SOME HEALTH GUIDELINES FOR RAMADAN
Dr. Farouk Haffejee
Islamic Medical Association of South Africa - Durban
This article provides useful advice
on how to avoid some common problems encountered in Ramadan. If
followed, it would enable one to fast comfortably and enjoy fully the
spiritual benefits of Ramadan.
During the holy month of Ramadan, our diet should not differ very much
from our normal diet and should be as simple as possible. The diet
should be such that we maintain our normal weight, neither losing nor
However, if one is over-weight, Ramadan is an ideal time to normalize one's weight.
In view of the long hours of fasting, we should consume slow digesting
foods including fiber containing-foods rather than fast-digesting foods.
Slow digesting foods last up to 8 hours, while fast-digesting foods last for only 3 to 4 hours:
• Slow-digesting foods are foods that contain
grains and seeds like barley, wheat, oats, millet, semolina, beans,
lentils, whole meal flour, unpolished rice, etc. (called complex
• Fast-burning foods are foods that contain sugar, white flour, etc. (called refined carbohydrates).
Containing-containing foods are bran-containing foods, whole
wheat, grains and seeds, vegetables like green beans, peas, sem
(papry), marrow, mealiest, spinach, and other herbs like methie, the
leaves of beetroot (iron-rich), fruit with skin, dried fruit especially
dried apricots, figs and prunes, almonds, etc.
• The foods
eaten should be well balanced, containing foods from each food group,
i.e. fruits, vegetables, meat/chicken/fish, bread/cereals and dairy
• Fried foods
are unhealthy and should be limited. They cause indigestion, heartburn,
and weight problems.
• Fried and fatty foods.
• Foods containing too much sugar.
• Over-eating especially at sehri.
• Too much tea
at sehri. Tea makes you pass more urine taking with it valuable mineral
salts that your body would need during the day.
cigarettes. Smoking and anything which is bad for health is Forbidden
in Islaam, since Smoking is unhealthy and one should stop it
completely. If you have this bad habit, it is good time to stop it now
and for ever.
• Complex carbohydrates at sehri so that the food lasts longer making you
• Haleem is an excellent source of protein and is a slow-burning food.
• Dates are excellent source of sugar, fiber, carbohydrates, potassium and
• Almonds are rich in protein and fiber with less fat.
• Bananas are a good source of potassium, magnesium and carbohydrates.
• As much water or fruit juices as possible between iftar and bedtime so
that your body may adjust fluid levels in time.
Constipation can cause piles (hemorrhoids), fissures (painful cracks in anal canal) and indigestion with a bloated feeling.
Causes: Too much refined foods, too little water and not enough fiber in the diet.
Remedy: Avoid excessive refined foods, increase water intake, and use bran in baking, brown flour when making roti.
INDIGESTION AND WIND
Causes: Over-eating. Too much
fried and fatty foods, spicy foods, and foods that produce wind e.g.
eggs, cabbage, lentils, carbonated drinks like Cola also produce gas.
Remedy: Do not over-eat; drink fruit juices or better still drink water.
Avoid fried foods; add ajmor to wind-producing foods.
LETHARGY ('low blood pressure')
Excessive sweating, weakness, tiredness, lack of energy, dizziness,
especially on getting up from sitting position, pale appearance and
feeling faint are symptoms associated with low blood pressure".
This tends to occur towards the afternoon.
Causes: Too little fluid intake, decreased salt intake.
Remedy: Keep cool, increase fluid and salt intake.
Caution: Low blood pressure
should be confirmed by taking a blood pressure reading when symptoms
are present. Persons with high blood pressure may need their medication
adjusted during Ramadan. They should consult their doctor.
Causes: Caffeine and
tobacco-withdrawal, doing too much in one day, lack of sleep, hunger
usually occur as the day goes by and worsens at the end of the day.
When associated with "low blood pressure", the headache can be quite
severe and can also cause nausea before Iftar.
Remedy: Cut down caffeine and
tobacco slowly starting a week or two before Ramadan. Herbal and
caffeine-free teas may be substituted. Reorganize your schedule during
the Ramadan so as to have adequate sleep.
LOW BLOOD SUGAR
Weakness, dizziness, tiredness, poor concentration, perspiring easily,
feeling shaky (tremor), unable to perform physical activities,
headache, palpitations are symptoms of low blood sugar.
Causes: in non-diabetics:
Having too much sugar i.e. refined carbohydrates especially at suhur
(sehri). The body produces too much insulin causing the blood glucose
Remedy: Eat something at sehri and limit sugar-containing foods and drinks.
Caution: Diabetics may need to adjust their medication in Ramadan, consult your doctor.
Causes: Inadequate intake of calcium, magnesium and potassium foods.
Remedy: Eat foods rich in the above minerals e.g. vegetables, fruit, dairy products, meat and dates.
Caution: Those on high blood pressure medication and with kidney stone problems should consult their doctor.
PEPTIC ULCERS, HEART BURN, GASTRITIS AND HIATUS HERNIA
Increased acid levels in the empty stomach in Ramadan aggravate the
above conditions. It presents as a burning feeling in the stomach area
under the ribs and can extend up to the throat. Spicy foods, coffee,
and Cola drinks worsen these conditions.
Medications are available to control acid levels in the stomach. People
with proven peptic ulcers and hiatus hernia should consult their doctor
well before Ramadan.
Kidney stones may occur in people who have less liquid to drink,
therefore, it is essential to drink extra liquids so as to prevent
Causes: During Ramadan, when
extra salah are performed the pressure on the knee joints increases. In
the elderly and those with arthritis this may result in pain,
stiffness, swelling and discomfort.
Remedy: Lose weight so that the
knees do not have to carry any extra load. Exercise the lower limbs
before Ramadan so that they can be prepared for the additional strain.
Being physically fit allows greater fulfillment, thus enabling one to
be able to perform salah with ease.