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Staying Healthy In Ramadan

Dr Susan Norton shares tips on staying healthy during Ramadan

With a week to go before Eid and the mercury and humidity continuing to rise, Dr Susan Norton, one of our Family Medicine doctors, share’s tips on staying healthy during Ramadan.

How important is getting the right amount of sleep during Ramadan for your health?

Getting adequate sleep is very important in terms of mental and physical well-being. During daytime fasting, one is more prone to headaches, irritability and dizziness. Lack of sleep compounds the issue. Try to go to bed 2 hours earlier than usual, so that you are well rested when you awake for Suhoor, before sunrise. If you are able, try to take an afternoon nap, when sugar and fluid levels are low.

What other precautions would you recommend to those who are fasting take?

It is important to set an alarm to wake prior to sunrise and have Suhoor. Make sure to drink approximately 500mls of water and have a meal with protein (eg. eggs, cheese, ful medames, nuts or peanut butter) and complex carbohydrates (wheat, oats, lentils, barley or brown rice) so that blood sugar levels stay stable for many hours over the day.

At Iftar, break the fast with 3-4 dates, some juice or milk. After prayers, have a proper meal again with proteins and complex carbohydrates, as well as fruits and vegetables. Spread this meal over 1-2 hours and do not over-eat. Try to drink 1500 mls of water over this time.

Generally, avoid caffeine containing drinks like coffee and tea, as they are actually dehydrating. Avoid sweets, biscuits and sugary foods as they cause the blood sugar to spike quickly and then drop sharply, leading to fatigue and dizziness. Avoid oily and fried foods as they lead to indigestion, which is more common during fasting cycles. Limit salt intake as this can worsen dehydration.

Keep cool and out of the sun during the day. Exercise should be done in the evening, but not too close to bedtime or insomnia might become an issue.

Pregnant and nursing women should not fast, and people with chronic illnesses, on medication that has to be taken more frequently than every 12 hours, and the frail and elderly should consult their doctor prior to fasting. Diabetics who choose to fast must consult their doctor prior to commencing a fast, as they are high risk for serious hyper and hypoglycemic reactions.

If people feel faint during fasting, what would you recommend they do?

Whenever someone feels faint, it is important to get blood to the brain. Lie down and elevate legs on a pillow. Apply cool towels to the forehead. Rest until feeling well, and then if the faint feeling returns upon standing, it is best to lie down until Iftar. Diabetics should test their blood sugar (this is NOT breaking the fast) and if the glucose is less than 4 mmol/l (76 ng/dl), they must break their fast with a sugary substance.

If someone repeatedly feels faint day after day, they should see a doctor to assess their eating and hydration patterns as well as to rule out any illnesses.

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