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Health 1 May 2020
By: Natasha Tanga

Can Fasting During Ramadan Be Harmful For Immunity?


Fasting, which is the practice of not eating for a certain time period, has been done for a long time by people due to ritualistic or spiritual reasons. During this holy month of Ramadan, fasting is a mandatory requirement and needs to be done for 30 days before celebrating Eid Al-Fitr. However, Ramadan this year is overshadowed by COVID-19 pandemic, which keeps some people questioning whether it may actually impose some of health risks, especially with immunity. On this week's journal, we will shed some light on how fasting affects the body and whether it has significant effect on the body's immune system. Read on!

The contradictions of fasting during pandemic

While some studies have shown that fasting tend to stress the body and spike up cortisol levels since the body isn't getting enough food intake as it usually does, the immune system isn't directly affected, as immunity is a complex series of mechanism and its effect is not as straighforward as you might think. Some researchers believe that a controlled fast may actually help induce production of white blood cells, which are responsible to fight off bacterial and viral infections inside the body.

A recent study have also shown that while fasting may put some effect on the body's defense mechanism, not all types of fasting may actually give a positive effect. For example, water-only fasting and intermittent fasting have different effects in affecting the body's metabolic rate. Muslims practice intermittent fasting during Ramadan, however the difference lies on the abstinence from drinking water. While a study has shown that prolonged water fasting beyond 12 to 24 hours can have a slight detrimental effect on the immune system, putting you at a slightly increased risk of catching any kind of infection, it also showed that immunity returned to a better state soon after eating and drinking again.

Even though conclusive studies regarding fasting and immunity has yet to be found, some researchers believe that fasting can actually have beneficial effects on the immune system by reducing the amount of general inflammation that can occur in cells. The body is forced to be in an energy conservation mode due to the lack of nutrients coming in, and therefore, the body recycles many of its old immune cells. When fasting period ends, the body then promotes new immune cells which are quicker and more efficient at fighting infections.

How then should you take care of your immunity while fasting?

Generally speaking, fasting may help you in detoxifying toxins out of your system, as well as reduce excess body fat mass, which can trigger cell inflammation and causes various cardiovascular diseases.

The bottomline on whether your immunity could be affected during fasting period comes down to the nutrition you get from the foods you consume. A lot of people tend to break their fast using sweet beverages and an array of fried foods. While this can be seen as a slight feast after a long, hard work of holding your hunger, these types of food can actually be detrimental for your overall health. For example, sugary foods are known to suppress immunity, while oily, greasy foods contains bad fats that aren't as beneficial for your long-term health.

Therefore, make sure to watch what you eat and consume enough nutritious food in order to stay healthy during Ramadan. Consuming enough healthy carbs, proteins, and fats is crucial to ensure adequate energy distribution when you are doing your fast. Other factors such as getting enough sleep, exercise, and getting plenty of hydration after breaking fast and during suhoor are also important to maintain immunity, as well as ensuring your body is well-prepared to face the challenges during fasting. When needed, natural supplements can also be consumed. Herbana's Relief Sari Jinten Hitam, Meniran, and Kulit Manggis, are able to increase your immunity and maintain well-being during this fasting month. Made from natural extracts, these supplements are safe to be consumed every day without any side effects. Consult with your doctor if taken with other medications.