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Preparing Your Body for Ramadan (Live Clinic)

Live Clinic with the Nutritionist & Natural Health Consultant, Dr. Amira Ayad
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Fasting is a process that relaxes the digestive system.
Fasting

{O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint.} (Surah Bakarah - 2:183).

The Islamic world is about to welcome a very dear guest, the holy month of Ramadan, the month of auspicious blessings

Having awareness of how to prepare our bodies physiologically and our daily diets for   the month of fasting is highly essential for enhancement of functions of our organs and their internal processes.

Do you feel shell-shocked for having Ramadan around the corner? Looking for tips to get your health in order before Ramadan? Having bad sleeping habits and want this fixed before Ramadan?

To tackle this important topic, Dr. Amira Ayad, a pharmacist, nutrition specialist and natural health consultant provides answers to all these questions in an email-based live clinic session.

Read below all the questions and Dr. Amira's kind replies:

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  • Oqut: I want to fast in some few scattered days before Ramadan. Could this cause fatigue to me before Ramadan or it will help me to get used to fasting?

On the contrary, fasting few days before Ramadan, beside being Sunnah of the Prophet PBUH who used to fast a lot during the month of Sha’aban, will help your body get used to the process and your physiology to adapt to the changing in eating pattern.

  • Moxamet: I suffer from Type II Diabetes , how can I prepare myself for Ramadan fasting?

The most important factor in type II Diabetes in controlling blood sugar level (BSL).

I am not sure about the dosage and timing of your medication, but, I guess like most of type II diabetes patient, you take your medication once or twice a day. In this case, it would be no problem to gradually shift the time of the medication to be at the time of suhoor and Iftar.

In most countries the difference is about 10 hours so this should be fine. If you take your medicine more than twice a day or you suffer from any other complications please consult your physician first before undergoing any changes. Second, you should concentrate your carbohydrate intake on what we call low glycemic index foods. These are the carbohydrates that slowly release glucose in the blood like whole wheat, barley, brown rice, beans and legumes. Avoid simple sugars and refined carbohydrates like white flour, syrups... which cause rapid rise in BSL and pauses stress on your pancreas.

Eat lots of fresh green vegetables, berries and add cinnamon to your desserts, 1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon a day is proven to help balance BSL. Consume adequate amount of protein with each meal (20-30%) of your diet. Alternate between vegetable sources (like legumes, nuts, and beans), meat poultry and fish. Make sure your diet contains lots of fiber as they are known to stabilize and balance your BSL.

Other foods that help stabilize BSL include berries, brewer’s yeast (great source of B vitamins), dairy especially cheese, egg yolk, fish, garlic, kelp, beans and vegetables (not root or starchy vegetables).

Finally, always keep something sweet handy and if at any time of the day you feel any sign of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar level) like dizziness, headache, fainting, nausea... don't hesitate to break your fast as your body is sending you a warning signal.

  • Muhammad: Shall we decrease the number of our practices and activities during Ramadan summery daytime to avoid dehydration?

This is a purely individual concept. Many people withstand hard work and labor with no signs of thirst or dehydration, while others could not. The most important thing is to listen to your body signals and trust them.

Of course avoid over exertion and too much sun and heat exposure, but, in general, most healthy individuals do not require any special consideration during fasting. Just insure getting enough water, juices and herbal teas during iftar and suhoor and avoid dehydrating drinks like coffee and tea.

  • Nevine: Do I have to decrease the food quantities I eat before Ramadan in order not to feel hungry during fasting?

I am not sure how much and how frequently you eat now. What I advice is moderation. Eat at regular timing, avoid snacking in between meals and shift to healthy whole food alternatives. This simple change in habits is advisable throughout the year, so it is good to start a practice and try to keep it up.

The most important thing, though, is to focus on quality of food to make sure you get all the required nutrients from your diet. You should not starve yourself, feel hungry or deprived, if this is the case, this means your body is not getting its full nutritional needs.

  • Shaima: How can I avoid feeling thirsty in these summer days of fasting?

Ensure good hydration during Iftar and suhoor. Drink at least 8 cups of water during your non-fasting hours in addition to any other fluids like juices and herbal teas. Avoid drinks that cause dehydration like coffee and tea and sweetened soft beverages  like cola  or at least minimize your intake to a maximum of 1 or 2 cups.

