Allah has given us our health as amana or trust, and it is a violation to knowingly and willingly break this trust by harming our health. Physical health, as in other areas of our lives requires us to manage certain habits and activities. For many of us this requires a degree of self-control and discipline.
What to Eat and How to Manage your Diet during Ramadan
A diet that has less than a normal amount of food but is sufficiently balanced will keep you healthy and active in Ramadan, allowing you to carry on normally at work and to participate in family life. Fasting can improve your health, but without the right diet can worsen it! The main focus is not the fast itself but rather what is consumed in the non-fasting hours.
During Ramadan there is ample time to replenish energy stores at pre-dawn and dusk meals. A balanced diet and adequate fluid intake is essential between fasts. The kidneys are very efficient at maintaining the body’s water and salt balance however, these can be lost through sweating. To prevent muscle breakdown, meals must contain ‘energy foods’, such as carbohydrates and some fat.
Suhoor, the pre-dawn meal, should be a wholesome, moderate meal that is filling and provides enough energy for many hours. It is important to include slowly-digested foods. Complex carbohydrates are foods that will help release energy slowly during fasting and are found in grains and seeds, like barley, wheat, oats, millet, semolina, beans, lentils, wholemeal flour, basmati rice, etc. Fibre-rich foods are also digested slowly; these include bran, whole wheat, grains and seeds, potatoes with the skin, all types of bread and breakfast cereals, vegetables such as green beans and fruit such as apricots, prunes, figs, etc.
Iftar is the meal which breaks the day’s fast. This meal could include dates, following the Prophetic tradition. Dates will provide a refreshing burst of energy; fruit juices will have a similar effect. The meal should not become a feast full of fried savouries and sweets as this will make you lethargic and you will find it difficult to function. Your food intake should be simple and not differ from the normal everyday diet. It should contain foods from all the food groups such as fruits, vegetables, bread, cereals, potatoes, meat, fish, dairy foods and foods containing moderate amounts of fat and sugar.
How to observe Ramadan safely and still keep healthy
Allah intends for you ease and He does not want to make things difficult for you. 2:185
Those who are on medication for indigestion (such as Gaviscon, Zantac) or proton pump inhibitors (such as Losec, Zoton or Nexium) are advised to continue taking them, at the pre-dawn meal. Heartburn or belching can be eased by eating in moderation and avoiding oily, deep-fried or spicy food. Reducing your caffeine intake and/or stopping smoking can also be of benefit. Preparations such as peppermint oil may help reduce belching or colic. Sleeping with your head raised on a few pillows and long-term weight loss may also help prevent heartburn.
Those injecting insulin must consult with their GP prior to fasting and find out if they can fast safely given their health condition as the short and long term potential risk to health, of not taking insulin is too great. According to the Islamic ruling you can take Insulin while fasting on the basis that it is purely for medical use and does not constitute nutritional consumption. If fasting is not recommended by the GP on a permanent basis the Islamic ruling is that they should not fast during Ramadan and instead should make a charitable contribution (fidyah).
People who have their diabetes under control using tablets should discuss any changes to their drug regime with their GP before Ramadan, so they can fast safely. Low blood sugar levels (a ‘hypo’) is dangerous, and if untreated may lead to fainting or fits, and hence must be strictly avoided. Diabetics with further complications, such as angina or heart failure, stroke, retinopathy (eye disease), nephropathy (kidney disease) or neuropathy (nerve disease of feet/hands with numbness/loss of feeling) should seek advice from their GP before starting a fast.
Harmful levels of water loss could occur if you are poorly hydrated before commencing the fast, and/or could be made worse by physical activity and the weather. If you produce very little or no urine, feel disorientated and confused, or faint due to dehydration, Allah (SWT) has given permission in the Quran to break the fast. Islam does not require you to harm yourself in fulfilling the fast. If a fast is broken, it will need to be compensated by fasting at a later date when health is better.
Other common diseases such as high blood pressure and asthma are controlled using medication that needs to be taken regularly every day of the year. This is necessary in order to avoid possible complications from the inadequate control of disease, such as a stroke or an asthma attack. A consultation with your GP should provide an opportunity to discuss any potential options for completing a fast safely, while continuing to control your disease. If the GP/doctor says you have to use the inhaler, the Shari’ah allows the use of the inhaler in this instance. With the use of medication for any other chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, if the GP/doctor says you have to use it as it may be harmful to your health, you are exempt from fasting and you should then make a charitable contribution (fidyah).
By: Rayhan Uddin is the Outreach and Community Engagement Officer for Faith in Health –Tower Hamlets