Health Matters: Empowering you to make positive changes this Ramadan

Health Guidelines for Ramadan

What we eat and drink directly affects our health. Fasting during Ramadan can be good for your health if it’s done correctly. When the body is starved of food, it starts to burn fat so that it can make energy. This can lead to weight loss. However, if you fast for too long your body will eventually start breaking down muscle protein for energy, which is unhealthy.

Those observing the fast should have at least two meals a day, the pre-dawn meal (Suhoor) and a meal at dusk (Iftar). Meals should be simple and not differ too much from a normal diet. It is important that meals contain items from all the major food groups including:
• Fruit and vegetables
• Bread, other cereals and potatoes
• Meat, fish and alternatives
• milk and dairy foods
• Foods containing fat and sugar
Breaking a fast with a feast is not recommended and can cause weight gain, regardless of how long a fast has lasted during Ramadan.

A Diet Plan
Suhoor – the pre-dawn meal: This should be a wholesome, moderate meal that is filling and provides enough energy for many hours. It is very important to include slowly-digested foods. iftar – the meal that breaks the day’s fast: This could include dates or fruit juices to provide a refreshing burst of energy.
These healthy meal ideas will give you a varied and balanced diet during Ramadan. They include ingredients from the major five food groups.
Fluids (water and juices) and dates should be added to each Suhoor and Iftar. The fast is broken with dates, followed by dinner.
Suhoor Day 1: a bowl of porridge with milk, one slice of toast and a handful of unsalted nuts
Iftar Day 1: pitta bread with chicken, salad and hummus and one or two pieces of baklava
Suhoor Day 2: wheat-based cereal with milk, a plain scone or crumpet and an apple or banana
Iftar Day 2: chicken with boiled rice, vegetable curry and mixed salad, followed by fruit salad with single cream
Suhoor Day 3: a bowl of shredded wheat or muesli and a pear or orange
Iftar Day 3: baked fish with roasted vegetables, or fish curry with rice followed by sweet vermicelli or one piece of jalebi (an Indian sweet)
Suhoor Day 4: cheese, then one teaspoon of jam with crackers or toast, and a handful of dried fruits
Iftar Day 4: pasta cooked with vegetables and chicken or fish, and a slice of plain cake with custard.

Foods that are beneficial during fasting:
Complex carbohydrates will help release energy slowly during the hours of fasting. They are found in grains and seeds such as barley, wheat, oats, semolina, beans, lentils and basmati rice; Fibre-rich foods are also digested slowly. These include bran, cereals,whole wheat, grains and seeds, potatoes with the skin, vegetables such as green beans and almost all fruit including apricots, prunes and figs.

Foods to avoid:
Heavily processed, fast-burning foods containing refined carbohydrates in the form of sugar and white flour. Too much fatty food should also be avoided, such as cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets.The guide suggests 
drinks such as tea, coffee and cola could also be avoided because of their caffeine content.

Frequently asked health questions about fasting during Ramadan.
These answers have been put together by medical experts and Islamic scholars and researchers.

Should a person with diabetes fast?
People who have their diabetes under control, either by their diet or using tablets, may fast. However, their GP may require them to change their medication to help them take tablets outside fasting times. Those who need insulin to control their diabetes should not fast.

I get severe migraines when I don’t eat and they get worse when I fast. Should I fast?
People with uncontrolled migraines should not fast. However, managing your migraines is possible with the right medicine and certain lifestyle changes. Ask your GP for further advice on controlling your migraines.

Should a person with high or low blood pressure fast?
People with well-controlled high blood pressure may fast. Their GP may require a change to their medicine to help them take tablets outside fasting times. Someone with low blood pressure who is otherwise healthy may fast. They must ensure they drink enough fluid and have enough salt. 

Is fasting harmful when a woman is expecting a baby? Must pregnant women fast?
There’s medical evidence to show that fasting in pregnancy is not a good idea. If a pregnant woman feels strong and healthy enough to fast, especially during the early part of the pregnancy, she may do so. If she doesn’t feel well enough to fast, Islamic law gives her clear permission not to fast, and to make up the missed fasts later. If she is unable to do this, she must perform fidyah (a method of compensation for a missed act of worship).

Is Ramadan a good time to quit smoking?
Yes. Smoking is bad for your health and Ramadan is a great opportunity to change unhealthy habits, including smoking. Find out more about stopping smoking by contacting or ring 01924 510030 and speak to a health advisor.

From what age can children fast safely?
Children are required to fast upon reaching puberty. It isn’t harmful. Fasting before this age is tolerated differently depending on the attitude of the parents and the child’s general health and nutrition.
Fasting for children under the age of seven or eight isn’t advisable. It’s a good idea to make children aware of what fasting involves and to practise fasting for a few hours at a time.

Can I use an asthma inhaler during Ramadan?
Muslim experts have differing opinions on this issue. Some say that using an asthma inhaler isn’t the same as eating or drinking, and is therefore permitted during fasting. In their view, people with asthma can fast and use their inhalers whenever they need to.
However, other scholars say that the inhaler provides small amounts of liquid medicine to the lungs, so it breaks the fast. They say that people with poor control of their asthma must not fast until good control is achieved. Some people with asthma may opt for longer-acting inhalers so that they can fast. See your GP for further advice.

Can a person fast if they are getting a blood transfusion in hospital?
No. A person receiving a blood transfusion is advised not to fast on medical grounds. They may fast on the days when no transfusions are required.

I am on regular medication. Can I still fast?
If the medicine needs to be taken during fasting, do not fast. If this medication is required as treatment for a short illness, you can compensate for missed fasts by fasting on other days when you are well.
If you are on long-term medication then you could talk to your GP about whether you could change your medication, so that you can take it outside the time of the fast.
If your disease is unstable, or poorly controlled, do not fast. Those who are unable to carry out the missed fasts later, due to the long-term use of medication, should do fidyah.

Could dehydration become so bad that you have to break the fast?
Yes. You could become very dehydrated if you do not drink enough water before the fast. Poor hydration can be made worse by weather conditions, and even everyday activities such as walking to work or housework.
If you produce very little or no urine, feel disoriented and confused, or faint due to dehydration, you must stop fasting and have a drink of water or other fluid. Islam doesn’t require you to harm yourself in fulfilling the fast. If a fast is broken, it will need to be compensated for by fasting at a later date.

Can I fast while I have dialysis?
People on peritoneal dialysis must not fast and should perform fidyah. Haemodialysis is performed about three times a week and causes significant shifts of fluids and salts within the body. Such patients must not fast and should perform fidyah.

Article put together by Health Matters @ Ravensthorpe Community Centre LTD. 01924 510030