By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 10/6/2005 | 12:25 am
During the holy month of Ramadan, when people abstain from eating, drinking, and smoking during the day, their diet changes. Many believers ignore the physical benefits of fasting, which are numerous. However, some common health problems may occur during this period, especially when people eat too much, or eat unhealthy food.
Throughout history, fasting has been used for cleansing the mind, body and soul. Most religions believe in fasting, especially Muslims during Ramadan. Aside from the spiritual values of fasting, there are physical rewards noted by physicians. Many doctors advise fasting for patients tussling with gout, heart disease, skin disorder, or excessive eating, drinking or smoking.
Fasting is a medical procedure, restoring homeostasis, strengthening the immune system and healing many illnesses. Physicians say that fasting is good for mental discipline and it affects spiritual uplift. It is also good for the digestive organs. The stomach, liver, pancreas, and intestines are often overworked. People who have skin disorders such as psoriasis, acne, or recurrent skin infections are also often advised by their physicians to eliminate sweets and fats from their diet.
Physicians also say that a fast can be a boon to the body for anyone trying to stop smoking or drinking. By stopping tobacco, alcohol, and food intake for a time, a person helps the body return to normal. Once the body is "scrubbed clean" inside, the smoker and drinker feels so alive and alert that he does not have any desire to return to his unwise habits.
Dr Shahid Athar, a Clinical Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Endocrinology in Indiana University School of Medicine-Indianapolis, said that abstinence from water for 8 to 10 hours is not necessarily bad for health. It causes concentration of all fluids within the body, producing slight dehydration. The body has its own water conservation mechanism. Slight dehydration and water conservation, at least in plant life, improve their longevity.
Dr Athar added that the physiological effect of fasting includes lowering of blood sugar levels, cholesterol and systolic pressure. In fact, Ramadan fasting would be an ideal recommendation for treatment of mild to moderate, stable, non-insulin diabetes, obesity and essential hypertension.
Some minor discomforts are noted at times during fasting. The person who fasts may be subject to headaches. Other side effects of fasting, usually minor, such as a feeling of weakness, heart palpitation, and drowsiness late in the afternoon disappear with a little rest.
Health recommendations during Ramadan
Eat •Complex carbohydrates at S'hour (late meal before dawn) so that the food lasts longer making you less hungry. •Dates are an excellent source of sugar, fibre, carbohydrates, potassium and magnesium. •Almonds are rich in protein and fibre with less fat. •Bananas are a good source of potassium, magnesium and carbohydrates.
Avoid •Fried and fatty foods. •Foods containing too much sugar. •Over-eating especially at S'hour •Too much tea at S'hour Tea makes you pass more urine taking with it valuable mineral salts that your body needs during the day. •Smoking cigarettes: If you cannot give up smoking, cut down gradually starting a few weeks before Ramadan. Smoking is unhealthy and one should stop completely.
Drink •As much water or fruit juices as possible between F'tour and bedtime so that your body may adjust fluid levels in time.