Ramadan fasting (or intermittent dry fasting) is practiced by 1.7 billion Muslims globally for spiritual reasons. However, the research keeps pouring in— it turns out it’s amazingly beneficial for your health too.
- Induces autophagy
- Improves vascular health
- Renews skin
- Stem cell regeneration
- Accelerates wound healing
- Promotes weight loss
- Increases metabolism
- Improves immune system
- Renews digestive system
- Reduces cravings
- Increases nutrient absorption
- Prevents & treats diabetes
- Enhances cognitive function
- Improves bone health
Depending on where you are in the world, Ramadan fasting (also known as absolute dry fasting, where no contact with food or water is allowed) can be anywhere from 11-22 hours. Every extra hour spent fasting increases the health benefits derived from this miraculous process. Here’s why fasting during Ramadan is not just good for your soul but also your body: –
Dry fasting and its array of metabolic processes such as autophagy, stem cell regeneration, and human growth hormone production result in many anti-aging benefits to the body. Some of the anti-aging benefits you get from Ramadan fasting: induces autophagy, improves vascular health, skin renewal, stem cell regeneration, and wound healing.
Autophagy is best known as a cellular reset button. It helps with anti-aging by recycling old cells and creating new cells, providing building material for cells that need to be repaired. It supports cells regeneration, as well as stem cell regeneration and proliferation.
Autophagy means ‘self-eating or ‘self-devouring, and is one of the most beneficial processes your body uses to do cellular clean up. Although eating yourself sounds horrific, autophagy is good; a self-preservation mechanism that consumes all the dysfunctional, unhealthy, and damaged cells, proteins, and organelles in your body; autophagy helps your body recycle this cellular material the repair.
As this study suggests, autophagy can help treat neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.YOu always have some level of autophagy in your body; however, dry fasting spikes the level of autophagy, which means that dry fasting during Ramadan can actually make you younger. Autophagy is vital to our health and wellbeing that Yoshinori Ohsumi, the Japanese scientist who discovered it, won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2016.
Improves vascular health
Your vascular health determines your biological age, and since dry fasting rejuvenates your system, Ramadan fasting lowers your official biological age.
Your vascular health is the health of your circulatory system: your blood, heart, and blood vessels. Intermittent dry fasting during Ramadan impacts your vascular system in several ways.
Lowers cholesterol—low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Lowers blood pressure—suppressed red blood cell production during dry fasting results in lower blood pressure, as this study, done during Ramadan suggests.
Prevents coronary heart disease (CHD)—this disease happens when cholesterol lines the walls of your arteries, creating plaques, narrowing your arteries. This study showed considerable improvements in CHD risk scores on participants with a history of related diseases.
Another anti-aging benefit from practicing Ramadan dry fasting is skin renewal. When you get sick, it shows in your skin, and it shows in your skin when you are in excellent health. Your skin is the biggest organ in your body, making up 20% of your body weight and the most significant marker of your wellness.
The metabolic changes during dry fasting, such as autophagy, consume and recycle unhealthy skin cells such as loose and saggy skin. Harmful, saggy skin isn’t needed by the body, therefore the perfect candidate for autophagy’s recycling mechanism and a resource for the body to create healthy new cells. (For more on dry fasting and loose and saggy skin, read this.)
A surge in stem regeneration during dry fasting also increases the production of fresh new skin cells and fills up the space left by autophagy’s clean-up. It also increases proteins and cells that support skin health (fibroblast, collagen, and elastin), helping you get bouncy, elastic, and healthy skin. See here for more on how dry fasting supports younger skin.
You also benefit from increased levels of growth hormone (HGH), which also increases collagen production, is responsible for your skin elasticity, as well as improves blood flow and sleep quality, all of which boost your skin’s health even more. HGH also preserves and increases muscle mass which helps to bulk out your skin.
Stem cell regeneration
Stem Cell Regeneration— the drop in white blood cells during dry fasting turns off the enzyme PKA that inhibits stem cell regeneration, and cues stem cells to proliferate and divide. Autophagy has cleaned up the old, dead cells, also leaving space for these new stem cells to fill up the space and become different cells according to your body’s needs.
Increased immune activity during intermittent Ramadan fasting helps with wound healing, as explained by this article on the effects of fasting on your immune system. A 2011 study on mice also found that temporary, repeated fasting speeds up wound healing.
Check my article for more about the mechanism of dry fasting and its anti-aging benefits.
Promotes weight loss
Ramadan fasting is time-restricted feeding which means you have a shorter period to eat, and eating less than your daily calorie allowance, naturally makes you lose weight. Fewer calories in means more fat-burn to make up for the excess. You will lose weight as long as you don’t overeat when you break your fast and during your feeding window.
However, the biggest reason you lose weight in Ramadan is because of a unique process of lipolysis. This study done in Malaysia shows that total water content in the body remains the same during Ramadan, so your body compensates. Even though you’re thirsty, you won’t get dehydrated.
Your body needs water to survive and to make that water, it turns to its internal resource for water: fat. Your fat cells are 90% water, and a dry fast forces the body to extract water from our fat cells to create metabolic water.
The body uses the hydrogen from fat cells, combines it with air oxygen, and creates H2O. For every 100g of fat, the body makes 110g of metabolic water—increasing the speed of your fat-burning by three times.
However, much of the weight loss in Ramadan was often shown to return after the fasting period, when people started eating normally again, as this study indicates.
To truly benefit from weight loss during Ramadan, one way is to eat a low-carb, high-fat meal before starting the fast. First, because it keeps you fuller for longer. Second, it helps to ease the process as having fat in your system facilitates water making.
