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 gaining. 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 carbohydrates).
Fast-burning foods are foods that contain sugar, white flour, etc. (called
Fiber-containing foods are bran-containing foods, whole wheat, grains and seeds,
vegetables like green beans, peas, sem (papry), marrow, mealies, 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 products.
Fried foods are unhealthy and should be limited. They cause indigestion,
heart-burn, and weight problems.
1. Fried and fatty foods.
2. Foods containing too much sugar.
3. Over-eating especially at sehri.
4. 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.
5. Smoking cigarettes. If you cannot give up smoking, cut down gradually
starting a few weeks before Ramadan. Smoking is unhealthy and one should stop
1. Complex carbohydrates at sehri so that the food lasts longer
making you less hungry.
2. Haleem is an excellent source of protein and is a slow-burning food.
3. Dates are excellent source of sugar, fiber, carbohydrates, potassium and
4. Almonds are rich in protein and fiber with less fat.
5. 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 (haemorroids), 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, 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
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
Remedy: Keep cool, increase fluid and salt
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
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
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 to drop.
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 upto the throat. Spicy foods, coffee, and Cola drinks worsen
Medications are available to control acid levels in the stomach. People with
proven peptic ulcers and hiatus hernia should consult their doctor well before
Kidney stones may occur in people who have less liquids to drink.
Therefore, it is essential to drink extra liquids so as to prevent stone
Causes: During Ramadan, when
extra prayers are performed the pressure on the knee joints increases. In the
elderly and those with arthritis this may result in pain, stiffness, swelling
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 prayers with ease.
* Dr. Farouk
Haffejee. Islamic Medical Association of South Africa - Durban