Ramadan is almost here, and Muslims around the world are getting ready to fast during the holy month. Fasting has many benefits but it’s also important to be mindful of your health and safety during this time. So, we've put together 10 key tips for you to keep in mind during Ramadan.
Potential weight loss
Fasting during Ramadan can have some health benefits if done properly. The body enters a detoxification process that removes toxins and can help with potential weight loss. During fasting, there is an opportunity for glucose to change to fat. Fat then can be used as the main source of energy resulting in weight loss.
It's important to have a balanced diet during Ramadan
It’s important to maintain a proper diet during non-fasting hours. Choose a simple, balanced diet that includes foods from all major food groups such as fruits and vegetables; cereals and potatoes; milk and dairy alternatives; meat, and so on. Avoid heavily processed food and drinks such as tea, coffee and cola.
During Suhoor, the pre-dawn meal, a wholesome meal that includes slow-digesting foods can provide energy throughout the day. During Iftar, the meal that breaks the fast, food shouldn’t be heavy and can include refreshing fruit like dates.
Potential for heartburn
Fasting may reduce heartburn, but thoughts or smell of food can lead to more acid production and consequently can induce heartburn. That said, those taking medication routinely for indigestion should continue to do so during fasting. Taking measures such as eating in moderation and avoiding oily, deep-fried, or spicy foods can help control heartburn, as can reducing caffeine intake. Using peppermint oil and sleeping with the head raised may also help prevent it.
Constant monitoring is required for those with diabetes
Those who manage their diabetes through tablets or diet can fast but should consult their GP before Ramadan to discuss alternative medical treatment during this season. Regularly self-monitoring blood glucose levels is imperative to prevent dangerously low blood sugar levels. Those with complications such as heart failure and stroke should seek medical advice before fasting.
Increased chance of headaches
During Ramadan, there is a higher risk of headaches. This is due to dehydration, hunger or the absence of substances such as caffeine or nicotine. Setting the foundation during the pre-dawn meal by drinking enough liquids can prevent headaches. Whilst fasting, try to avoid sunlight to reduce the risk of headaches or use sunglasses when outside.
Dehydration is common during fasting
The body will continue to lose water and salt through breathing, sweat and urine. Dehydration depends on many factors such as the amount of water lost. It’s advised to drink water before starting a fast.
The risk of dehydration is higher among the elderly. If an elderly person is unable to stand up, is disoriented or dizzy, rehydrate them with water, preferably with a little sugar and salt.
Potential for increased stress levels
Lack of food, nicotine and shorter periods of sleep can increase stress levels. It is important to identify any stressors to minimise their effects. For example, reducing workload, not playing sports in the sun, and anger management are some of the few ways to avoid higher stress levels.
Great time to quit smoking
According to the Quran keeping one’s body in shape is a form of worship. That said, Ramadan is considered the ideal time to quit smoking. Support is available through the local smoking advisors Quit Right Tower Hamlets. Visit the Quit Right website for more information.
Children start fasting during puberty
When a child reaches puberty they are required to fast. It is not advised that children fast before puberty but they may try fasting for a shortened period depending on their health, age etc. This can give kids a sense of community.
Weight gain is a possibility
Surprisingly, food eaten during pre-dawn and post-sunset meals can be high in calories, may lead to weight gain. It's important to use discipline and moderation when eating during non-fasting hours.
For those in Tower Hamlets participating in Ramadan, we wish you a season full of introspection and rest. Aside from the benefits, it is an opportunity for Muslims to connect to God. Information from this article has been adapted from Communities in Action’s Ramadan Health Guide.