During Ramadan, long fasting periods cause insulin levels to drop. This e human growth hormone (HGH), norepinephrine, or noradrenaline. All these speeds up your fat-burning rate, or lipolysis, raising your metabolism.
During a dry fast, the cells in your body become mini incinerators. In the absence of food and water, your body tries to get nutrition from all its unhealthy, dying cells and proteins. Each cell starts to burn all the useless proteins inside it, which causes internal heat. You might feel cold during dry fasting because your metabolism is actually going up and can increase by up to 10%.
Dry fasting also preserves muscle mass which increases the rate of fat burn and your metabolism. This study shows how participants of Ramadan fasting retained muscle mass yet lost a significant chunk of body fat. This article explains how muscle mass is preserved and can even be increased during dry fasting and can be a helpful tip on gaining muscle mass during Ramadan.
Research conducted by world-renowned scientist Claudio Franceschi at Bologna University discovered that chronic inflammation is a major cause of accelerated aging, calling it “inflam-aging.” Ramadan fasting can reduce inflammatory markers such as CRP, IL-6, and TNF-a, increasing the risk of hypertension, Alzheimer’s, prostate cancer, psoriasis, and prostate cancers. This study indicates that intermittent fasting during Ramadan the inflammation in the body by suppressing cytokines, reducing body fat, and lowering levels of white blood cells circulating in the body.
These results indicate that RIF attenuates the body’s inflammatory status by suppressing pro-inflammatory cytokine expression and decreasing body fat and circulating levels of leukocytes.
The process of dry fasting reduces inflammation in the body. Reduced inflammation also improves the immune system as it doesn’t have to work so hard to protect the body.
Improves immune system
Meanwhile, dry fasting also resets the immune system through increased autophagy and stem cell regeneration activity, where the body consumes old, healthy white blood cells and replaces them with fresh new white blood cells. This recent study on Ramadan and Covid-19 suggests that intermittent dry fasting during Ramadan increases the body’s immunity to pathogens and bacteria.
Renews digestive system
Your digestive system is really where most of the issues with your health stem from. Over years of a poor lifestyle, the lining of your digestive system has been damaged and corroded, and because you’ve constantly been eating and drinking, it hasn’t had a chance to heal.
There is also dense fecal matter in your gut for years full of toxins, harmful bacteria, and heavy metals. This toxic sludge can leak out of your intestines and into your blood when your gut is damaged. Even proteins from your food can poison our blood when your immune system flares up and attacks, causing inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
Your gut is responsible for many problems like bowel diseases, weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and all kinds of allergies—including mysterious bloating or cramps. Dry fasting during Ramadan stops the secretion of hydrochloric acid and helps your digestive tract to heal, so for 1 month, your gut gets a daily 11-22 hour break to simply heal itself and seal its gut lining so that your body can function at its best.
Although some people take on prolonged dry fasting for intensified healing benefits, I do myself on occasion intermittent dry fasting during Ramadan is the best way to slowly heal your gut, especially if you’re extra sensitive.
Many people have called your digestive system your second brain. This is because your gut is vital to your energy levels: it can give you energy and vitality or make you weak, sluggish, anxious, and depressed.
Your stomach is not ruled by your head. It’s governed by your microbiome—meaning the ratio of good and bad bacteria in your gut. The bad sugary cravings you get for sweet tea, pizza, crisps, chocolate, and biscuits are caused by the bad bacteria in your stomach that need sugar to thrive. Without food and water, these harmful bacteria wither and die, increasing the health of your microbiome and reducing those nasty cravings.
Fasting also reduces cravings because your palate becomes more sensitive towards food. If you really pay attention to your body (not your mind), you’ll actually feel like healthy foods after dry fasting because real food tastes best. Even salt will taste saltier, so use the opportunity to feed yourself well.
Increases nutrient absorption
Your metabolism becomes more efficient during Ramadan fasting and absorbs more nutrients from your food. An increase in the hormone adiponectin, the result of a combination of late-night eating and fasting, allows for your muscle to take in more nutrients in your system. This overall nutrient absorption provides more building tools for your body’s healing and rejuvenation during feeding periods.
Prevents & treats diabetes
Regular dry fasting helps regulate blood sugar levels because of its glycaemic benefits, with a reduction of 50% in glucose and insulin-like growth factor, helping to prevent the onset of diabetes. This 2014 study reveals dry fasting could also help treat diabetes. However, if you have diabetes and want to fast during Ramadan, you must be prepared and take preventive measures. See this article on why fasting during Ramadan can be helpful for diabetes, as well as the practical guidelines on how to carry out fasting safely.
Enhances cognitive function
Ramadan makes you smarter. Increased ketone production during dry fasting increases the levels of BDNF or brain-derived neurotrophic factors, which does miracles for your brain. What are BDNF’s benefits on the brain? Improved memory and learning, increased brain plasticity, increased production of neutrons, and protection from brain cell degeneration.
Improves bone health
Dry fasting prevents osteoporosis because your system secretes PTH, which increases calcium levels in your blood while also aiding bone resorption and bone formation. The same study showed the combination of Ramadan fasting and disturbed sleep levels can improve immunoglobulin concentration.
***Disclaimer: I am not a doctor/ physician, and although I have a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Science, I cannot and do not hold myself to be a medical professional (“Medical Provider”). This article does not contain medical /health advice. The medical/ health information here is for general and educational purposes only. It is my opinion, based on my research and personal experience, and not a substitute for professional advice by your health care provider. Please consult with a professional before acting on the information here, and do not disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical attention because of anything you read on this article. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY OF THE INFORMATION ON THIS WEBSITE IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.***
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