Being a pillar of the Muslim faith, Ramadan is also the most sacred month of the Islamic calendar. For over 1400 years, Muslims have been observing Ramadan and fasting for their spiritual and physical cleansing. Even though its benefits to the body, mind, and spirit are evidently apparent, some people fear that fasting for longer periods can be detrimental to their health.
Recently there have been many reservations regarding the health implications of observing Ramadan under lockdown, especially during this viral pandemic.
If you are one of those and have concerns about fasting, let us assure you that it is quite the contrary.
How Fasting Helps in Improving Body’s Immunity?
It is medically established that fasting boosts the body’s natural immunity in different ways. When a person fasts, their body goes into an “energy conservation mode” which triggers recycling many of its old or damaged immune cells. This promotes the production of new, healthier immune cells that are quicker and more efficient in fighting infections and diseases.
1. Helps Kick-Start Production of White Blood Cells
While fasting has been criticized by many nutritionists from time to time, latest research has found that starving the body can actually help kick-start the production of stem cells to fight off infections.
The researchers have found that fasting literally “flips a regenerative switch” which in turn activates the production of new white blood cells in the body. This triggers the regeneration cycle of the entire immune system altogether.
A group of researchers and scientists at the University of Southern California stated that this discovery could help people with weak or damaged immune systems, particularly patients suffering from terminal illnesses such as cancer.
Moreover, it is also highly beneficial for the elderly who experience diminished effectiveness of the immune system with age. This makes them more susceptible to common illnesses and diseases.
2. Stops the Consumption of Unhealthy Foods
Fasting during Ramadan not only helps in cleansing the body of toxins but also trains it to control cravings for unhealthy foods which weaken the immune system.
Generally, people nowadays tend to serve their hunger cravings with anything they can find regardless of the nutritional content or standard of hygiene. This is particularly common with people who work in office environments for longer hours. Such setups rarely have proper facilities for healthy and clean food. As a result, people are forced to compromise their nutritional wellbeing by consuming foods that have gluten and unhealthy fats. This can increase visceral fat deposits which produce toxic compounds in our body, deterring our immune system and leaving us more vulnerable to diseases.
3. Reduces Risk of Cancer and Helps Cancer Patients Recover
Fasting from dawn to sunset has shown to increase anticancer proteomic signature by boosting the immune system. It has also shown to promote key regulatory proteins of glucose and lipid metabolism, DNA repair, circadian clock, cytoskeleton remodeling, and cognitive function.
Research has also found that fasting for 72 hours can help protect cancer patients against the toxic effects of chemotherapy. While chemotherapy is a prescribed course of killing cancer-causing cells, it does collateral damage to other parts of the body, such as the immune system. Research has found that fasting can mitigate the harmful effects of chemotherapy while allowing the body to kick-start its recovery process.
Prof Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the University of California said, “We are investigating the possibility that these effects are applicable to many different systems and organs, not just the immune system,”
He added: “There is no evidence at all that fasting would be dangerous while there is strong evidence that it is beneficial.
4. Detoxifies the Digestive Tract
Fasting in Ramadan also removes toxins from the digestive tract. When the body is deprived of food for several hours, the digestive system gets the rest it needs to cleanse the gut and strengthen its lining.
According to Nutritionist Claire Mahy, fasting helps stimulate a process called autophagy, in which the cells of the digestive tract self-cleanse and remove damaged and harmful substances from the system. This is a rare chance because Ramadan comes once a year and the rest of the year people have to continuously eat. Ramadan helps in organizing a stable routine that allows the person to manage their food cravings while the body detoxifies harmful compounds and tissues from the body.