While intermittent fasting has been all the rage these past few years most Muslims have been familiar with the practise as it makes one of the five pillars of their religion. The practise of intermittent fasting beautifully woven into the fabric of Islam only tells us how important health is.
Sawm or fasting is almost synonymous with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Although devoted muslims observe fasts throughout the year, collective fasting in large number all over the world takes place without fail during Ramadan. While most of us seek the spiritual rewards of fasting, only a few are aware of the health benefits. Resisting the urge to eat and drink from dawn to dusk has a tri fold benefit on our health.
The first and foremost being the ability to self discipline by practicing self control. Restraining ourselves from indulging in our desires throughout the day allows us to let go of undesired habits & addictions. Some sources claim that this also allows a ‘dopamine detox’, the existence of which is still under debate. Studies with rats have shown that fasting may increase the growth of new nerve cells which improves brain function.
The second and more generally known benefit would be on the overall health. The human body is designed for periods of fasting. Unchecked food consumption often interfered with this physiological rhythm leading to weight gain and obesity.
Fasting (in the right manner) makes your stored body fat more accessible allowing you to loose belly fat and body weight. Intermittent fasting results in an increased metabolic rate. Exercising during fasting stimulates Catalysts and cellular factors that breakdown glycogen and fat. Not only that, but Insulin levels drop and studies have even shown a reduced risk of heart disease.
If you are replacing three meals in 24 hours with 3 meals of oil laden snacks, fat dripping haleem and sugar filled lassi you will most certainly experience the above processes in reverse with an added bonus of skin breakouts or perhaps kidney troubles owing to increased intake of salty food and insufficient hydration. Intermittent fasting works on your metabolism and must not be confused for magic.
The third and most important to your dentist are the oral health benefits of fasting. While oral health is often neglected, 30 days of fasting has a major impact on the microbes in your mouth. The absence of frequent snacking alters the salivary biochemistry leading to lowered glucose levels in the mouth.
This subsequently reduces the risk of decay. During fasting most believers also perform wudu the act of which involves rinsing your mouth with water. This effectively aids in balancing the pH or your oral mucosa and rehydrating it.
The use of miswak has also been promoted while one fasts. Miswak naturally contains silica, vit C, tannins and essential oils that help reduce inflammation of gums, remove plaque and benefit oral health.
To conclude, intermittent fasting done right is capable of turning you into a superhuman with a disciplined mind, healthy body and impeccable oral health. When breaking your fast indulge with caution, consume whole foods, soups and broths to replenish hydration levels.
Watch out for salty and oily foods that can dehydrate. If you’re someone like me who absolutely must have fried samosas and spring rolls on your iftar table then do so in restricted quantities. Don’t forget to alter your tooth brushing cycle for fasting as you’ll need to brush after suhoor (sehri) and before Iftar in order to keep that plaque at bay. That said, I pray that you have a soulful and healthy Ramadan.