Fasting in the holy month of Ramadan is obligatory for all adult, able Muslims. This is the month when Muslims will abstain from food, drinks and marital relationship and try to lead a disciplined life. It is a physical as well as a spiritual act. It gives us an opportunity to practice self-control over not just abstaining from food, but also over anger, stress, evil acts and thoughts. Through fasting we learn how to manage our eating habits and how to improve self-control and discipline.
Ramadan brings all the Muslims together performing this act of worship all over the world.
Muslims also try to pray regularly and eat regularly a well balanced diet.
We Need to adequately prepare ourselves to the changes that we shall have to make in this month.
We have to be particularly aware of health issues that may affect us. There are health implications for the elderly, pregnant and nursing women, people suffering from chronic illness such as diabetes, asthma etc. Preparing adequately in advance will help us to get the best of Ramadan. We can focus on worship rather than worry about health.
The general properties of a balanced diet in the month of Ramadan.
In the pre-dawn Meal (sehri) and meal after the fast (iftar) we should take a diet comprising of complex carbohydrates, some amount of fat and protein with adequate quantities of nutrients, salt and water.
Complex carbohydrates are found in grains and seeds like basmati rice, wholemeal flour, wheat, oats, semolina, beans, lentils etc. These complex carbohydrate release energy slowly during teh hours of fasting. High fibre foods are also digested slowly and include cereals, whole wheat, bran, potatoes with skin, vegetables such as okra, aubergines, green beans and most fruits such as apples, pears, apricots, prunes, melon etc.
Foods such as deep fried pakoras, samosas, high sugar/high fat foods such as ghulab jamun, roshogulla, ballushai etc. should be avoided.
Management of long-term illnesses during the month of Ramdan
If you suffer from High blood pressure and take regular medication, you should continue with your medication provided you take them only onece or twice a day and your blood pressure was well controlled before the beginning of your fast. It is advisable to consult your GP about your medication and get your blood pressure checked.
If one suffers from asthma and the condition is well controlled taking the preventative inhalers once or twice a day, you should be able to fast. There are differences of opinion amongst the scholars whether one can use an inhaler during the fast to relieve an attack of asthma and the fast remain valid.
Those suffering from diabetes should consult their GP before the beginning of the fasting month and have their blood pressure tested. They should also discuss any need for change of medication and the timing of taking the medication.
If the diabetes is controlled by diet of by tablets, they maybe able to fast orovided their diabetes is well controlled and they are not suffering any complications such as nephropath (kidney disease), neuropathy (nerve disease), retinopathy (eye disease), angina or heart failure or strike. They should seek careful advise from their doctors.
There is a danger that poorly controlled diabetes during fast or after breaking the fast may worsen the condition and lead to further complications.
If your diabetes is treated by insulin you are advised not to fast as the ptential for long and short-term risk to your health is great. You must discuss all aspects of your treatment with your doctor before making a decision.
If you feel dizzy, sweaty or disorientated during the fast you are suffering from low blood sugar (hypo) and if untreated this may lead to fainting or fits. If you suspect you are developing any of the symptoms of hypo you should immediatly break the fast and have a sugary drink such as a glass of orange juice, or put sugar or sweets in your mouth to dissolve fololwed by a proper meal. You should also get your blood sugar level tested.
Pregnant and nursing mothers
Are exempted from fasting if there are reasons to believe that the mother or child’s health is at risk. Any specific concerns should be discussed with your doctor. Pregnant women can get advice from their doctor or a dietician about taking and planning the meals which will provide adequate nutrition. Fluid intake also needs to be adaquate.
This article outlined some general principles and a few conditions.
It is good practice to consult a doctor before the beginning of the month of Ramadan to clarify any health issues you may have.
Dr.Muasharraf Hussain GP.
First Published 11 Aug 2010