Medical Benefits of Ramadan
Most Muslims do not fast because of medical benefits but
because it has been ordained to them in the Quran. The medical
benefits of fasting are as a result of fasting. Fasting in
general has been used in medicine for medical reasons including
weight management, for rest of the digestive tract and for
lowering lipids. There are many adverse effects of total fasting
as well as so-called crash diets. Islamic fasting is different
from such diet plans because in Ramadan fasting, there is
no malnutrition or inadequate calorie intake. The caloric
intake of Muslims during Ramadan is at or slightly below the
national requirement guidelines. In addition, the fasting
in Ramadan is voluntarily taken and is not a prescribed imposition
from the physician.
Ramadan is a month of self-regulation and self-training,
with the hope that this training will last beyond the end
of Ramadan. If the lessons learned during Ramadan, whether
in terms of dietary intake or righteousness, are carried on
after Ramadan, it is beneficial for one’s entire life.
Moreover, the type of food taken during Ramadan does not have
any selective criteria of crash diets such as those which
are protein only or fruit only type diets. Everything that
is permissible is taken in moderate quantities.
The only 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 during this period is not bad at all
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.
The physiological effect of fasting includes lower of blood
sugar, lowering of cholesterol and lowering of the systolic
blood pressure. In fact, Ramadan fasting would be an ideal
recommendation for treatment of mild to moderate, stable,
non-insulin diabetes, obesity and essential hypertension.
In 1994 the first International Congress on “Health
and Ramadan,” held in Casablanca, entered 50 research
papers from all over the world, from Muslim and non-Muslim
researchers who have done 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 baseline medical condition. On the other hand, patients
who are suffering from severe diseases, whether diabetes or
coronary artery disease, kidney stones, etc., are exempt from
fasting and should not try to fast.
…I encourage my Muslim patients to fast in the month
of Ramadan, but they must do it under medical supervision.
Healthy adult Muslims should not fear becoming weak by fasting,
but instead it should improve their health and stamina.