Avoid the intake of too much sweet foods, simple carbohydrates and sugars. Ensure good intake of fiber-rich food like fresh vegetables, beans, legumes...And, in general avoid over exertion and too much sun and heat exposure.

  • Hushiar: Would it be effective to consume more meals before Ramadan?

Not at all. Our body processes its food on a daily or even hourly basis, the extra intake is stored as fats. So any extra calories you consume before Ramadan won't delay or avoid hunger.

  • Ruya: What are the diets I'd better avoid before Ramadan?

The diets to avoid before Ramadan is the diet to avoid in general: junk food, refined sugars, simple carbohydrates, empty calories (food with only calories but no nutritional values) and synthetic chemicals. These foods mess up with your blood sugar level and hormones including the hormones that help you control stress level, regulate mood and adjust appetite and metabolism.

In addition, synthetic chemicals like flavor enhancers and sweeteners over-stimulate your taste buds causing you to feel hungry more frequently and delay satiety.

  • Nazim: Is it beneficial or useless to drink big quantity of water in Suhur to help me cope with the hot daytime while fasting?

It is actually essential to drink a lot of water during suhoor, but as our golden Islamic rule always applies: moderation and balance is the key. Please refer to question number 5 for more tips to help you avoid thirst and dehydration.

It is useful to also know here that your body's ability to tolerate thirst and hunger greatly increases during Ramadan fasting. As a result of your sincere intention to fast, your mind gives the order to your body for affecting a total shift in metabolic rate and physiology making you less susceptible to fatigue and more able to withstand the absence of water than you would on a regular day.

  • Nesmah: Are there specific goods and foods that I shall avoid in order not to get thirsty?

Yes, diuretic drinks like tea and coffee; sweetened soft beverages like cola; too much simple sugars and sweets; too salty foods and pickles, food containing synthetic chemicals and flavor enhancers.

  • Zenica: I prepare noodles like “Indomie” for my children, they adore it in Iftar, but I heard a few days ago that it causes cancer! Is that true?

The flavoring packet that comes with the noodles is loaded with synthetic chemicals and flavorings that pause serious health risks. As alternative you can prepare the noodles (read the label to choose a brand that add no additives to the noodles themselves; they usually have separate list of ingredients for the noodles and the flavoring packet) and replace the flavoring packet with a cube of organic vegetarian stock (there are lots of different types and flavors to choose from). It will give almost the same taste but avoid all the health hazards.

Tip: don't tell your kids about the shift until they actually try the noodle, you may just mention that you are trying a different flavor.

  • Axmot: Do I need to stop any habits before Ramadan which might cause any problem for my body while fasting?

Shifting to a healthy lifestyle in general is advisable. Concerning your dietary habits, avoid snacking and in between meals, shift to whole foods and avoid refined carbohydrates and simple sugars, reduce your intake of coffee, tea or soft drinks.

It is also advisable to synchronize our sleeping and resting pattern with the day and night cycle, waking up for Fajr prayer and avoiding too much TV time at night.

Concerning life habits, it is good to gradually prepare our mind along with our body to welcome this holy month through adjusted intention, daily Divine remembrances (Dhikr Allah), charity, connecting family ties, instilling social belonging, investing in our will power (controlling our temper is a good practice to start with), patience (during traffic jam is a good exercise).

Related Links:
Eating at Your Desk? (Live Clinic)
Desk Job Health Risks (Live Clinic)
Pros and Cons of Vitamins! (+ Flash)
Pondering God's Creation in Nature Through Science
Reading Islam: Living Islam: Fasting

Amira Ayad is a natural health consultant and a holistic nutritionist. She holds a Master Degree in Pharmaceutics; and a PhD in natural health. She is a Board Certified Holistic Health practitioner by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP) and a Registered Orthomolecular Health Practitioner by the International organization of Nutrition Consultants (IONC). She published 2 books: Healing Body & Soul, in 2008; and, The True Secret, in 2011. Amira teaches Biochemistry & Body Metabolism at The Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Toronto, Canada.

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