As Ramadhan slowly comes back into our lives we must ensure that we are able to make maximum use of it when it is finally here. An Arab saying goes like “Whatever is approaching is near, and whatever is approaching will indeed come to pass”. This teaches us to prepare adequately for whatever we know is coming and when it is finally come, we should make very good use of it before it actually depart which it will eventually do.
In this write-up, I will explore a few health benefits that come with fasting especially Ramadhan and how we can prepare adequately and utilize it efficiently for our wellbeing. Indeed whatever Allah legislates on a Muslim is only for the benefit of the Muslim.
I must however lay a caution that Ramadhan is purely an act of worship for the Muslim and all other benefits we gain from it are all secondary matters. Therefore we should not approach Ramadhan like we approach our exercise or dietary schemes with the intention to become healthy or to get in shape etc. We must approach it with the intention of seeking the pleasure of the one in full control of all pleasures: Allah the lord of all that exists. We should also intend to gain the spiritual fruit of fasting which is the fear or consciousness (Taqwa) of Allah the irresistible. May Allah guide us and make our heart always turning and yearning earnestly for his pleasure. Indeed the intentions for a deed determine who the deed is for denoted by the famous hadith of Umar ibn Khattab (RA).
In view of the above, the first health benefit which comes with Ramadhan is the detoxification of the body. The body has 2 main sources of energy, one it burns immediately and the other it prefers to store for when the other is unavailable which are sugars and fats respectively. So as we consume more sugars, the fats are stored for a rainy day. However during Ramadhan the body is deprived of food for extended periods of time forcing it to burn the stored fats. In doing this it detoxifies the body, cleanses intestines and blood vessels and significantly reduces blood cholesterol, which can help prevent heart attacks, strokes and other diseases.
Another benefit of fasting which is as a result of the healthy body it gives is its activation of the brain, fasting has been proven to increase the growth and development of new brain cells which makes us extra resilient to stress, improves our mood, memory and learning capability.
Ramadan and fasting gives us the opportunity to modify our eating patterns by helping us get more used to eating less quantities of food than we are used to, our digestive system gets a chance to rest and our stomachs gradually reduces in size. This reduces your appetite for food which is a positive trajectory for prolonged health even after Ramadhan.
The above health benefits are often not gotten out of Ramadhan due to our huge focus on food rather than fasting in the holy month. We tend to eat more during Ramadhan than the other months as we are tempted to have 2 or 3 course meals each for both Suhoor and iftaar. We also tend to be sluggish and not exert ourselves at all, with a majority of people sleeping more during the month despite it being a month of keeping awake and seeking the bounties of Allah through prayer.
However, this Ramadhan can be different if we practice the following as it will help us achieve the above.
We must do well to reduce or out rightly avoid sugar, fizzy drinks and energy drinks. We should also ensure we drink a healthy amount of water daily for suhoor and especially at iftaar. We must also ensure that we eat healthily during iftaar and Suhoor making sure our food has a lot of vegetables and fruits and less meat, carbohydrates and fat. In all of these moderation is paramount as we embark on the various iftar banquets, Ramadhan programs and personal iftars and Suhoors at home.
We must ensure we exercise moderately in this holy month. We have brothers and Sisters who already have exercise routines and those who, like me, are routine less. In both circumstances we must for the sake of this month adopt a routine either by walking, doing home chores, or sticking to our regular routine exercises. We must however ensure that our exercises do not leave too tired to engage in the more important aspects of the month like the Night Prayer (Tahajjud) and the Compulsory prayers especially the Fajr prayer. Exercising moderately will help the body reap more benefits from fasting as opposed to a sedentary lifestyle.
Finally, we must adopt a consistent sleep routine which leaves us properly rested. This is very important as we try juggle between Tahajjud, work and other very important aspects of our lives. We mostly end up with an erratic sleeping pattern during Ramadan which keeps us tired and unproductive. Quality sleep does not equal lots of sleep and a lot of less quality sleep leaves us weak, bloated and always yearning for food. A consistent sleep pattern will tune your circadian rhythm to make you sleep and wake at specific times of day and it makes the body accustomed to that. Good sleep leaves you healthy and helps you benefit fully from the healthy gifts that Ramadhan brings.
As Ramadhan approaches, we can prepare a routine which is primarily worship focused, with sprinkles of healthy habits so that we can benefit both spiritually and physically. May Allah bless us abundantly and make our hearts, minds and bodies ready for this august visit. May he make it beneficial to us here in this world and in the Hereafter. Ameen.