Fasting has its advantages from the point of view of health and hygiene. Islam wants a Muslim to be healthy, clean, alert, agile and energetic. “Fast to be healthy,” had said the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.). And physicians today acknowledge the many benefits of fasting that ensure health and the soundness of one’s body and mind. Some of these positive points have a direct influence on psychology and physique of the fasting individual.
Fasting has been found to be an effective treatment for psychological and emotional disorders. It helps a person to firm up his will, cultivate and refine his taste and manners, strengthen his conviction of doing good, avoid controversy, petulance and rashness, which all contribute towards a sane and healthy personality. Besides nurturing resistance and ability to face hardships and endurance, fasting reflects on outward physical appearance by cutting out gluttony and getting rid of excess fat. The benefits of fasting on health do not stop there but are instrumental in alleviating a number of physical diseases, including those of the digestive systems, such as chronic stomachache, inflammation of the colon, liver diseases, indigestion, and conditions such as obesity, arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, asthma, diphtheria and many other maladies.
A Swiss physician Dr. Barsilus noted that: The advantages of hunger as a remedy exceed those ingesting medicine several times.
As readers are well aware, several physicians advise patients to skip meals, sometimes for a few days, before prescribing them a controlled diet.
Generally speaking, fasting hastens the destruction of the decaying tissues of the body by means of hunger, and then builds new tissues through nutrition. This is why some scientists suggest that fasting should be regarded as an effective means of restoring youthfulness and longevity. However, Islam exempts from fasting sick and old people whose health is bound to deter.
But fasting should have its regulations too, and not simply the in orderly skipping meals, that is bound to harm health and stamina, rather than improving them. Here again Islam provides the answer, and in order to realize the benefits of fasting, it recommends the late midnight meals called ‘Sahar’ (before the formal start of a fast) and the breaking of the fast at the time prescribed. Of course, to ensure good health one should abstain from gluttony after breaking fast.
Moderation: It is difficult to identify the moderation in the desires for food and sex because of the different needs and energies of individuals. Moderation of an individual may be considered as exaggeration or shortage for another. The relative moderation is to have only the quantity that is sufficient, away from greed and fill. The best criterion in this regard is that which was stated by Imam Ali (AS):
“Son! May I instruct you four words after which you will no longer need medicine? Do not eat unless you are hungry. Stop eating while you are still hungry. Chew food deliberately. Before sleeping, go to toilet. You will not need medicine if you follow.”
In the holy Quran, there is a Verse gathering the whole matter of medicine. It is: “…Eat and drink but do not be excessive.” (7:31)
Fasting Health Benefits: Health Guidelines for Ramadaan Fasting
This article provides useful advice on how to avoid some common problems encountered in Ramadaan. If followed, it would enable one to fast comfortably and enjoy fully the spiritual benefits of Ramadaan.
During the holy month of Ramadaan, 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, Ramadaan 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 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 barely, 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 refined carbohydrates).
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, heartburn, and weight problems.
Fried and fatty foods.
Foods containing too much sugar.
Over-eating especially at sehri.
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. Smoking cigarettes: If you cannot give up smoking, cut down gradually starting a few weeks before Ramadaan. Smoking is unhealthy and one should stop completely.
Complex carbohydrates at sehri so that the food lasts longer making you less hungry. Haleem is an excellent source of sugar, fiber, carbohydrates, potassium and magnesium. Almonds are rich in protein and fiber with less fat. 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 (hemorrhoids), 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, and 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 foods.
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 salt intake.
Remedy: Keep cool, increase fluid and salt intake.
Caution: Low blood pressure should be confirmed by taking a blood pressure reading when symptoms are present. People with high blood pressure may need their medication adjusted during Ramadaan. They should consult their doctor.
Causes: Caffeine and tobacco-withdrawal, doing too much in one day, lack of sleep, hunger usually occurs 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 before Iftar.
Remedy: Cut down caffeine and tobacco slowly starting a week or two before Ramadaan. Herbal and caffeine-free teas may be substituted. Reorganize your schedule during the Ramadaan so as to have adequate sleep.
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-contaning foods or drinks.
Caution: Diabetics may need to adjust their medication in Ramadaan, consult your doctor.
Causes: Inadequate intake of calcium, magnesium and potassium foods.
Remedy: Eat foods rich in the above minerals e.g. vegetables, fruits, 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 HERNIAB:
Increase acid levels in the empty stomach in Ramadaan aggravate the above conditions. It presents as a burning feeling in the stomach area under the ribs and can extend up to the throat. Spicy foods, coffee, and Cola drinks worsen these conditions.
Medications are available to control acid levels in the stomach. People with proven peptic ulcers and hiatus hernia should consult their doctor well before Ramadaan.
Kidney stones may occur in people who have less liquid to drink. There fore, it is essential to drink extra liquids so as to prevent stone formation.
Causes: during Ramadaan, when extra salaah are performed the pressure on the knee joints increases. In the elderly and those with arthritis this may result in pain, stiffness, swelling and discomfort.
Remedy: Lose weight so that the knees do not have to carry any extra load. Exercise the lower limbs before Ramadaan so that they can be prepared for the additional strain. Before physically fit allows greater fulfillment, thus enabling one to be able to perform salaah with ease.