How does Ramadan affect your mind and body?

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Ramadan is a blessed month, when people concentrate on their commitments to God and their faiths. Besides the spiritual rewards, the sacred month of fasting also has some health benefits.

Ramadan offers an amazing array of physical, spiritual and mental health benefits for those fasting. “Fast and be healthy,” is how Muslims recall their beloved Prophet’s saying.

Even science has proven that Ramadan is a month full of blessings. The 1994 International Congress on “Health and Ramadan” held in Casablanca noted various improvements in the health conditions of those who fast.

The fasting, medical researches have proved, improves the human body’s ability to absorb the amount of nutrients. This is because of an increase in a hormone called adiponectin, which is produced by a combination of fasting and eating late at night, and allows your muscles to absorb more nutrients.

This will lead to health benefits all around the body, as various areas are able to better absorb and make use of the nutrients they need to function. But there’re other benefits of the Ramadan, too.

Peace to Heart & Mind

There’re lots of reasons to be happy during Ramadan, not least because of the effect fasting has on our body and mind.

After the initial adjustment period, fasting will increase the level of endorphins your body produces, making you feel more alert and happier. Intermittent fasting can actually help to get you more focused.

Likewise, a distinct reduction in the amount of the hormone cortisol, produced by the adrenal gland, means that stress levels are greatly reduced both during and after Ramadan.

Also, there’s intense emotional meaning to Ramadan for those who fast. One gets the chance to hit the reset button for a whole month.

As Muslims practice generosity by being charitable, they get peace of mind, contentment, love and happiness. Spending time with loved ones, breaking fast together, reflecting on the teachings through prayer, serving others, doing good and donating Zakat makes it a blessed month and blessed life indeed.

Besides, mentally, you become more meditative during Ramadan, taking more time to reflect spiritually, rather than distract yourself with self-serving, everyday comforts. You also show restraint and self-control.

Weight Loss

Although Ramadan won’t necessarily cause weight loss, a September 2008 article in The Washington Post indicates that Tehran diet doctors are now are using Ramadan to help overweight people achieve their goals.

Rather than eating a feast and gorging on sweets and fatty foods as soon as the sun goes down and the fast ends, people following Ramadan can just eat a healthy evening meal consisting of soup, fresh bread, dates and goat cheese.

These are traditional foods eaten in Ramadan anyway, but without the added sugars and sauces, they can be slimming.

Improves Cholesterol

A study conducted in 1997 in the Annals of Nutrition Metabolism demonstrated that fasting lowered bad “LDL” cholesterol levels by 8 percent, triglyceride by 30 percent, and increased good “HDL” levels by 14.3 percent thereby protecting your heart from cardiovascular disease.

This can be explained by our eating and exercise habits. In Ramadan, people tend to go for healthier options such as dates, nuts, lentil soup, and home cooked meals.

Studies have also noted that overall saturated fat consumption, usually found in butter, lard, fatty meat, and fast food, is reduced in Ramadan.

In addition, the night prayers of “tawarih” may provide an adequate level of physical activity equivalent to moderate physical activity which, for some, may be more than they usually exercise.

A team of cardiologists in the UAE found that people observing Ramadan enjoy a positive effect on their lipid profile, which means there is a reduction of cholesterol in the blood. Low cholesterol increases cardiovascular health, greatly reducing the risk of suffering from heart disease, a heart attack, or a stroke.

What’s more, if you follow a healthy diet after Ramadan, this newly lowered cholesterol level should be easy to maintain.

Low Blood Sugar

When you spend long hours without eating, your blood sugar goes down.

According to Dr. Razeen Mahroof’s August 2010 article in Arab News, “your body uses up stored glucose for energy when you’re fasting.”

But people with diabetes should talk to their doctors before fasting for long periods of time, but those with high blood sugar – but no diabetes – will benefit from the process.

Learning Healthy Habits

If you’re used to eating lots of sugary foods in your day-to-day life, Ramadan could also be a good time to break the habit.

As the sun goes down, you can choose to feed your body foods that are converted into glucose slowly – such as whole grains and other high-fiber foods – rather than going for sweets again. This change has a double benefit.

The most obvious one is that you will be eating healthier foods that are richer in nutrients and lower in calories. The other benefit is that you will be less hungry during the day, when you’re fasting.

Foods that take time to convert into glucose will keep you energized for more hours and will help control cravings and hunger during the day.

Overcome addictions

For some, the challenge of Ramadan is abstaining from addictions, such as smoking, food binges and lying.

For those who are not aware of their bad habits, perhaps Ramadan is the perfect time to address unconscious personality traits such as gossiping or backbiting.

Because Ramadan teaches you self-restraint for most of the day, you will come to realize that forgoing your addiction all together may not be as hard as you think!

It’s also much easier to quit habits when you do so in a group, which should be easy to find during Ramadan.

Fasting’s ability to help you cut out bad habits is so significant that the UK’s National Health Service recommends it as the ideal time to ditch smoking.

Body Detox

The detox process is a handy by-product of fasting, which almost forces a bodily cleanse. Drinking water, eating healthier and letting your body function properly for prolonged periods between meals will help cleanse your body of toxins, making more room for the nutrients you will get from those improved food choices.

Fasting and mindful behaviour can even help with more general health issues, reducing cholesterol and glucose, helping to manage diabetes and lowering blood pressure.

Lasting Appetite Reduction

One of the main problems with extreme diets is that any weight lost is often quickly put back on, sometimes even with a little added extra. This isn’t the case with Ramadan.

The reduction in food consumed throughout fasting causes your stomach to gradually shrink, meaning you’ll need to eat less food to feel full.

Ramadan may be the perfect opportunity to restrain yourself and get back on track of eating healthy. When you fast, you learn to control your cravings.

As a result, by the end of Ramadan you’ll have stronger will-power and you’ll have re-gained the strength to say no to tempting food.

This article has been compiled from various authentic reports and researches.

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