Fasting is a practice found in almost all major religions. Christians observe Lent, Jews observe Yom Kippur, Hindus observe Shravan and Ekadashi, among others, and Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan.
The Islamic calendar is lunar-based. The beginning of the Islamic year shifts by 11 days each year compared to the seasonal year; so, Ramadan occurs at different times of the seasonal year in a 33-year cycle.
Certain health conditions are reported more during certain periods of the year, so it would help to keep in mind a few pointers regarding fasting, particularly during summer.
When Ramadan falls in the summer months, the number of cases of people reporting kidney stone pain is much higher than during other months. This could be due to the long fasting hours and lack of adequate water consumption once a person ends the fast every evening. Increased dehydration due to sweating is another cause.
A significant number of people report experiencing headaches during fasting. People who are prone to headaches have increased episodes of migraines and tension headaches when they fast. Lack of sleep, hypoglycemia, and dehydration are some of the main reasons, but caffeine withdrawal can also be another factor.
Long periods of outdoor work, increased sweating, and sun exposure can cause dehydration and an imbalance in the salts in our system.
Consuming adequate amounts of water and eating fruits like bananas, oranges and drinking coconut water once you end the fast every evening will help balance the electrolyte levels in the body.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women
It is perfectly safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women to fast unless advised otherwise by the attending gynaecologist or physician.
Expectant mothers must always stay well hydrated and eat good, nutritious foods. Remember that your baby’s health is directly dependent on your good health.
Diabetics and fasting
As there is a connection between fasting, hypoglycemia and diabetes, understanding this health condition is of great importance.
Prolonged fasting hours can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Therefore, whether you are an insulin-dependent or non-insulin-dependent diabetic, you must consult your doctor before beginning fasting. Under a physician’s guidance, fasting can be observed.
Incorrect medication management
Those who are under medication for any health condition should strictly follow the advice of their doctor regarding taking the medicines in the right doses and at the right time. Self medication should be avoided and altering the prescribed doses without consulting a doctor should not be done at any time.
Those with diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, thyroid disease, or other health conditions should meet with their doctors before the start of Ramadan so that the doctor can adjust the doses according to the fasting hours.
Golden rules of nutrition during fasting
• End the fast with a glass of warm water and a few dates.
• Don’t overeat.
• Don’t miss out on exercising; go for a walk or do light yoga.
• Drink adequate amounts of water.
• Eat simple food and avoid consuming extremely greasy/fried foods regularly.
• Have a lot of fruits and vegetables in the form of salads or fresh juices.
• Avoid artificially sweetened foods.
• Avoid carbonated drinks and canned foods.