The blessed month of Ramadan is a time for worship, devotion and reflection on the deeper meaning of life. The spiritual exercises of fasting and prayer have a transforming influence not only on our hearts and minds but on the body, therefore:
- The month of Ramadan is an opportunity to focus on living a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
- Fasting helps us to think about our eating habits.
- It builds self-control and discipline.
- Gives the stomach a break from the laborious job of digestion and excretion.
- Aids in expelling toxins – detoxifies the body.
Physiological changes during fasting
About eight hours after beginning the fast the body enters the fasting state. By now nutrients from the last meal have been absorbed from the food. The body uses the glucose made from its glycogen stores found in the liver for its metabolism, and various other activities. Once the glucose stores are used up, the body switches to using fat to make energy. In the short fasts of Ramadan (12 -16 hours long) the body's glucose and fat stores are sufficient to prevent the breakdown of protein.
The use of body fat for energy is helpful in excess weight and blood cholesterol levels. In addition, it results in diabetes and blood pressure. A detoxification process also seems to occur as any toxins stored in the body's fat are dissolved and removed from the body. After a few days of fasting, certain hormones also appear in the blood- endorphins in particular. They result in a better level of alertness and overall, general feeling of well being.
Fasting in Ramadan can improve the health or worsen it. The crucial factor is the food that is eaten at sahoor (the beginning) and at iftaar (the end). Over–indulging and feasting at these two times is quite common. As a consequence, not only are the health benefits of fasting lost, but the spiritual aspects of fasting are also diminished. Food intake must be reduced and a balance, simple diet used. Here are some suggestions for healthy eating.