Soon when the crescent moon appears in the clear sky, we will be on the verge of the wholly month of fasting; Ramadan. Through the previous era, the concepts of nutrition according to the American culture was to eat several small meals throughout the day.
Moslems fast intermittently since Prophet Mohamed was given the order of fasting.
Thoughts, in the Islamic world, on the wisdom of fasting has been an ongoing debate and question.
Was fasting ordered to make the rich feel the suffering of the poor?
The answer was that the poor themselves were ordered to fast. Was it ordered for a spiritual experience?
Was it ordered for mere obedience to God, with no material benefits to humans?
Recently, Science revealed the advantages of intermittent fasting and the benefits it has on the human health.
Intermittent fasting has been revealing its validity in the realm of Nature cures.
The immune system is the army by which the body manipulates and fights infections.
Fasting has been found to enforce and empower our inner army.
Neutrophils, a main player in our innate immunity was found to increase in number by fasting.
They form the highest percentage of WBCs.
Neutrophils are able to engulf microorganism that harm the body and release substances to digest them.
When breaking the fast at Iftar, including foods that boost the immune system maximizes benefit of fasting.
Foods rich in vitamin A, as Carrots and Kale, and fruits that has vitamin C, as citrus fruits and guava can be consumed. Furthermore, plain yoghurt and kefir, are natural probiotics that support the immune system of the gastrointestinal tract.
Apoptosis and Autophagy are two processes by which the human body renews itself.
Apoptosis means programmed cell death.
The old cells or abnormal cells literally “commit suicide”.
Autophagy is the process by which the body gets rid of the dead cells.
It means “eating self”. Through the two processes the body renews itself, slows aging and kills cancerous cells that form daily in the human body. Autophagy is accomplished through a pathway called “mTOR” pathway.
The mTOR is down regulated by glucose, insulin and proteins.
It has been found that caloric restriction activates the mTOR pathway, therefore, supporting the process of Autophagy.
Fasting stimulates the mTOR pathway and autophagy.
Among all diets, this criterion makes fasting a rejuvenating diet to the human body. Furthermore, activating mTOR pathway is a target for some chemotherapeutic agents for cancer.
Interestingly, fasting has been proposed as a mean that might protect against cancers.
In animal studies, fasting was able to improve the deteriorated cognitive functions of aging rats.
Surprisingly, intermittent fasting increased brain connectivity and new neurones growth in the brains of experimental animals.
Benefits of intermittent fasting, in animal studies, on diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer has been revealed. In humans, improvement of memory has been achieved through caloric restriction.
In addition, the benefits of intermittent fasting were seen for weight loss, insulin resistance and lowering cardiovascular disease risk indicators.
One argument is that intermittent fasting studies show more benefits in animal than human.
This could be related to study design, as animals received restricted diet, while in human studies, the diet was not restricted to certain foods.
A crucial aim for fasting is to rest the human Liver, and give it the chance to rejuvenate and heal.
Resting the liver could be achieved through eating less, adding bitter greens to increase release of bile and aid digestion.
One of the problems in Ramadan, is that people eat more and eat artificial sugars on daily basis, thus insulting their livers.
Artificial sugars are detrimental for human health.
The quantity and quality of food consumed in Ramadan interferes with harvesting the full spectrum of positive effects of fasting.
Ramadan is meant to be humble for both rich and poor.
Eating healthy foods in Ramadan, limiting the quantities of food and choosing natural sources of sugars like fruits, dried fruits and dates could enhance the benefits of fasting on human health.