Fast is the total abstinence from food or at least abstinence from a certain kind of time for certain duration of time. The origins of fasting may have been truly lost but it is to be accepted that fasting is more or less present in all religions for varied reasons.
In the earliest religions, fasting was a method used to improve food supply or keep the gods friendly. Certain religions call for fasting during mourning. Some people believe fasting lifts their minds from physical things and thus, a state of spiritual happiness and joy can be attained through fasting.
Fasting is an Integral Part of Religion
Hinduism, Jainism, Christianity and Islam all have their important days for fasting.
Jews fast every year on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Muslims fast for an entire month, Ramadan, before Eid Milad (ID)
In Christianity, fasting is done for a period of 40 days to commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting. Hindus and Buddhists fast on a regular basis and during certain religious occasions.
Religious groups promote fast as they bring self control and strengthen the will of people. Research has shown that the blood cholesterol decreases by 15-20% with alternative day fasting.
It is equally important to resume eating after the fast as it has also been proved that after fasting for long periods, the metabolism rate gets adjusted by the body.
Fasting in Hinduism
Hinduism is a religion that is being practiced for thousands of years. The many principles and teachings of this religion have enthralled and inspired scientists to uncover their meaning. Fasting is one of the many things that form the core of Hinduism.
Research conducted by Longevity Institute in the University of Southern California has shown that cancer cells grow less when a person is fasting. If fasting is followed correctly, even advanced stages of cancer can even be cured. [ref]
Hinduism shows that brain tumors may be stopped by means of fasting. Research conducted at the very same Longevity Institute has concluded that brain tumor treatment is twice as effective during fasting.
Gliomas is one of the most common yet worst brain tumor types and its survival rate was reported to be increases up to 200% when fasting was included in treatment.
Growth of healthy brain cells is promoted by fasting. Pranayam, Samadhi and Yoga are some of the other Hindu practices to improve brain cells. Fasting improves neuronal plasticity, neurogenesis and thus provides protection against neurotoxins.
The risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease is found to be reduced as a result of fasting. Hence, elderly people are advised to follow Hindu fasting techniques so that they can stay active and healthy for a longer period of time. [ref]
Ramadan Fasting: Mental Preparation is the Key
During any occasion or event that last for a single day, people find it hard to resist eating in excess. It takes a lot of control to eat in moderation and even greater control to fast on such days. In such a situation, fasting for the entire month of Ramadan requires a lot of constraint.
To many Muslims, the entire month of Ramadan is the best month of the entire year. The desire to approach the month and the aspiration of worshipping is the reason for the entire month being such a revered occasion.
One needs to be psychologically ready for fasting. This is what separates a person who is prepared for fasting and one who isn’t. One needs to realize the benefits associated with fasting and the delights achieved through it to approach the fasting with eagerness, enthusiasm and energy.
Without such preparation, the days would pass heavily and in a very frustrating manner. A feeling of constriction is felt by people who are unprepared for a fast.
Preparation brings about a comfortable state of mind necessary for a month of fasting and enables one to feel the happiness of obeying Allah. As the saying goes ‘He who has conquered his mind can conquer the earth’, mental preparation comes first.
The Benefits of Ramadan Fasting
Ramadan is an occasion of month long fasting. Fasting for an extended period such as a month is no easy feat. It requires a lot of preparation. There are also many health aspects of such fasting and knowing these will help a person to prepare himself better
- Ramadan fasting is a means of detoxifying the body. It removes toxins and ensures the prompt working of the healing mechanism of the body.
- As these toxins are the underlying cause for all diseases, removal of these toxins channels energy and makes the body healthier.
- Constipation, even at the cellular level, can be cured as a result of discontinuous fasting for a long period of time (Ramadan fasting).
- Diseased, dying and dead cells can be removed from the body by means of Ramadan fasting. Unwanted fatty tissue, tumors, abscesses, trans-fatty acids and toxic wastes are also removed by means of fasting.
- The energy levels of the body can be increased
- Ramadan along with Namaz is a great way to exercise.
- Ramadan fasting enables losing weight and thus, controls obesity.
- The skin becomes soft and sensitive as a result of Ramadan fasting as a result of breaking and rebuilding of tissues.
Christian’s Penance: Control Body and Soul
Lent is the period that represents 40 days prior to Easter Sunday. This is a church calendar season set aside for Christians. They do this penance for the resurrection of Jesus Christ celebration.
It is believed in Christianity that fasting and refraining food helps being our soul and body under control, besides also helps in penance for past unrestrained behavior.
The church strongly recommends Catholics to follow penance and recommends fast during Lent strongly. Anyone above 18 years and under 59 ages is expected to eat one full meal only in the fasting period and they are permitted to eat in the morning and the evening small amounts of food.
The church encourages individual Catholics to observe a strict fasting. Extreme fasting, may be physically harmful, so, with physical penance forms and spiritual discipline, you can embark on a strict fast. This helps to really lose weight as it is followed for a period of 40 days.
Refraining from eating meat and drinking alcohol helps in preventing various diseases. It brings a good control of mind and body. This is because eating limited food means the period of fasting is longer and your body uses the stored energy, thus you lose weight and become active.
Lose Weight & Improve Health by Fasting
Exercises and small fasts help in losing weight faster. The main concept is in burning more calories than the intake. Burning of calories is best done by exercising and fasting fuels weight loss.
Both Aerobic & strength exercises quickly burns calories and fat. On the other hand the strength training helps in building muscle and it is also helpful in enhancing the metabolism speed.
Precisely, both exercise types are important to lose weight and in combination to a reduced calorie diet, it can increase dramatically the weight lost rate.
Being obese or overweight affects processes in the body and this includes fighting off infections, ability to metabolize foods and to cope with stress. Thus losing weight becomes mandatory to look better and for our health. However, fasting once or twice a week helps your digestion process.
Excess weight is associated to severe health problems such as heart disease, type II diabetes, cancer types, infertility and many more ailments.
An exercise when done regularly adhering to diet helps in losing weight fast. It is the best to stay motivated, even if there is difficulty in losing weight. Remember an overweight person can change their appearance, if a person has the desire to attain weight loss goals.
Our ancestors might have fasted for spiritual reason with religious belief. So even if you are not strictly following your religious thoughts, fasting won’t harm you.
Fasting promotes scientifically proven health benefit which is good for our future. That’s why in the beginning I said “fasting is future perfect continues tense’
Sheetal Sharma, Msc. ‘Applied Nutrition’ is the medical editor & co-founder of HealthBuzzPortal. Being a Yoga enthusiasts she likes exploring alternative remedies.