Ramadan is a month of spiritual reflection for Muslims worldwide. During Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from pure-dawn to dusk. Although some people including patients are exempted from fasting but generally people, as per doctors, need to take precautions in order to stay healthy.
While explaining the benefits of fasting and how people should stay healthy and maintain their eating habits, Dr Sheikh Mohd Saleem, public health expert said in view of high temperatures and direct sun exposure, it is important to drink lots of water because the body is more prone to dehydration and increased thirst.
“Excessive usage of spices and salt should be avoided. It is best to avoid spicy dishes at Iftar since they enhance the body’s desire for water. Furthermore, the use of salt in salads and during cooking should be reduced,” he said.
Dr. Saleem, who is also a health consultant of UNICEF J&K said people who consume sweets contain a lot of sugar, have been found in studies to enhance thirst. But instead, they should eat fruits to replenish body fluids and quench thirst.
“Caffeine is a natural diuretic since it causes increased thirst and fluid loss. Caffeinated beverages should be avoided throughout Ramadan. This includes energy and carbonated beverages, tea and coffee. Avoid smoking as well, as it causes a constant dry mouth and thirst,” he said.
The senior doctor said in view of temperatures and direct sun exposure, it is important to drink lots of water because body is more prone to dehydration and increased thirst.
“The optimal time to exercise during the fasting period is immediately after Iftar because your body has been supplied with food and drink to generate energy and will have ample time to recover lost fluids during exercise,” he said.
Some advices to follow during Ramadan:
Dr. Saleem said people should consult doctor to examine health, establish whether they are permitted to fast, change medication dosages as needed, and determine the ideal time to take them between Iftar and Suhoor.
“Your doctor can also tell you if you require long-acting antihypertensive medications that you may take at night, once or twice a day, without interfering with your fast,” he said.
To minimize thirst, dehydration, and other related issues, he said people should drink lots of fluids and unsweetened natural juices during Iftar.
“Make fruits and vegetables a major part of your Ramadan meals since they are high in potassium, which helps lower high blood pressure,” he said.
He said grilled fish should be eaten at least twice a week since it includes Omega-3, a healthy fat that helps control blood pressure and prevents cardiovascular disease adding that salmon and sardines are good sources of Omega-3.
The doctor said fasting provides an opportunity to relax the digestive system from its year-round labour and offers significant advantages in the treatment of various chronic conditions like obesity, psychological stress, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, blood pressure, renal difficulties and heart disease.
“While fasting is not practicable for many people with liver disease, it can be beneficial for others. Fasting can also be an effective weight-loss technique for them. Patients with liver illness who want to lose weight during Ramadan are recommended to avoid meals high in fat and to restrict the use of maize and olive oils in food preparation,” he said.
The doctor said fatty liver disease and inflammatory fatty liver disease are the two most common types of liver disease.
“Patients with liver disease are classified into three categories. Patients in the first category have chronic liver inflammation caused by Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, or other chronic liver disorders. Fasting is usually possible for this group of individuals, especially if natural enzymes in the liver are present. Fasting, on the other hand, should be done in conjunction with adequate therapy as prescribed by one's doctor,” he said.
Dr. Saleem said patients with uncomplicated cirrhosis of the liver with normal liver function comprise the second category.
“These people are usually able to fast if they do not have any difficulties. Patients with advanced liver cirrhosis make up the third category. Because of the necessary treatments, these individuals are often unable to fast,” he said.
The health expert said patients with ascites, hepatic coma, blood vomiting, late-stage fibrosis, and those at high risk of low blood sugar are also recommended not to go for fasting.
· Consume red meat and poultry occasionally.
· To limit caffeine intake, avoid stimulants such as coffee and caffeinated soft drinks.
· Consume low-fat dairy products since calcium helps to regulate blood pressure and improve bone health.
· Avoid processed meats and cheeses with high levels of salt, such as sausages and mortadella.
Things to remember
· Be on the lookout for hypertension warning symptoms including dizziness and headaches. If you have any of these symptoms, you should seek emergency medical attention or visit your doctor right away.
· Check your blood pressure on a regular basis.
· Continue to exercise during Ramadan as it aids with blood pressure regulation. Physical exercise conducted by Muslims during night prayers (Taraweeh) has been found in studies to help lower high blood pressure.
· Patients with specific medical conditions should contact with their doctor before increasing their physical activity during Ramadan.
· Patients with hypertension should view Ramadan as a wonderful chance to quit smoking since it boosts systolic blood pressure by at least 20 mm Hg and considerably increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
· Ramadan is an excellent time to reduce weight gradually. Weight reduction, even if just 5% of body weight, has been found in studies to help regulate blood pressure during Ramadan.
Tips to avoid illness during Ramadan
· Don’t skip Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) since this may lengthen your fast, which is not recommended in this hot season and may result in dehydration and fatigue.
· Drink as much water as you can between Iftar and bedtime.
· Salty foods should be avoided during Iftar and Suhoor meals.
· Avoid caffeine-containing beverages such as coke, coffee, and tea.
· Avoid consuming high-fat meals, which frequently induce stomach problems (when using oil in food preparation, use only a small amount of olive oil or other polyunsaturated fats).
· Avoid processed carbs and sugar, which can trigger blood sugar spikes and weight gain (e.g. white bread, white rice, sweets, and pastries).
· Suhoor meals should include proteins, oils, complex carbs such as beans, and half a cup of fresh juice or half a piece of fruit.
· Break your fast with an Iftar meal that is simple and easy to digest, such as three dates, half a cup of orange juice, or one cup of vegetable soup. These aid in restoration of your glucose levels to normal and the regulation of your appetite during the main meal.
· Food should be stored in the refrigerator or as recommended on the food label.
Dental tips during Ramadan
· Brush your teeth shortly after Suhoor and Iftaar meals.
· Remember to floss after Suhoor.
· Increase your water consumption during non-fasting hours.
· Reduce your consumption of sugary drinks, coffee, tea, and other beverages that promote dehydration.
· Increase your diet of fruits and vegetables.
· Avoid meals that are sticky.
· Using Miswak during fasting hours helps to clean teeth and increases saliva, preventing mouth dryness and foul breath.
· Rinse your mouth with plain water from time to time during the day as during ablution.
· Use a tongue scraper or cleaner to reduce the oral bacterial accumulating on the surface of the tongue which later produces a bad odour.
· If you use dentures, make sure you clean them properly before use.