Eat and stay healthy during holy month of Ramadan

Wednesday 08th May 2019 11:39 EDT

Ramadan is considered as the holiest month in the Islamic calendar and celebrated every year by Muslims across the globe. This year the Ramadan has started on Sunday 5 May 2019 and will end on Tuesday, June 4, 2019. This date is usually calculated by sighting of the crescent moon with rough estimation of dates by looking into astronomical charts.

Throughout the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. The morning meal is known as Suhoor, and the evening breaking of the fast is called Iftar. For groups such as young children, elderly, people who are ill or pregnant women, fasting is not obligatory.

There are many things to consider before fasting- such as how to eat healthy, what food to eat, when to break fast, what and how much to drink, when and how to exercise or how to prevent disrupted sleep pattern. Ramadan is often during summer months. So in the UK, the summer heat and long daylight hours (late sunset and early sunrise) affects one's hydrating, nutritioning and resting hours.

But in modern days, people who are fasting still want to go about normally. Staying active during Ramadan is indeed a good idea, but one has to be careful about the potential dehydration and low energy levels. Practising Muslims who are interested in exercising need to make sure that they do not break their usual routine- such as increasing speed or frequency of exercise; should instead opt for light exercises and must not lift any weights.

Eating and exercising during Ramadan

Medicspot GP Dr Farah Gilani in a very interesting article on how to exercise during Ramadan told '', “Those who are fasting should not be considering increasing their exercise levels during the fasting month, and indeed may need to reduce the length or intensity of their usual workouts while they are fasting.

“In addition, while it is possible to continue an existing exercise routine, Ramadan is perhaps not the best time to start a regular exercise programme for a novice, as the body is already adjusting to the changes that occur with fasting.”

Gilani also added how it is important to think about the time of day you exercise. She said it is best to exercise just before Iftar or between Iftar and Suhoor, “This allows the body to be replenished with fluids and nutrients after the workout.”

Speaking about the kind of food one should have, she asked practising Muslims to ensure that their diet during Ramadan remains balanced with plenty of fruits and vegetables (especially that span the full rainbow colours), and lean proteins. However, she emphasised that one should avoid sugary and fried foods or reduce their portions, and choose foods that 'release energy slowly' – ones with high fibres, wholegrains, oats etc. Many people go out with friends and family for Iftar meals, doctors in the UK are advising them to not eat recklessly especially at the Ramadan buffet, as this could worsen people's overall health.

Ramadan for people suffering from Type 2 diabetes

People during Ramadan, mostly have two meals a day, one at sunset and the other before sunrise. This can be risky for people with type 2 diabetes, porticularly those who use insulin or oral diabetic medicines such as metformin etc. The fast during the day can lead to low level of glucose in blood, which may result into sweating, shakiness, confusion. If severe, it can also lead to seizures, coma or even death, while the rich food in the evening can lead to high glucose level resulting into tiredness and general ill health. Extreme high levels are of course medical energency. Changes in time for medicines can also affect the stability of gucose level in blood for diabetics.

According to Islam, elderly- especially those with illnesses or those who require regular medication like diabetes can be exempted from fasting on medical grounds. But those with type 2 diabetes, who do not need insulin or oral medicines can safely fast under the guidance of their healthcare professionals, who understand the significance of the holy month as well as practical health aspects.

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