Ramadan, Fasting and the Healing Crisis is something I had to write today because I am feeling quite ill but determined to see the fasting through so I can reap maximum benefits inshAllah. So I have scraped myself off the sofa and decided to write this whilst I am feeling the healing crisis in full force. This applies to fasting outside of Ramadan too.
The stages of fasting outlined below are based on a fast when you are abstaining from any food and drink for 12-48 hours or longer.
Personal experiences can vary depending on the type of fast, age, or health of the individual, but these should give you a general idea of what to expect when you fast.
Fasting is so much more then just abstaining from food/drink etc. It can have an impact on physical and emotional health too. During this period, the body is supporting itself on the stores reserved within its tissues. Autophagy may take place. This is a natural regeneration process that occurs at a cellular level in the body, reducing the likelihood of contracting some diseases as well as prolonging lifespan.
In his book ‘Fasting can save your life’, Herbert Shelton describes how animals that are sick find secluded spots where they can stay warm whilst they rest and fast. They lie there and generally recover without medication. This may seem a far stretch and even dangerous for us to imagine nowadays but it is perfectly normal in the wild. He also goes on to talk about birds that fast whilst their eggs are being hatched! If you haven’t come across his book already, it is a fascinating read and one that I would highly recommend.
Stage 1: Day 1-2
Stage one lasts for the first couple of days of the fast or about 12-48 hours from your last meal. I would honestly recommend preparing before hand. That may be by making your meal the day before or for people who smoke, cutting down on your cigarettes in the lead up to fasting.
What’s Happening Inside Your Body
This is the stage where your body is transitioning into fasting mode and, for many people, it’s the most challenging part of their fast. You may feel hungry, thirsty, light headed, lethargic, grumpy/irritable.
Several things happen at the cellular level that cause hunger and fatigue during this first stage. Your blood sugar level drops. When you’re eating regularly, your body breaks down glucose to get the energy it needs to function properly. While you’re fasting, your body needs to produce sugar for energy, so it begins a process called gluconeogenesis. During gluconeogenesis, your liver converts non-carbohydrate materials like lactate, amino acids, and fats into glucose.
As your body aims to reserve your energy, your basal metabolic rate, or BMR, becomes more efficient and uses less energy. This process includes lowering your heart rate and blood pressure.
Fat in the blood starts to disappear as it’s metabolised for energy. This process promotes a healthy heart, and for some, improves cholesterol levels by boosting HDL levels.
At this stage, you may feel drained. However, that lost energy will return and your strengthened will power will benefit you even after fasting is over.
Stage 2: Day 3-7
Stage two starts around the end of day two and lasts until day seven. A lot of changes begin to happen at this stage, and you may start to notice changes in your physical appearance, as well as how you feel.
What’s Happening Inside Your Body
When you consume a typical diet of carbohydrate rich foods, your body breaks down sugars and starches into glucose. Fats, composed of transformed fatty acids, are broken down to release glycerol from the gliceride molecules and are converted to glucose.
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The skin may develop a sheen as waste oils are purged from the body. You may go into ketosis where your body must turn to fat stores for the energy it requires. White blood cell and immune system activity increases.
You may feel pain in your lungs as I am today Alhamdulillah. The cleansing organs and the lungs are in the process of being repaired.
Within the intestine, the colon is being repaired and impacted feces on the intestinal wall start to loosen.
Stage 3: Day 8-15
Stage three typically falls between day eight and 15. This stage includes dramatic improvements in mood and mental clarity.
What’s Happening Inside your Body
During stage three, your body starts to enter into a “healing mode.” A fasting high is experienced as your body adjust to fasting. Improvements such elevated mood, increased energy levels, and mental clarity that is unique to fasting occur.
This healing process begins as your digestive system takes a rest from the common stressors and toxins it endures on a daily basis. As a result, your body has fewer free radicals entering the mix, and oxidative stress decreases.
Old injuries/illnesses may resurface. So eczema may return with a vengeance and may be worse then ever before. Your body may now have an increased ability to heal it for good because of its enhanced abilities during fasting where distractions from processed food may not be there.
As the body scours for dead or damaged tissue, the lymphocytes enter the older, damaged tissue secreting substances to dissolve the damaged cells. These substances irritate the nerves in the surrounding region and cause a reoccurrence of aches from previously injured areas that may have disappeared years earlier. The pain is good as the body is completing the healing process.
The muscles may become tight and sore due to toxin irritation. The legs can be the worst affected, as toxins accumulate in the legs.
Stage 4: Day 16 and Beyond
Stage four occurs sometime around day 16 and continues through the duration of your fast. While there may be some changes moving beyond this juncture, there is a daily balance that starts to set in.
What’s Happening Inside your Body
Stage four is the extension and completion of the healing and cleansing processes that began during the earlier stages. A steady balance seems to set in. The body has fully adapted to the fasting process. There is more energy and clarity of mind. The longer you fast, the more time and opportunity your body has to heal and cleanse itself.
During stage one and two of the fast, your body will still be expelling toxins and damaged cells every time you go to the bathroom. Bad breath will be occur throughout every stage of a fast.
How is your fasting going folks? I am definitely feeling the healing (see what I did there) and my lungs are doing their thing. Hello Stage 2!
I think the mercy shown by the Creator becomes even more evident during Ramadan. I mean, we are provided an entire month (that is compulsory so we can’t get out of it and make excuses!) unless sick, pregnant, travelling, breastfeeding) per year to slow down and take stock, lean in to our healing, repent and feel without distractions.
The month of mercy to me means breaking myself apart to put myself back together again, it is about learning about who I am all over again, it is about understanding where I may be faltering in my character and zooming in on working on that particular area for 30 days, it is about disconnecting from all things media and reconnecting with my Lord, it is about slowing down, It is about giving what you can of yourself and from your blessings, it is about kindness and peace and unity, it is about returning to the Almighty and asking for forgiveness and pleading for healing and any thing else we/you may be worried about or want. Ramadan to me is rejuvenation, transformation and elevation. May it be accepted from all of us. Aameen.
*This article is a combination of research written by, Mr. Tom McGregor, author of Eating in Freedom, Dr Herbert Shelton via his book Fasting can save your life and Dr Edward Group via the Global Healing Centre.