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The fast of Ramadhan can be quite challenging both physically and mentally. During the long and hot summer days, it may be required to observe the fast for around eighteen hours at a time.

 

Click here for Ramadhan health guide produced by NHS

 

I have put together the following guideline to make it a little easier. This will not only benefit your physical wellbeing but in turn allow more spiritual gains.

 

  • In order to ensure correct hydration and to maximise the water intake to reach the cells/tissues/organs you must not only match the cell temperature but also its electrolyte constitution, in short drink room temp or hot water with a teaspoon of salt. This is best done at time of suhoor first thing. Follow this with few more glasses of plain water. The salt helps pull the water into the tissues and into the cells which makes the water maintain in the body for a longer time. Please use Himalayan Crystal pink Salt, Rock Salt, Sea Salt or any other unrefined salt NOT table/cooking salt.  
  • Make sure you drink and eat at suhoor. By sacrificing a little sleep however difficult it may seem it has many rewards.  Not only you get to read Fajr but also gain the sunnah of the suhoor meal. As mentioned above hydrate first correctly. Focus on taking in foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates and protein. For example: an egg on whole-grain toast, a few crackers with peanut/almond butter or porridge oats. Avoid fruits and fried foods at this time. Fried or fatty foods require a lot more water by the body to breakdown and absorb, need to be mindful of water saving techniques.
  •  Drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, colas, tea and some fizzy drinks, boost acid in the stomach leading to heartburn in some people. Fizzy drinks in general tend to bloat the tummy, which can also lead to heartburn. To make digestive problems less likely, choose drinks that aren’t fizzy and don’t contain caffeine, such as herbal teas and plain water.
  • Cardamom tea at the end of suhoor would be beneficial as cardamom is not only a warm and calming for the digestive system but it has appetite suppressing properties.
  • Water, juice or other fluids should always be consumed BEFORE meals Not during or after.  The food mixes with saliva from the mouth then down to the stomach acid. All meshed together with the oil like enzymes used to breakdown the food as part of digestion.  Now this hot oil mesh of food/saliva/stomach acid/enzymes if confronted with fluids will start to granulate the mix –this is the opposite of digestion which is to liquefy thus making it easier to reach the blood. Also the enzymes get diluted. This could also flush out stomach contents out prematurely before certain digestive process is complete.  Drinking during and/or after meals can lead to bloated heavy stomach, Heartburn, reflux, trapped wind etc..    So follow the Sunnah of drinking before meals.
  • Avoid peak sunlight – stay indoors or in shade. Conserve your energy with regular rest periods.
  • Avoid stuffing yourself when breaking the fast at sunset. Follow the Sunnah: break your fast with dates and either water, or fruit juice. After the maghrib prayer, continue with a light non fried starter like salad or fruit. After a long period of fasting, you need to bring your fluids and blood sugar level up without overdoing it.
  • About half an hour or so after sunset have your main meal. Healthy and well balanced as possible. Fruits always to be consumed before meals not during or after. Fruits breakdown quite quick so will energise you for the main meal and if taken after food will flush out undigested food from the stomach.
  • Partaking in taraweeh will not only gain spiritual reward but this light exercise allows good circulation and aids digestion. 20+ mins of light exercise such as brisk walking or taraweeh will teach your body to burn fat even in your sleep.
  • It is good idea to have a warm/hot drink like a herbal tea or hot chocolate around midnight just to increase hydration levels. Similar to salt gradient warm water will be accepted by the body more and thus less will be flushed away by the kidneys. 
  • It is important to get enough sleep so if possible organise your day accordingly. 

Whilst we are on the topic of nutrition here are some essential dietary advice for long term health benefits. This should be implemented during ramadhan then InshaAllah it may become habitual in you and your families daily lives.

·         Avoid Margarine
Margarine is   high in trans fats, the fats formed during the process of hydrogenation, which turns liquid vegetable oils into a solid substance. Do not be afraid of good old butter (unsalted/ organic), cholesterol is vital for us - for example it protects all our nerves and used for sugar balancing, aiding sleep and many other essential functions .
 
Alternatives: Organic butter and coconut butter

 

·         Avoid Vegetable oil
Most commercial vegetable oils are highly processed and high in trans fats. Saturated fats usually get the blame, but TRANS fats are the ones responsible for the increase in LDL — the bad type of cholesterol. Olive oil has its health benefits served cold as in salad dressings not heated as it becomes oxidised.
 
Alternatives: Coconut oil, Butter, Ghee

 

·         Meat products
The animals that make these products are given growth hormones, antibiotics and other veterinary drugs, and are raised in deplorable conditions that promote disease. These meats are also filled with sodium nitrate (a commonly used preservative and antimicrobial agent that also adds colour and flavour) and other chemical flavourings and dyes.
 
Alternatives: Grass-fed and organic meat

·         Packaged, processed bread
Bread you find packaged in supermarkets is typically refined and processed. These loaves are packed with (processed) wheat and gluten that the human digestive system finds very hard to break down. This kind of bread is also high in sodium, and is sometimes even high in sugar! 
 
Alternatives: rye or spelt bread, sourdough or make your own.
 

·         Non-organic dairy
Milk producers treat their dairy cattle with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST, as it is also known) to boost milk production. But rBGH also increases udder infections and even pus in the milk. It also leads to higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor in milk.

The cows are not grass fed so the quality of the milk is also deficient.  Cows are vegetarians most food supplements contain animal proteins which are damaging to the animal. The refining process destroys healthy bacteria and enzymes - with the added preservation measures makes it difficult to absorb for the body.
 
Alternatives: Organic milk, almond milk, rice milk, coconut milk 
 

·         Avoid Table salt
Table salt is highly refined, which leaves it with little nutritional value. In high amounts it can be responsible for hypertension.
 
Alternative: Himalayan pink crystal salt, Sea Salt or Rock Salt.

 

·          Pre-packaged or frozen meals
Frozen or pre-packaged meals usually contain hidden sugar, high fructose corn syrup, salt and preservatives. 
 
Alternatives: Home-cooked meals or Healthy outlets.  

·          Avoid canned food
There's tons of hidden salt and sugar! The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic oestrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
 
Alternative: fresh is best
 

·         Farmed salmon/ canned Tuna
Farmed salmon and Tuna has a high mercury content and is usually higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides. 
 
Alternatives: Wild salmon and  fresh Tuna (avoid Pacific tuna – radiation leak)
 

·         Breakfast cereals

Highly processed, high GI because of the high and hidden sugar content (which causes your blood sugars to drop very quickly after eating them), high in sodium, high in preservatives. Just don't eat them.

 

·         Caged eggs
These come from egg-laying hens confined to cages, meaning they don't have space to move or stretch, and they show more fearful behaviour and become prone to skeletal problems. 
 
Alternative: Go for pasture-fed and certified organic instead. 
 

·         Artificial sweeteners
Our bodies don't recognise these substances as food, and they tend not to aid weight loss in any meaningful way.
 
Alternatives: stevia, rice malt syrup, maple syrup, dates, raw honey (in small amounts).
 

I hope you find this guide helpful and are able to adjust your lifestyle choices accordingly.

 

This was brought to you with the professional guidance of Shafaqat Khan ND, Herb MED, MAMH.  Shafaqat is a Naturopathic Herbalist with a well-established clinic in Birmingham named Shifa Herbs. He is not only trained in herbal medicine encompassing Ayurveda and Chinese traditions alongside the western approach But also nutrition which is an integral part of his clinic.
Kind Regards
Shafaqat Khan ND, Herb Med, MAMH
Naturopathic Herbalist
www.ShifaHerbs.com

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