Fasting boosts one’s immunity and protects the body to fight off infection, medical experts said ahead of Arafat Day — the holiest day for Muslims. Known as the day of repentance, Muslims who couldn’t go for Haj pilgrimage, spend their day fasting to repent their sins.
Doctors of the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) noted that apart from the blessings of fasting on the day, there are many health benefits, too.
Dr Salama Mohamed Al Hosani, physician and health operations management, headquarter division, Ambulatory Healthcare Services, explained: “When we begin to fast, the body initially breaks down several immune fighting white blood cells. It instinctively knows to start saving energy and one way it does this is by killing off old or damaged immune cells. Nevertheless, it quickly adjusts and triggers the regeneration of new cells, therefore increasing the number of immune-boosting cells that we have.”
Asked what happens to the body during fasting, Dr Al Hosani said: “When a fast lasts for 12 hours a day or more, the cells in the body that support the immune response and attack invading pathogens leave the bloodstream when we stop eating as the nutrient content becomes low. They migrate to bone marrow, which is nutrient-dense, where they begin to regenerate and become supercharged, and as a result, better protect the body from infection.”
However, fasting is not for everyone, medics said. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, for example, are advised not to fast.
“This is especially important for women with pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes or concerns with baby’s growth, women in their first trimester, especially for those experiencing nausea and vomiting, as it can increase the chance of dehydration, and mothers who are breastfeeding babies less than six months of age, as the baby is completely dependent on the mother’s milk,” said Dr Fatma Al Sayegh, Emirati specialist for obstetrics and gynaecology at Corniche Hospital.
Dr Al Sayegh added that diabetic patients must consult their doctor prior to fasting.
“Fasting can cause blood sugar levels to become too low, leading to a hypoglycemic episode, or too high, both of which can be extremely dangerous,” she said, adding that people must not overeat after ending their fast.
Immune boosters to include in diet after ending fast
>Vitamin C – Found in citrus fruits, strawberries, peppers, kale, and broccoli
>Vitamin B6 – Found in bananas, green vegetables, and hummus
>Vitamin E – Found in nuts and seeds
>Food groups to avoid: Fatty and sugary foods, and processed foods and meat.
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