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MEDICAL BENEFITS OF FASTING (PART 1 OF 2)

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A true Muslim performs fast not because of the ‘worldly’ benefits the fast earns. He keeps fast because Allah has commanded him to do so. On the other hand he also knows that whatever Allah commands him to do benefits him in both the worlds. There are many medical benefits of fasting as well. These are the ‘byproducts’ of fasting.

Allah tells us in the Quran that He has made alcohol ‘prohibited’ for us because it is not in our own benefit. Similarly it is not hard to prove that pork meat is very harmful to health as well (swine flu is a hot proof).

Medical science is telling us the things now which Allah and his Prophet Muhammad (SallAllahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) told us 1400 years back.

1- INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS ON HEALTH AND RAMADAN:

In 1994 the first International Congress on “Health and Ramadan”, held in Casablanca, entered 50 extensive studies on the medical ethics of fasting. While improvement in many medical conditions was noted; however, in no way did fasting worsen any patients’ health or their baseline medical condition. On the other hand, patients who are suffering from severe diseases, whether type I diabetes or coronary artery disease, kidney stones, etc., are exempt from fasting and should not be allowed to fast.

2- HUNGER AS A REMEDY:

A Swiss physician Dr. Barsilus noted that: “The advantages of hunger as a remedy exceed those ingesting medicine several times” Several physicians advise patients to skip meals, sometimes for a few days, before prescribing them a controlled diet. Fasting hastens the destruction of the decaying tissues of the body by means of hunger, and then builds new tissues through nutrition. This is why some scientists suggest that fasting should be regarded as an effective means of restoring youthfulness and longevity. However, Islam exempts from fasting sick and old people whose health is bound to deter.

3 – SLIGHT DEHYDRATION:

The difference between Ramadan and total fasting is the timing of the food; during Ramadan, we basically miss lunch and take an early breakfast and do not eat until dusk. Abstinence from water for 8 to 10 hours is not necessarily bad for health and in fact, it causes concentration of all fluids within the body, producing slight dehydration. The body has its own water conservation mechanism; in fact, it has been shown that slight dehydration and water conservation, at least in plant life, improve their longevity.

4 – TREATMENT OF DIABETES:

Diabetes Mellitus, disease in which the pancreas produces insufficient amounts of insulin, or in which the body’s cells fail to respond appropriately to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body’s cells absorb glucose (sugar) so it can be used as a source of energy. In people with diabetes, glucose levels build up in the blood and urine, causing excessive urination, thirst, hunger, and problems with fat and protein metabolism. As the glucose level builds in the body hence people suffering from diabetes avoid eating food that has greater amount of glucose.
The physiological effect of fasting includes lowering of blood sugar, lowering of cholesterol and lowering of the systolic blood pressure.

In fact, Ramadan fasting would be an ideal recommendation for the treatment of mild to moderate, stable, non-insulin diabetes, obesity, and essential hypertension. There is a reduction in core body temperature. This is a direct result of the slower metabolic rate and general bodily functions. Following a drop in blood sugar level and using the reserves of glucose found in liver glycogen.

Hence, during fast body uses the glucose stored up in the liver glycogen and reduces the sugar level in the body. This is a very effective and natural treatment method for people suffering from diabetes.

5 – AUTOLYSIS:

The benefits of fasting must be preceded by a look at the body’s progression when deprived of food. Due to the lack of incoming energy, the body must turn to its own resources, a function called autolysis. Autolysis is the breaking down of fat stored in the body in order to produce energy. The liver is in charge of converting the fats into a chemical called a ketone body, “the metabolic substances acetoacetic acid and beta-hydroxybutyric acid”, and then distributing these bodies throughout the body via the blood stream. “When this fat utilization occurs, free fatty acids are released into the blood stream and are used by the liver for energy.” The less one eats, the more the body turns to these stored fats and creates these ketone bodies, the accumulation of which is referred to as ketosis.

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