Fasting has been used as a healing, spiritual, religious, and purification process for hundreds of years in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Eastern religions. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Hippocrates all used and believed in fasting therapy to recreate health where there was sickness.
The secret behind the healing powers of fasting is the detoxification. Detoxification is the process of reducing intake and eliminating toxins from the body or transforming them and clearing excess mucus and congestion to revitalize the body’s natural functions and healing capacities.
Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an: “… And if you fast, it is better for you, if only you knew.” (Quran, 2; 184)
Fasting improves the processes of elimination and increases the release of toxins from the colon, kidneys and bladder, lungs and respiratory tract, sinuses, and the skin. Without the incessant intake of foods during the day, we allow the digestive system to rest.
By minimizing the work load on the organs of digestion; the intestines, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and even the kidneys, to repair and restore themselves, clear existing toxins, and clean up the circulating blood and lymph. The breaking down of foods drains a whole lot of energy from the body.
The energy that is normally expended on the process of digestion is now freed up and can be focused towards enhancing health and vitality and sharpening the functions of the mind.
Fasting is also a natural immune booster, it enhances the ability of the lymphocytes to fend off bacterial attack, purifies our blood, gives the chance for the gastrointestinal system to regenerate its lining, boosts the detoxifying powers of our liver, and cleanses our kidneys.
That is why it is not surprising when fasters report having higher energy levels, more mental clarity and concentration, and greater spiritual awareness and meditation during the days of Ramadan.
Fasting can be a remedy for a number of health problems. Indigestion, poor bowel function, and excess abdominal fat strain the muscles of the back, which may be responsible for many forms of back pain. This type of back pain can be alleviated by fasting and a lighter diet during the evenings. Allergies and sinuses congestion may be relieved because fasting helps rid the body of excess mucus discharge.
Start your Iftar by blessing your food and supplicating. Besides its spiritual values, this habit allows you few moments to reflect about the food you put into your mouth. Take the time to ponder. As our fasting urges us to think of the poor and needy, let it urge us to think about our God-given gift: Our body. How respectfully are we treating it? How diligently are we protecting it? Are we putting in our mouth the ‘right’ kind of food? Are we feeding it in a way that boosts its vitality, energy, and health?
This month, we are going to reflect and ponder about each bite we take, each morsel we put in our mouth. we are going to make sure that this is the food that will bring us vitality and health. We are going to show gratitude for our body by protecting it as we show gratitude for the food we have by sharing it with others.
Choose natural, simple, healthy, fresh foods. Choose foods packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Every day during this month add to your iftar table a big bowel of fresh raw salad packed with dark green leafy vegetables and colorful fresh variety of produce. Sprinkle your salad with nuts and seeds. Add apple cider vinegar and olive oil for dressing. Apple cider vinegar is a great detoxifier in its own right. it helps maintaining slightly alkaline pH needed for healthy immune system, strong bones, and balanced blood sugar levels.
Add yogurt and buttermilk to your menu either during iftar or suhur. Yogurt is a great source of probiotics, it replenishes healthy intestinal flora, improves digestion and bowel health.
Avoid all synthetic chemicals, additives and preservatives. Keep away from processed foods and minimize your intake of refined carbohydrates and simple sugars.
And, when talking about detox, water is the perfect place to start. We recommend that you drink plenty of spring water during the program as soon as you break your fast since your body is likely to be dehydrated from the fasting hours. In addition, water will help flush out and eliminate the circulating toxins that have been released during the day.
It is recommended for maximum benefits to drink 2 liters of water mixed with 1/2 a teaspoon of sea salt and the juice of one lemon as soon as you break your fast. This must be done before eating anything to flush out the kidneys and colon (which only happens if you drink all the water at once) as the kidneys get saturated and then the excess water in turn flushes out the colon. This dramatically increases the detox benefits from your fast. After 15 minutes or so from the time the water has been taken in, the first meal can be consumed, starting with the green drink.
Water regulates body temperature, helps in all metabolic reactions, lubricates our joints and gastrointestinal tract, and helps flush out toxins. Avoid dehydrating, highly sweetened or chemical-laden beverages like coffee, soft drinks and artificial juices.
Headaches and minor agitation is normal for the first few days of a fast. But if you do have severe detox symptoms, or problems with elimination, consider having colonic irrigation to help flush out the excess toxins that are being released. Saunas, body brushing, and Epsom baths also help.
People have different experiences when fasting. Those with high metabolisms find fasting quite difficult, especially near the beginning before their body has made the metabolic adjustments. Those of slower metabolisms accustomed to few meals a day usually report feeling better while fasting and often even have more energy to perform their usual duties.
Both groups, however, experience a period of physiological rest for the body starting at the digestive tract and its mucosal lining and affecting all the other organs as well. The process causes a cleansing away of waste products—a normal and regular process, but without the burden of further intake. The body is thus able to clear toxins better, quicker and more efficiently. This clearing process is most critical when it comes to the digestive tract because it is the barrier that regulates how material from the outside world enters the body. An unhealthy intestinal mucosal lining offers poor protection to the blood and inner organs against a variety of environmental and metabolic toxins.
What happens during a fast is quite predictable. Some people worry that they find their blood cholesterol levels and uric acid levels rise during the fast, but this temporary rise returns back to normal, or lower, shortly after the completion of the fast. ESR levels, a marker for inflammation in the body, tends to decrease during the course of a fast.
All of these changes indicate that the body is functioning at a cleaner level. Some other symptoms during a fast also be expected: nausea, foul breath, dizziness, headaches, tiredness and a need for more sleep, skin rashes, dandruff, dark circles under the eyes, and other symptoms indicating that the body is working through a healing crisis.
Another pearl of wisdom to encourage detoxification during the Ramadan fast is to focus on detoxifying foods. Most raw, unprocessed and whole food diets will work wonderfully, but to make the fast just that much more effective, concentrate specifically on green leafy vegetables, increasing water intake, and being very particular about one’s oil intake. Omega-3 oils, oils that are commonly lacking in our diets—found in fish and certain vegetable sources—are a good choice during any fast as the fat in our body burns away and is replaced by the healthier oil.
Finally, a little bit of exercise after the break of the fast is highly recommended. Going for a light walk, doing some housework, or standing for the taraweeh prayers will all fulfill this minimum requirement. The body will be looking to go into storage mode, since it has finally had food after a long period of no energy coming into it, but by keeping up some activity, you can lessen the contrast by showing the body that the energy is to be used, not stored.