Keeping a rein on your appetite yet staying in good form … this is the difficult balance that millions of Muslims need to strike as they observe the fast of Ramadan.
During the Ramadan fasting period, Muslims refrain from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset. These changes in dietary and sleep habits are not without their effects on alertness and health in general.
Professor Asmaa Bendahmane and his team at the Ibn Rochd University Hospital in Casablanca, Morocco investigated this in a study conducted in 2005.
The month of Ramadan is characterised by a certain number of changes in the behaviour and habits of those who are fasting … including gastro-intestinal problems, due mainly to a diet high in proteins and fats, fatigue caused by a reduction in the amount of sleep and a falling off in physical performance and alertness.
Professor Bendahmane identified some hygiene and dietary measures that will help avoid the problems that can occur during this period:
firstly, it is important to drink enough water, ie from 1.5 to 2 litres per day;
you need to eat a balanced diet: avoid eating too much fat and carbohydrate but eat plenty of fruit and vegetables;
stagger when you eat. The ideal gap is between three and a half and four hours between meals;
most importantly, don’t go to bed just after eating;
and try to maintain regular sleeping habits, making sure you get enough sleep to feel refreshed, ie seven to nine hours, depending on the individual.
If you are involved in Ramadan and if you have a health problem, don’t hesitate to see your doctor. And make sure you tell him that you are observing the fast, as this will save him wasting time reaching a diagnosis…