Fasting is one of the most demanding acts of worship for our bodies. During the ninth month of the lunar calendar, Ramadan is a time where Muslims are commanded to fast from dawn till dusk unless exempted. It is a month of blessing, where the Qur’an was revealed as guidance for mankind, and fasting encourages goodness and the ability to refrain from wrong. Many people experience minor ailments during this month. With simple measures, one can self-manage these symptoms and so enjoy a spiritual healthy fast.
Opportunity for sustained healthy-eating habits
The month of Ramadan is a good time to get healthy. It is possible to lose weight, if necessary. When the body is starved of food, it starts to burn fat. Self-discipline is needed to create healthy, nourishing and simple meals at the times of Iftar and Suhoor. This will ensure the body is fuelled with essential nutrients. Avoid having a feast consisting of deep-fried food and rich curries, which can lead to weight gain! Drinking plenty of fluids between fasts is important so you don’t become dehydrated. Before eating, drink water to help rehydration and reduce the chances of overindulgence.
Remember, our Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have provided the best advice:
“The son of Adam cannot fill a vessel worse than his stomach, as it is enough for him to take a few bites to straighten his back. If he cannot do it, then he may fill it a third of his food, a third of his drink, and a third of air. (Sunan al-Tirmidhi)”
Slow release energy foods for fasting
Ensure you eat meals that release energy slowly. Some examples of healthy foods include:
Fruits (bananas, avocados) and vegetables, leafy greens, whole-grain bread, cereals, sweet potatoes, meat, fish, milk and dairy, seeds, nuts and berries and of course dates!
Common minor ailments and how to self-manage them
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (PBUH) said, “There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its treatment.”
Here are some of the more common minor ailments experienced during fasting and tips on how to self-manage them:
- Headache: This is a common problem and often due to the body adapting to the pattern of fasting. Causes include factors such as dehydration, change in eating patterns, different timing of meals, inadequate rest, or caffeine or nicotine withdrawal. Remedies include making sure you drink plenty of fluids to keep well hydrated. On sunny days, avoid direct sunlight, wear a cap or hat, and sunglasses to reduce the effect of glare from sunlight. If necessary, appropriate pain killers such as Paracetamol may be needed on breaking the fast to treat a headache (remember to always read the instructions).
- Dehydration: This is a common occurrence during a fast and it is when the body does not have adequate fluids. Remember to rehydrate with plenty of fluids. You can use fruits like watermelon and oranges that have high water content. Try to cut back on all types of caffeinated drinks including tea, coffee and fizzy drinks. Rehydration sachets such as Dioralyte are available and you should discuss this with your pharmacist at your local pharmacy. These can help you replace the electrolytes and salts lost during the fast.
- Constipation: this is a commonly reported problem. Foods high in fibre such as vegetables, pulses and starchy foods can help to keep your bowels moving and add bulk to your meal. It is also important to keep hydrated by drinking lots of water between Iftar and Suhoor. Sometimes, a laxative may be required and you can ask your pharmacist the most suitable one for you.
- Heartburn (indigestion): this is particularly common after the pre-dawn meal. Eating in smaller meals and in moderation is key. Avoiding deep-fried or very spicy food will be helpful too. Reducing caffeine intake and smoking will also be of benefit. If necessary, you can try sleeping with your head raised on a few pillows to reduce reflux. Antacids are quick acting and neutralise the acid in the stomach, consult your pharmacist for more advice.
- Vaccinations: regarding the Covid-19 vaccine, the British Islamic Medical Association has reviewed the evidence from Islamic scholars and have confirmed that having the vaccine does not invalidate the fast. It is important to accept the invitation, even if it is in the month of Ramadan when offered to have it.
When in doubt: seek help
Common sources of help you can use for advice on managing minor ailments:
- The pharmacist. Your pharmacist is available without appointment and can be consulted to help you manage minor ailments.
- NHS 111. NHS 111 can help if you think you have a more urgent medical problem and you’re not sure what to do.
Wishing you all a pleasant Ramadan full of blessings and Baraqah!