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Dr. Deiar A Habib ,
Consultant Gastroenterology

Ramadan Digestive Health Tips

“Health is the key to happiness, and what we consume directly affects our health. “


Islam encourages Muslims to ensure that they are mindful of their health. The blessed Prophet had said, "Take advantage of the good health before illnesses afflict you." He also encouraged Muslims to try their best to take up a healthy living lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular mental and physical exercise and a balance between material and spiritual needs.

During Ramadan, balanced food and fluid intake is important between fasts. The kidney is very efficient at maintaining the body's water and salts, such as sodium and potassium. However, these can be lost through sweating. To prevent muscle breakdown, meals must contain adequate levels of 'energy food', such as carbohydrates and some fat. Hence, a balanced diet with adequate quantities of nutrients, salts and water is vital.

The fasts of Ramadan can improve a person's health, but if the correct diet is not followed, it can possibly worsen it! The deciding factor is not the fast itself, but rather what is consumed in the non-fasting hours. To fully benefit from fasting, a person should spare a great deal of thought to the type and quantity of food they will indulge in through the blessed month.

Overeating can not only harm the body but it is thought also to interfere with a person's spiritual growth during the month. A diet that has less than a normal amount of food but is sufficiently balanced will keep a person healthy and active during the month of Ramadan. The diet should be simple and not differ too much from one's normal everyday diet. It should contain foods from all the major food groups.

Complex carbohydrates are foods that will help release energy slowly during the long hours of fasting. Complex carbohydrates are found in grains and seeds, like barley, wheat, oats, millets, semolina, beans, lentils, wholemeal flour, basmati rice, etc.

Fibre-rich foods are also digested slowly and include bran, cereals, whole wheat, grains and seeds, potatoes with the skin, vegetables such as green beans and almost all fruit, including apricots, prunes, figs, etc.

Foods to avoid are the heavily-processed, fast-burning foods that contain refined carbohydrates in the form of sugar, white flour, etc., as well as, of course, too much fatty food (e.g. cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets). It may also be worth avoiding the caffeine content in drinks such as tea, coffee and cola. Caffeine is a diuretic and stimulates faster water loss through urination.

Suhoor, the pre-dawn meal, should be a wholesome and moderate meal that is filling and provides enough energy for many hours. It is therefore particularly important to include slowly-digesting foods at this time.

Iftar is the meal which breaks the day's fast. This meal could include dates, following the Prophetic traditions. Dates will provide a refreshing burst of much-needed energy. Fruit juices will also have a similar, revitalising effect. The meal should remain a meal and not become a feast! Try to minimise the rich, special dishes that traditionally celebrate the fast.

The most commonly consumed foods by Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) were milk, dates, lamb/mutton and oats. Healthy foods mentioned in the Holy Qur'an are fruit and vegetables, such as olives, onions, cucumber, figs, dates, grapes as well as pulses such as lentils. The encouragement of fish can be seen in the fact that Islamic law spares fish from any specific slaughter requirements, making it easy to incorporate fish in a meal.



Ramadan Kareem to all.