Srinagar, Apr 08 : Most of the studies conducted across the world suggested that individuals who fast experience improvements in their symptoms of depression, anxiety and even stress, said mental health experts.
Dr Yasir Hassan Rather, Professor in Department of Psychiatry, IMHANS, GMC Srinagar told that research has found that fasting during Ramadan can have a positive psychological effect on individuals due to the feeling of connection with the community and spiritual wellbeing.
“Studies have also shown that fasting can increase feelings of self discipline, self-control, empathy and compassion,” he said.
Additionally, fasting has been linked with improved mental health due to increased gratitude, mindfulness, and improved concentration, Dr Yasir said.
Dr Neelofer Jan Senior Resident at Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences-Kashmir told KNO that several studies have shown that fasting can have positive effects on mental health. It can reduce stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms and also can help improve and decrease progression of various neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia.
“Fasting causes the human body to deplete its glucose stores. With no available glucose, the body converts stored fats into ketones. These ketones work as a fresh fuel to power-up the brain’s processes. Therefore, after the initial “brain fog” experienced during initial days of fasting, mind becomes much clearer and ability to focus is sharper. The neurons in the brain use this new fuel to enter a growth phase and create new synapses, which result in improved learning and memory,” she said.
A study published in Current Neuropharmacology in 2015 found that the short-term calorie restriction from fasting can boost anti-depressant chemicals in the brain. Dr Nelofar said that after a few days of fasting, the body adapts to starvation and starts to release high amounts of happy hormones including endorphins, norepinephrine and dopamine into the brain.
“Some studies have also demonstrated improved sleep patterns in patients with insomnia compared to pre-fasting levels and a possible decrease in migraine due to serotonin levels going up. Depending on the length of the fast, there is also an improvement in chronic inflammation,” she said.
“Chronic inflammation increases the risk of developing illnesses, like cardiovasculardiseases, rheumatoid arthritis,lupus, certain cancers, and also major mental health disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.”
An extremely interesting phenomena discovered during fasting is known as autophagy as the brain breaks down old and damaged cells and recycles them into new ones, Dr Neelofar said.
“Through this self-eating process, the toxins are removed from the brain delaying the development of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s. Most of these findings have been confirmed on lab animals because controlled studies on human brain is difficult,” she said.
Studies have shown that children suffering from epileptic seizures had fewer incidences of seizures when placed on calorie restriction diet or fasting as it counteracts the over-excited signals exhibited in epileptic brain, she added—(KNO)