Detox, or detoxification, is quite simply, getting rid of the toxins in our body that negatively affect metabolism, energy, mental health and acuity, and any of the bodily functions vital for life. Many chronic conditions develop as a result of toxicity in our hormones, nutrients, and external environment. “Detox” has become quite a buzz word in health lately. Celebrities to common people, all undergo various detoxes and publicize the benefits they have experienced through it. During detox, the body eliminates toxins, fats and chemicals from the body. Our organs such as the kidneys, colon, lungs and skin, all work to eliminate toxins from the body every day. This process is accelerated during fasting.
During Ramadan, the fasting person cannot eat or drink anything from sunrise to sunset. Depending on the geographical location, the period between dawn to dusk may vary from 12 hours to 16 hours. This also depends on whether you are located in the southern or northern hemisphere and what season it is. As the body does not receive food or drink, it needs to use stored reserves of energy for functioning. Excess energy is stored in the body in the form of fat which is accessed only when all other energy sources are depleted. The chemicals and toxins stored in fat are released and eliminated during fasting. Bad addictions (such as to sugar and tobacco) are removed, and as the digestive system is rested, energy is used for metabolic and immunity-building functions. Abnormal tissue growths such tumors are also starved of the nutrients they need, leading to breakdown of such cells and excretion from the body. Other changes during fasting include decrease in blood sugar levels and a decrease in the body’s core temperature due to a corresponding decrease in metabolic rate. The lining of the digestive tract repairs and replenishes, increasing its ability to absorb nutrients more efficiently.
Some common side-effects of fasting, especially in the first few days, include disrupted sleep, headaches, dehydration, dizziness and fatigue.
Having been a long-distance runner a few years ago, I can tell you through experience that the “runner’s high”, the feeling reported by runners, is very real. It is a natural high, brought on by the release of endorphins which are the body’s natural pain killers. Chemically, endorphins are opiate proteins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters which block pain and allow runners to feel pleasantly relaxed, where they feel a heightened sense of awareness and clarity. With an increase in exercise, the feeling has been reported as euphoric. This state is usually achieved after a certain distance of running, beyond the threshold of pain and discomfort.
Similarly, to reap the benefits of Ramadan, one must go through the threshold of feeling the pain, discomfort, lethargy, dehydration and all the other symptoms we experience initially. This is natural, as we withdraw from our normal routines of eating, drinking and being in our comfort zone. Once we traverse this threshold, the high of Ramadan is evident. There is an enhanced sense of wellbeing, a restored energy level, heightened senses, more clear thinking and mental acuity and a well-rested digestive system more capable of absorbing the nutrients we need for optimal functioning.
Here we are reminded of the Quran’s Ayah:
For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease [relief].
(The Holy Quran, Chapter 94, Verse 6).
Detox is More than Physical
As Muslims, we are constantly reminded to lead a wholesome life and to cultivate holistic health- physical, mental and spiritual. The negative habits we cultivate such as envy, jealousy, backbiting, degradation of others, criticism, intolerance of others’ values and viewpoints- these collectively sap our energy, creating divisions and factionalism. We become negative, critical instead of accepting, of others, and our well-being takes a hit, stressing out our immune system. Repeated and chronic stressors can permanently damage our physical and mental health.
In Ramadan, we consciously “detox” from the toxins named above. As we detoxify our emotions, our energy is freed to focus on more positive features, such as being thankful for the benefits we enjoy in life. We become more aware of the blessings we take for granted, such as food, drink, the presence of our spouses and children, the ties of kinship and brotherhood, and we feel the collective bonds we forge through fasting together.
Maintenance is Key
As with any good detox program, there is no point to undergoing it unless we can maintain a healthy standard of life afterward. Sustainability comes from making a note of the benefits you experienced when detoxing, and this gives you the momentum to hold on to these as part of your life rather than a random, or annual, event.
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