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Islamic Voice Logo
MONTHLY    *    Vol 12-12 No:144    *   DECEMBER 1998/ SHABAN RAMADAN 1419H
email: editor@islamicvoice.com

COMPARATIVE RELIGION


The Miracles of Fasting
Understanding Hunger


The Miracles of Fasting

Dr. Shanti B. Rangwani writes on the therapeautic benefits of Fasting

Depleting the body of vital nutrients goes against conventional medical belief, so why is it that today hundreds of doctors in Europe are sending patients to special spas for supervised fasts?

Fasting, one of the oldest natural therapies, is nothing but an extension of the Golden Rule of Dietetics. "To keep healthy, one must always keep a little hungry. "Unfortunately, today we live in a culture of excess and under the influence of various spices, condiments, and fast food, we gorge ourselves till we can eat no more.

The food we eat provides our body with the necessary energy and enables it to produce new cells. Both these processes give rise to numerous toxins which inhibit the efficacy of the cells of the body. Usually, whatever we consume is first assimilated and this digested mass reaches the liver which, like the lungs and kidneys, extracts all the toxic or waste elements.

As no new food goes into the body during fasting, no new toxins are produced and the liver works full time to eliminate the existing toxins. This occurs because the body, which requires fuel to survive, now begins to first burn the toxins contained within it, and then turns to the stored nutrients. At the end of the first extended period of fasting, with fewer toxins to hinder cell functioning, the natural resistance of the body increases manifold. The blood becomes purer and the skin begins to clear and acquire a new glow.

In other words, when the patient stops taking food, the disease and not the patient dies of starvation. The aspect of fasting is well-known to alternative healers who prescribe fasting as a cure for various chronic diseases, including anaemia, fever, irregular menstruation, headache, rheumatism, diarrhoea, gout and depression.

The naturopathic view has been confirmed by a recent study at the University of Pittsburgh which found an increase in the activity of infection-fighting white blood cells in a group of fasting obese volunteers. Another study, published over a decade ago, had also noted that famine victims in Africa were less likely to develop malaria and TB than their better-fed counterparts in refugee camps.

Fasting thereby has also been shown to increase stamina, accelerate weight loss and reverse ageing considerably. However, fasting is not a solution for obesity. It is a good way to start your programme, for almost everyone makes changes after a fast, whether it is getting off junk food and caffeine or improving one's self-discipline, but ultimately only a low-calorie balanced diet, coupled with adequate exercise, will help.

During any illness, the metabolic efficiency of the body is in low gear, and the juices secreted are either improper or not enough. That is why the body reacts to fever with a natural loss of appetite. Birds and animals too instinctively suffer a loss of appetite when they fall sick. Little do people realise that the body's wisdom is far greater than that of the mind.

The mind-body theory further vindicates the benefits of fasting. It increases one's powers of concentration, and improves one's mental as well as spiritual strengths, such as peace of mind, confidence and courage. It is well-known that Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and almost all the sages of Indian mythology have abstained from food in their pursuit of spiritual insight. The neo-Freudian view of the sublimation of the body's energy lends further credence to this view, best exemplified by Mahatma Gandhi's use of abstention from food, speech and sex as a method to strengthen the soul.

Fasting, as an aspect of abstention, thus forms the basis of a truly religious lifestyle. Various religions enjoin the ritual of fasting, and it is believed that those who made these prescriptions be it Ramzan, Lent, the Paryushana festival of the Jains, or the weekly fast observed by many Hindu women all had knowledge of the spiritual and therapeutic benefits of fasting.

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Understanding Hunger

Many of those who try to keep a fast for more than a couple of days give up soon after, because they cannot control their hunger. But this hunger is not so much a craving of the body as it is a craving of the mind. The so-called hunger, in reality is nothing more than a subjective feeling caused by the rhythmic contraction of the stomach wall, in fact goes on most of the time but we feel it only when the stomach is empty. Each pang lasts from 30 seconds to three minutes and recurs in 15 minute cycles. If one does not eat for a couple of days, these pangs do get more intense, but then eventually disappear. But if you think you are depriving yourself of food, and thereby think of food all day long, your hunger will continue unabated. Each time you feel the urge to eat, drink a glass or two of water.

Fasting does not mean starving. You do not collapse and die if you miss a meal for a day or two. It is the same with medically supervised fasts lasting for a month. A real hunger is always revived after the internal cleaning process of the body is completed. This indicated the deadline of fasting, when fasting concludes and starvation begins. You will know this state by the first tinge of saliva on your palate and a clearing of the coating on the tongue.

In some cases, however, accumulated toxins will enter the bloodstream, causing the faster to feel a slight weakness. There may also be a deepening in the colour of urine, occasional nausea, vomiting, low-grade fever and a coating of the tongue all signs of toxins being evicted and the body being cleansed. Hence they are no cause for concern.
( Courtesy Times of India)

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