Ramadan: The Digestive System

The Holy Month of Ramadan is HERE. So, it is very important for us to understand the concept of fasting and how best to utilise it to improve our health. HERE’S AN INSIGHT FROM ROYAL BAHRAIN HOSPITAL …

To fast is good. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) has said more than a thousand years ago: “Do fast; you get better health”. Even in medical history, Hippocrates, one of the most outstanding figures in the field of medicine, had recommended fasting in order to foster a healthier body while, various religions incorporate fasting for spiritual cleansing. Recently, according to the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Science, fasting was found to have beneficial effects on heart health as well. It is thought that fasting causes our bodies to metabolise cholesterol and glucose in a better fashion while fasting. It was also shown that the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol would decrease and the level of HDL (good) cholesterol would increase while fasting. Additionally, it has been shown that our bodies have a higher number of circulating blood cells after fasting; thus, it is hypothesised that fasting increases healthier blood cells as well.

Further, some of the illnesses of the digestive system are food related, so once you give rest to your stomach you will give more chance to increase the possibility of healing and improvement. IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), which is one of the most common diseases, has a very positive outcome during Ramadan time, mainly if they have good and balanced meals in Iftar and Suhour times. However, it is important to eat the right foods so as to maximise the benefits. So, here are a few suggestions.

First, try to avoid simple carbohydrates and all “simple” starchy foods such as “sugary” foods including cookies, chocolates, ice creams, aerated drinks, etc. They result in early satiety but also sudden hunger afterwards. Second, maintain a good balance – a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, proteins and fibres. A plate of salads, small portion of rice/bread and a bowl of chicken/meat/ legumes (for vegetarians) is a must during Ramadan and year-round health. Third, drink plenty of water. Water washes away the excess nitrogen from the body found in protein-rich foods. But, avoid taking large quantities at a time. Try to space out to ensure your body is hydrated throughout the day.

Fourth, add dairy products to your routine, especially yogurt. Dairy products relax your digestive system, keep you satiated and will make you less thirsty. Yogurt also programmes your body for fasting by preventing dehydration and allowing your digestive system to be healthier.

Lastly, stay away from salty, spicy and fried foods, especially if you suffer from acid reflux, as they will lead to excessive thirst. For Iftar, a bowl of yogurt, a small bowl of soup, maybe with a few dates should be enough to momentarily satisfy you before you go for the main meal about 30 minutes later. Similarly, in Suhour, keep your food simple, balanced and nutritious. Avoid over eating, which can lead to accumulation of fat. Ramadan Kareem.