By Ali Said Ali al Mandhry — Fasting during Ramadhan is an important spiritual practice. In a religious context, it is primarily a technique for seeking proximity to God and the divine. It is described in the Quran thus “so that you may attain taqwa or God-consciousness”.
Many people observe fasting as a religious obligation but only few know the health benefits it has. Fasting during Ramadhan can improve one’s health, but only if done in the proper manner. The benefits of fasting however have been studied long before and are known by Medical experts along with Islamic scholars or researchers.
Ramadhan fasting is perfectly safe for “healthy” individuals but may pose risks to some but not all with pre-existing medical conditions. Muslims are permitted to break the ordained fast of Ramadan when there is danger to their health. In this situation a Muslim should make up his/her fast later at any other time of the year.
In 1994 the first International Congress on “Health and Ramadhan”, held in Casablanca, entered 50 extensive studies on the medical ethics of fasting.
While improvement in many medical conditions was noted; however, in no way did fasting worsen any patients’ health or their baseline medical condition. This was the general consensus.
The Medical strategies to ensure safety of diabetics, high blood pressure, and heart diseases highly recommend undergoing pre-Ramadhan medical assessment and focused patient education before they start the fast.
Prior to the start of the month of Ramadhan, you should consult with a doctor about the safety of fasting in individual health circumstances for example any chronic medical condition such as high blood pressure, Diabetes in particular or heart diseases. You may need to review your care plan as the management plan is highly individualized. Your drug regimen adjustments (in terms of timing and dosage) if you are diabetic (and/ or with high blood pressure) on medication, need to be changed outside the fasting hours.
Follow these tips to make lifestyle changes to get the best out of this Ramadhan:
1. Start your meal with dates & break your fast slowly
Start with dates, water followed by soup, and a bowl of salad. Dates are very important source of sugar that will replenish the energy you lost throughout the long hours of fasting. It is rich in fibres that will regulate your bowel movements. And starting your iftar meal (before main meal) with warm soup comforts the stomach after a long day of fasting, replenishes your body with fluids and helps prepare the digestive system for this meal.
2. Stay hydrated
Drink enough water after breaking the fast so that you do not feel thirsty or have signs of dehydration the following day. Drink 8 glass of water throughout the night.
3. Ensure your meal has all food groups
Take foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates and protein, fruits or vegetable. This will ensure you have a healthy balanced meal.
4. Foods to avoid
Avoid fried and spicy foods as they may cause heartburn or indigestion.
Try exercising an hour or two after breaking your fast. This will maintain a healthy weight and healthy lifestyle.
Although Ramadhan is the best way to be motivated by the health benefits such as losing weight (if you are obese), improving cholesterol levels, blood sugar control (for Diabetics) and so on but we should not forget the most important milestone is achieving your spiritual goals. The health benefits are of a secondary nature.
May the almighty Allah bless us during Ramadhan, and throughout the year, and bring us all closer to him and to each other. Ramadhan Mubarak!