From Faith to Fitness: Psychological and Physical Health Benefits of Fasting

Fasting not only facilitates the moral and spiritual reformation of man but also provides a pathway to improved physical and mental health.

From Faith to Fitness: Psychological and Physical Health Benefits of Fasting

Fasting not only facilitates the moral and spiritual reformation of man but also provides a pathway to improved physical and mental health.


MARCH 30, 2024

Ramadan fasting has been prescribed in the Quran as a means of attaining righteousness and increasing in spirituality. Its primary purpose is to strengthen man’s bond with God, attain His pleasure, and reorganise one’s life in accordance with the commands of God.

While fasting during Ramadan serves as an effective means of spiritual and moral reformation, it also comes with various physical and mental health benefits. The role of spirituality in health has long been studied and scientifically researched, and has been found to be an effective protective factor against physical and mental issues. So, let us quickly divulge the health benefits of fasting.

Psychological benefits of fasting

Improved brain function and memory: During fasting, a person’s body uses all of its glucose stores for energy. As a result of this depletion, the body starts converting fats into energy, leading to the production of ketones – acids produced while breaking down fats for energy in a process called ketosis. These ketones act like fresh fuel to energise brain processes. Consequently, the ability to focus sharpens, and the nerve cells in the brain begin to get stronger, thereby aiding in enhancing memory and brain functioning.[1]

Antidepressant functions: A 2018 study found that short-term calorie restriction from fasting can induce antidepressant-like effects in the brain. Fasting increases the production of happy hormones such as serotonin and endorphins[2]. Fasting has also been shown to improve sleep quality and daytime performance.[3]

Generation of positive emotions: Studies show that fasting increases feelings of appreciation, gratitude[4], compassion, empathy, self-discipline and self-control[5]. Furthermore, it enhances the ability to be mindful.

Positive management of neurodegenerative diseases: Autophagy is a process wherein the brain breaks down damaged old cells and recycles them into new ones. This phenomenon is interestingly discovered during fasting, hence helping in the positive management of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.[6]

Reduction in chronic inflammation: Inflammation has been linked to many mental health illnesses such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), schizophrenia and bipolar disorder[7]. Fasting reduces inflammation, which causes significant brain and mental health benefits.[8]

Physical health benefits

Reduction in the risk of type II diabetes: Fasting promotes blood glucose levels by reducing insulin resistance. Decreased insulin resistance can aid in sufficient glucose transportation from blood to cells, thereby preventing blood sugar spikes and crashes.[9]

Improved heart health: Fasting has been shown to reduce blood pressure and total cholesterol levels while also positively impacting heart rate.[10]

Reduction in oxidative stress and inflammation: Inflammation caused by oxidative stress (a condition wherein the existence of unstable molecules called free radicals exceeds antioxidant presence) is one of the root causes of chronic diseases. Fasting can help reduce oxidative damage and inflammation and protect against many chronic illnesses like heart diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer.[11]

Metabolic adaptations: While fasting, a person’s body adapts by changing hormones to make body fats more accessible for use[12]. It also helps in changing gene expression which further facilitates reduction in body weight and fat mass[13]. In some studies, fasting has also shown to be an invaluable tool in combating PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) by facilitating weight loss, menstruation and fertility.[14]

Gut health: Fasting benefits gut health by boosting gut microbes (good gut bacteria that help in improving immune function) by giving them time to repopulate and rest. It also promotes efficient nutrient absorption. Furthermore, in an interesting connection, fasting alters the gut microbiome, which in turn reduces blood pressure and helps maintain healthy body weight.[15]

The holy month of Ramadan is an excellent opportunity for us to revive our mental and physical health. Fasting heals our body in numerous ways. Adding a balanced and nourishing diet like whole grains, vegetables, fresh and dry fruits, lean proteins, and lots of water in one’s eating window will ensure the best results of fasting.

If anyone is facing any acute or chronic issue that prevents them from fasting, it is recommended to seek professional advice.

Samar Hafeez is a consultant psychologist and a certified holistic health coach currently pursuing her PhD in psychology. She is a regular contributor for Light of Islam.


[1] Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Brain Metabolism, Alex Brocci et al. (2022), Nutrients

[2] Effect of Calorie Restriction on Depression, Stephen Malunga Manchishi et al. (2018), Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine

[3] Effects of Short-Term Modified Fasting on Sleep Patterns and Daytime Vigilance in Non-Obese Subjects: Results of a Pilot Study, A Michalsen et al. (2003), Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism

[4] Effect of Intermittent Fasting on Body Image Satisfaction and Appreciation Among Saudi Adults, Ghadeer Dairi et al. (2023), Cureus

[5] The Effect of Fasting on Emotional Intelligence, Masood Nikfarjam et al. (2015), National Journal of Laboratory Medicine

[6] The Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Brain and Cognitive Function, Jip Gudden et al. (2021), Nutrients

[7] Inflammation-Related Biomarkers in Major Psychiatric Disorders: A Cross-Disorder Assessment of Reproducibility and Specificity in 43 Meta-Analyses, Ning Yuan et al. (2019), Translational Psychiatry

[8] Arachidonic Acid Inhibition of the NLRP3 Inflammasome Is a Mechanism to Explain the Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Fasting, Milton Pereira et al. (2024), Cell Reports

[9] Efficacy of Fasting in Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Narrative Review, Daniel Herz et al. (2023), Nutrients

[10] Intermittent Fasting: A Heart Healthy Dietary Pattern?, Tiffany A Dong et al. (2020), The American Journal of Medicine

[11] Fasting: Molecular Mechanisms and Clinical Applications, Valter D Longo and Mark P Mattson (2014), Cell Metabolism

[12] The Effect of Fasting on Human Metabolism and Psychological Health, Yiren Wang and Ruilin Wu (2022), Disease Markers

[13] Ramadan Diurnal Intermittent Fasting Is Associated with Attenuated FTO Gene Expression in Subjects with Overweight and Obesity: A Prospective Cohort Study, Mohamed I Madkour et al. (2022), Frontiers in Nutrition

[14] The Effects of Intermittent Fasting Diet Alone or in Combination with Probiotic Supplementation in Comparison with Calorie-Restricted Diet on Metabolic and Hormonal Profile in Patients with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Study Protocol for a Randomized Clinical Trial, Sepide Talebi et al. (2023), Trials

[15] Remodeling of the Gut Microbiome during Ramadan-Associated Intermittent Fasting, Junhong Su et al. (2021), The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition


Abdul raoof khan · March 30, 2024 at 9:32 am

Masha allah

Wasim Ahmad · March 30, 2024 at 4:02 pm

Jazakallah Very useful information

Muhammad Sadique Dawood · March 30, 2024 at 6:30 pm

Quite a cogent and concise article on the worldly benefits of fasting. I like the comprehensive way in which the Author has presented millenia of research in such a compact form. Keep up the good work.

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