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As a student nurse investigating caring for a Muslim, could you give me some information on fasting and what patients are allowed to do during fasting. Fasting/Ramadhan health guidelines.

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by Askimam.org


This article provides useful advice on how to avoid some common problems
encountered in Ramadhan. If followed, it would enable one to fast
comfortably and enjoy fully the spiritual benefits of Ramadhan.

During the holy month of Ramadhan, 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, Ramadhan is an ideal time to normalise one’s weight.

In view of the long hours of fasting, we should consume slow digesting foods
including fibre 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 barley,
wheat, oats, millet, semolina, beans, lentils, wholemeal flour, unpolished
rice, etc. (called complex carbohydrates).
* Fast-burning foods are foods that contain sugar, white flour, etc. (called
refined carbohydrates).
* Fibre-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, heart-burn, 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 Ramadhan. 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 protein and is a slow-burning food.
* Dates are excellent source of sugar, fibre, carbohydrates, potassium and
* Almonds are rich in protein and fibre 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 (haemorroids), fissures (painful cracks in anal
canal) and indigestion with a bloated feeling.

Causes: Too much refined foods, too little water and not enough fibre in the
Remedy: Avoid excessive refined foods, increase water intake, use bran in
baking, brown flour when making roti.

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. Persons with high blood pressure may need
their medication adjusted during Ramadhan. They should consult their doctor.

Causes: Caffeine and tobacco-withdrawal, doing too much in one day, lack of
sleep, hunger usually occur 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
Ramadhan. Herbal and caffeine-free teas may be substituted. Reorganise your
schedule during the Ramadan so as to have adequate sleep.

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-containing foods and drinks.
Caution: Diabetics may need to adjust their medication in Ramadan, consult
your doctor.

Causes: Inadequate intake of calcium, magnesium and potassium foods.
Remedy: Eat foods rich in the above minerals e.g. vegetables, fruit, dairy
products, meat and dates.
Caution: Those on high blood pressure medication and with kidney stone
problems should consult their doctor.

Increased acid levels in the empty stomach in Ramadhan aggravate the above
conditions. It presents as a burning feeling in the stomach area under the
ribs and can extend upto 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 Ramadhan.

Kidney stones may occur in people who have less liquids to drink. Therefore,
it is essential to drink extra liquids so as to prevent stone formation.

Causes: During Ramadhan, when extra salah 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 Ramadhan so that they can be prepared for
the additional strain. Being physically fit allows greater fulfilment, thus
enabling one to be able to perform salah with ease.

Dr. Farouk Haffejee
Islamic Medical Association of South Africa – Durban

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This answer was collected from Askimam.org, which is operated under the supervision of Mufti Ebrahim Desai from South Africa.

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