits, and these seven highlighted below shows the potential magic your body experiences when you fast.
So, how does your health benefit from Ramadhan fasting?
1. Your immune system gets a boost!
Research has shown that fasting can trigger the creation of new white blood cells, essentially regenerating the body’s immune system. This is beneficial for everyone, especially amongst the elderly whose immune systems degenerate more rapidly with age.
2. Opportunity for weight control
Read that again, we used the term ‘weight control’ and not ‘weight loss’. While some who fast during Ramadhan end up losing some weight, it is more important to recognise fasting as a weight control mechanism. By paying better attention to one’s dietary diversity, it’s a great time to maintain a well-balanced diet beyond sun-up and sun-down times.
3. Fasting promotes detoxification
Forget juice cleanses and bizarre new-age detox diets – fasting does plenty more detoxifying! Detoxification is a normal body process of removing toxins resulting from biochemical functions through your organs such as your liver, lungs, and even your skin. When there is an absence of food in your body, your body will start to rely on your fat reserves for energy, releasing stored chemicals from the fatty acids that are subsequently eliminated through the organs mentioned.
4. Blood sugar is reduced
With so many hours in a day spent without eating, your blood sugar will go down. What then happens is that your body will start tapping into your stored glucose for energy. Those who suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure) will benefit from fasting – as long as they are not diabetic.
5. Your digestive system gets a holiday
Your digestive organs are constantly chugging along and requires high amounts of energy to function. During the fasting month, it is entitled to a short break. Keep in mind that such physiologic functions do continue, albeit at reduced rates, especially in the production of digestive enzymes. The energy that was previously used to drive the digestive system will now be channelled towards healing your body instead.
6. Fight inflammation when you fast
Excessive inflammation is known to be the cause of many chronic diseases faced today. This includes Alzheimer’s, obesity, arthritis, dementia, and many other that’s afflicted Malaysians. One of the ways fasting can battle inflammation is in helping resolve insulin resistance. Having used up your body’s sugar reserves, your insulin levels will start to drop, allowing you to re-sensitise to insulin again.
7. Chance to lower your cholesterol
Controlling your cholesterol level especially during the fasting month has a lot to do with the food choices you make when you buka puasa. Skip high-fat meals in the evening and make a conscious decision to opt for healthier, leaner proteins and non-fried dishes.
A safer Ramadhan begins with you
As you’ve seen above, there are many health benefits to fasting – even beyond the month of Ramadhan. However, it’s important for you to first understand your own health and if there are risks associated with such long fasting hours.
Let’s take a closer at diabetes here in Malaysia.
Did you know that Malaysia has the highest rate of diabetes in Asia, and possibly in the world? According to our Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, there are currently 3.6 million Malaysians suffering from diabetes, and likely to reach seven million by 2025.
The majority of diabetes sufferers in Malaysia belong to the Type 2 category which can largely be attributed to excess body weight and a sedentary lifestyle. It’s seen as a “silent killer” as Type 2 diabetes does not exhibit any symptoms at all until one develops a heart attack, kidney failure, experience blindness, or even amputation.
There’s only one way to find out if you’re suffering from this, and that’s to get tested. Fearful, but you stand to reap the benefits of knowing your exact health condition via a report card.
Once you’re found to be free from diabetes and would like to stay ahead of this debilitating disease, you should consider applying for a medical plan for your health’s protection.
Non-participating standalone medical plans such as AXA eMedic and ManuHealth Elite are affordable, easy to apply, and provides a high annual limit. Furthermore, you don’t even need a medical check-up to apply for one.
Diabetic? Here are a few questions to ask if you are fasting this Ramadhan:
- Suffering from Type 1 or 2 diabetes?
As an insulin user, it may not be safe to fast during Ramadhan as it can lower your blood sugar level beyond your control. Don’t forget to use your glucometer to check your blood sugar reading as well. Do seek advice from a healthcare professional in advance.
If you’re a mother who’s currently breastfeeding, you may not need to fast. Do approach a General Practitioner or diabetes nurse if you intend to fast this month.
- Living alone?
Please inform close friends and family of your condition especially if you stay by yourself. Keep in touch with them so that they are around to provide assistance should you need it during times of emergency.
- What’s your medication dosage?
Individuals who take chronic medications should consider adjusting their dosage or schedules so that they can be taken between sunset and the break of dawn. Speak to your healthcare professional for further advice and recommendations.
5 general tips to help you through Ramadhan fasting:
1. Stay hydrated – above everything else
It is paramount that you drink at least eight to 10 glasses of water between buka puasa and Sahur. Your body would have been craving for liquids throughout the hours of the day and you’ll definitely need to replenish the H2Os that your body craved for. Stay revitalised and keep overindulgence at arm’s length.
2. Avoid processed and high-in-sugar foods
We know that fasting for so many hours in a day is not easy. But don’t fall into the trap of indulging in all the sweet indulgences that’s readily available when you break fast. You need to moderate your sugar intake and be wary of sugary drinks and refined carbohydrates. While often tasty, it will only provide your body energy for a few short hours before you suffer from a significant decrease in blood sugar levels.
3. Sahur is your most important meal
Don’t skip this meal. Period. Sahur is critical in fueling your energy for the rest of the day. For a start, you should make sure that your pre-dawn meal is well-balanced and contains high-fibre foods such as wheat, vegetables, cereals, and lots of fruits. Such foods are digested slower by the body, ensuring that you stay full for a longer time. Keyword is fuel.
4. Sleep is more important than ever!
Did you know that there’s a strong correlation linking sleep to how much you eat? The two hormones that help regulate hunger – ghrelin and leptin – are affected by your sleep. So don’t just have a marathon buka puasa session till the wee hours of the morning without considering how it affects your energy levels for the day ahead!
5. Stay active
You can still maintain an active and healthy lifestyle during the fasting month; there’s no reason why you should give up on all physical activities. Start off slow during the early days of Ramadhan before gradually increasing your workout load once you have become more accustomed to fasting.
If you suffer from any pre-existing medical conditions such as heart disease, blood pressure, or diabetes, the Bear strongly advises that you consult with a healthcare professional before fasting during Ramadhan to make sure that you stay safe.
Having a conversation with your doctor and likewise, informing your health insurance provider is paramount to your health and safety.
Fasting in the holy month of Ramadhan is ordained on Islam believers. It does not only bring spiritual elevation but is also known to come with psychological, physical and health benefits.
Our bodies are designed with amazing self-healing powers. If Ramadhan fasting is done properly, we can activate this power and help us stay ahead of diseases from consuming us.