Keys to a healthy Ramadan
Ramadan is a month of spirituality and reflection. As we prepare ourselves for it, we need to remember the importance of preparing our bodies to adapt to the change that fasting brings to our system.
Since Ramadan will be in the summer, hydration becomes an important issue. Taking sufficient amounts of water is essential to avoid dehydration. Individuals with chronic disease such as heart and kidney diseases as well as diabetics must consult with their physicians before they start fasting.
Some physicians may not be familiar with Islamic fasts and may be under the impression that it involves abstinence from eating for 24 hours. Therefore, it is important to educate your doctor about fasting. This way, she will make a more informed decision based on the understanding that you are allowed to eat and drink before sunrise and after sunset, which makes a difference.
If you are allowed to fast but are on medications, it is also important to discuss with your physician the impact of fasting on your medication regimen. Some medications have to be taken on very strict schedules and with regular water and food intakes for the medicine to act properly, without side effects. In some instances, your physician may recommend minor modifications to your medication schedule to adapt to fasting.
You can find additional information here on various medical issues related to fasting in Ramadan.
Studies show that fasting during Ramadan could lower cholesterol, blood pressure and aid in weight loss. The advantage of incorporating fasting over other weight loss diets is that it does not eliminate any type of food. A person fasting Ramadan can still have a balanced daily diet. Some studies show that, for individuals who fast and eat in moderation, the daily calorie intake can be lower than the national daily recommendation. Furthermore, taraweeh prayers can help burn calories. They were shown, in one study, to burn 200 calories in one evening of prayer.
Fasting is also an exercise of self-discipline and can help in breaking unhealthy routines. Individuals who are heavy smokers or impulsive eaters can use fasting as a tool to develop control over these otherwise irresistible habits.
People who drink caffeine may need to lower their caffeine intake in the days leading to Ramadan to prepare their systems for caffeine withdrawal. This practice can alleviate some of the difficulties that can arise at the start of fasting, like caffeine withdrawal headaches.
It is important to remember that discipline needs to be exercised throughout the day not just during the fasting period. This means that eating in moderation and not indulging into excessive quantities of food will allow us to gain the maximum benefits of fasting. Doing this will guarantee that the benefits mentioned above such as lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure and losing weight will be achieved.
We ask Allah to help us all in maximizing our spiritual and physical benefits of Ramadan.
Dr. Mohammad Kamal is a practicing physician and a member of the Islamic Center’s Board of Directors.
Looking for more Ramadan health advice? See what the British National Health Service has to say on the subject.