Md. Zillur Rahaman :
Ramzan, which appears at in most countries this year, is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. It involves abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking, any refrain from pleasurable activities and sexual relations from dawn to sunset, in the hopes that it will lead to greater "taqwa", or consciousness of Allah.
Ramzan is the month that aims to purify the soul and bring the individual closer to Allah (SWT). Towards the end, Muslim mark the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr, a 3 day celebration that brings Ramzan to a close.
Lailat-ul-Qadr is the prized jewel of Ramzan. This night carries more blessings than a thousand months. Muslims spend this night in prayer and meditation; to make dua and to seek forgiveness for past sins. There is salvation in this night; a chance to cleanse of all sins and reborn again. One of the standout features of the month of Ramzan is that the Holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) during this Lailat-ul-Qadr night. This book of guidance is an invaluable treasure trove of information on how to live life as a good Muslim to this day.
There are huge volumes references of information available on Ramzan in Holy Quran and Hadith. Below is quoted from the Holy Quran. "O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous" -- Surat Al-Baqarah 2:183. With this verse, the Holy Quran makes it clear that fasting was ordained compulsory on all Muslims and that they have to fast if they are to stay righteous.
Another verse of the Holy Quran mentioned, "...But to fast is best for you, if you only knew." -- Surat Al-Baqarah 2:184. In those days some might question the benefits of fasting apart from blessings. Science and medicine nowadays have all but confirmed that there are numerous health benefits to fasting for a month in a year. It is a great way to cleanse the stomach and also has many health benefits for the brain.
Someone are worried that fasting during Ramzan will have a detrimental impact on health but the study found that the month long fast can have some surprising health benefits. Many Muslims were commanded to fast during Ramzan more than 1,400 years ago, the ancient Greeks recommended fasting to heal the body, and now-a-days some scientists are advocating a modified fast for its mental and physical benefits.
Although three dates are eaten at the start of Iftar every day during Ramzan for spiritual reasons, they also come with the added bonus of multiple health benefits. One of the most important aspects of fasting is getting the right amount of energy, and considering an average serving of dates contains 31 grams of carbohydrates, this is one of the perfect foods to give us a boost. Dates are also a great way of getting some much-needed fibre, which will aid and improve digestion throughout Ramzan. Add to that their high levels of potassium, magnesium and B vitamins, and it quickly becomes apparent that dates are one of the healthiest fruits out there.
Experts have found that restricting food intake during the day can help prevent health problems such as high cholesterol, heart disease and obesity, as well as improve mental health and wellbeing.
A team of cardiologists in the UAE found that people observing Ramzan 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.
A study carried out by scientists in the USA found that the mental focus achieved during Ramzan increases the level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which causes the body to produce more brain cells, thus improving brain function.
Ramzan is the perfect time to ditch our bad habits for good. Vices such as smoking and sugary foods should not be indulged during Ramzan, and as we abstain from them our body will gradually acclimatise to their absence, until our addiction is kicked for good.
Scientists have also been studying the link between diet, gut health and mental wellbeing and fasting can lead to the release of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) in the brain.
This has been shown to protect brain cells and could reduce depression and anxiety, as well as the risk of developing dementia. Many people who have embraced fasting have also found that, done properly, it has helped them lose fat and gain lean muscle mass.
Fasting allows the gut to cleanse and strengthens its lining. It can also stimulate a process called autophagy, which is where cells self-cleanse and remove damaged and dangerous particles.
Japanese scientist Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2016 for discovering and detailing the process of autophagy and the genes controlling of this process. Autophagy supports vital activity by recycling proteins inside cells. This process is fundamental to supporting our body's vital activity. Dr. Ohsumi explained this process by using baking yeast in his research.
He found during starvation, cells break down proteins and nonessential components and reuse them for energy. Cells also use autophagy to destroy invading viruses and bacteria, sending them off for recycling. And cells use autophagy to get rid of damaged structures. The process is thought to go awry in cancer, infectious diseases, immunological diseases and neurodegenerative disorders. Disruptions in autophagy are also thought to play a role in aging.
Autophagy is responsible for the renewal of the body, combating infections, and the drainage of toxins. The irregularities in the autophagy process are connected with various diseases including cancer, type II diabetes, and Alzheimer's. It is known that an infected cell tries to "digest" bacteria using the same mechanisms and proteins that are usually used for cell renewal.
If we managed to influence the autophagy process in cancer cells, we could make the body think of them as of damaged ones and destroy them with its own effort without chemotherapy. It wouldn't hurt to boost cell renewal among the elderly and try to slow down the aging process.
During fasting, the blood glucose levels drop, and therefore, the production of insulin that delivers glucose to body tissues slows down. For the human body, it means that the nutrient supply stops and it has to go into survival mode, meaning that glucagon production begins, the key function of which is the stimulation of autophagy. It's the defensive reaction of the body based on the use of end-of-life cells to get the nutrient supply from the inside.
The reduction in food consumed throughout fasting causes our stomach to gradually shrink, meaning we shall need to eat less food to feel full. If we want to get into the habit of healthy eating then Ramzan is a great time to start.
Islam added that sustainable weight loss is only possible with regular fasting and that any weight loss during Ramzan could easily be reversed once an individual returns to their daily eating patterns.
However, the benefits outweigh the cons. In the long run, fasting, if done correctly, can improve one's digestive system and overall metabolism. Every Muslim should realise the scientific health benefit of fasting in Ramzan and inform the other followers to perform fasting who are avoiding it.
(Md. Zillur Rahaman, Banker and Freelance Contributor; email: email@example.com)