Contributed by Dr. Munawwar Malik to Ansar Dallas Newsletter Jun 2014
Many people observe fasting as a religious obligation but only few know the health benefits it has. Fasting is a good practice, if properly implemented. It promotes elimination of toxins from the body, reduces blood sugar and fat stores. It promotes healthy eating habits and boost immunity. Here are top 10 health benefits you can derive from fasting.
- Processed foods contain lots of additives. These additives may become toxins in the body. Some of them promote production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Most of these toxins are stored in fats. Fat is burnt during fasting, especially when it is prolonged. And the toxins are released. The liver, kidneys and other organs in the body are involved in
- During fasting, the digestive organs rest. The normal physiologic functions continue especially production of digestive secretions, but at reduced rates. This exercise helps to maintain balance of fluids in the body. Breakdown of food takes place at steady rates. Release of energy also follows a gradual pattern. Fasting however does not stop production of acids in the stomach. This is reason patients with peptic ulcer are advised to approach fasting with caution. Some experts believe they should not fast.
- Some studies show that fasting promotes resolution of inflammatory diseases and allergies. Examples of such inflammatory diseases are rheumatoid arthritis, arthritis and skin diseases such as psoriasis. Some experts assert that fasting may promote healing of inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis.
- Fasting increases breakdown of glucose so that the body can get energy. It reduces production of insulin. This rests the pancreas. Glucagon is produced to facilitate the breakdown of glucose. The outcome of fasting is a reduction in blood sugar.
- The first response of the body to fasting is break down of glucose. When the store of glucose is exhausted, ketosis begins. This is break down of fats to release energy. The fats stored in kidney and muscles are broken down to release energy.
- Fasting is one of the non-drug methods of reducing blood pressure. It helps to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is clogging of arteries by fat particles. During fasting glucose and later, fat stores are used to produce energy. Metabolic rate is reduced during fasting. The fear-flight hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline are also reduced. This keeps the metabolic steady and within limits. The benefit is a reduction in blood pressure.
- Fasting promotes rapid weight loss. It reduces the store of fats in the body. However fasting is not a good weight loss strategy. Reducing fat and sugar intake, and increasing fruits and rest are better measures to achieve weight reduction.
- It has been observed that fasting reduces craving for processed foods. It promotes desire for natural foods, especially water and fruits. This is one way fasting promote healthy lifestyle.
- When an individual is on balanced diet in between fasts, this can boost immunity. Elimination of toxins and reduction in fat store also helps the body. When individuals take fruits to break a fast, they increase the body’s store of essential vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A and E are good antioxidants readily available in fruits. They help to boost immunity.
- Some authors show that fasting can help addicts reduce their cravings, for nicotine, alcohol, caffeine. Although there are other regimens required to resolve addictions, fasting can play a role.