How To Stay Healthy During Ramadan

Aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep during every 24-hour period, even if this is accumulated over several separate periods of rest, suggests Dr Olivier Barles, regional medical director, International SOS, a health and security services company.

During this holy month, Muslims will abstain from meals and drinks during the day while spending large portions of their time in prayers.

The fast begins with a light meal known as Suhoor, consumed at dawn before Imsak (prayer) time, and ends at sunset, when they break the fast with an evening meal of Iftar.

The end of Ramadan will be marked with a celebration of Eid al-Fitr, when Muslims attend their local mosque for Eid prayer and host great feasts with their family and friends throughout the day.

However, as the pandemic situation continues to evolve, different restrictions are still in place for communal worships and public gatherings in most regions globally are still prohibited.

Dr Olivier Barles, regional medical director at International SOS, a health and security services company says, “Guidelines on physical distancing, mask-wearing, and hand hygiene still apply this year. Even though vaccination rates against COVID-19 have reached good levels in many places, the pandemic is still not over yet.”

“Therefore, when it is safe for healthy people to fast during Ramadan, those guidelines are important to follow to help prevent infection. As such, believers can still live their Ramadan to its fullest, while being cautious in regard to the COVID-19 risk, even though the current and dominant ‘Omicron’ variant appears to be less severe than previous variants.”

If you are working or travelling away from home during Ramadan, here are five tips to stay healthy:

1. Do not skimp on rest and/or sleep

Ramadan is a time of increased prayer.

Though it may be tempting to stay up late for Suhoor and only sleep after Imsak, you should still aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep during every 24-hour period, even if this is accumulated over several separate periods of rest.

A well-rested body and mind will make it easier for you to concentrate at work and have more energy throughout the day.

2. Stagger your hydration

Thirst can be one of the most challenging symptoms of fasting, leading us to drink plenty of water and liquids very fast as soon as we break our fast and then just before Imsak.

However, rehydration should be a cumulative process.

The best way to rehydrate fasting bodies and maintain this hydration for longer is to pace your liquid intake by consuming at least 2 litres of water — one or two glasses at a time — between Iftar and Imsak.

It also helps to cut down on caffeinated drinks at night, and to top up your liquid intake with soups, fruits and vegetables rich in water, such as cucumber and watermelon.

3. Eat healthy and nutritious meals

Fasting will cause a change of habit in eating and your food intake frequency. It is vital to fulfil your vitamin and mineral needs to maintain a strong immune system.

Be mindful of your salt and sugar intake. After a full day of fasting, avoid satisfying cravings with soda and energy drinks which are high in sugar. Instead, opt for the unprocessed food such as fruits, and consume complex carbohydrates such as rice, bread and wholegrains alongside vegetables, which will keep you fuller for longer.

As for salt intake, it is worth keeping in mind that having moderately savoury foods with water can help you retain some hydration for longer. However, consuming too much salt will have an adverse effect and contribute to thirst and dehydration during the day.

Too much salt can affect blood pressure, so go easy on salty snacks such as popcorn and salted nuts at night.

4. Do more in the morning

Whenever it is possible, schedule more difficult tasks requiring greater concentration or physical effort in the morning, when you will have more energy.

Organisations can help schedule important meetings during the first half of the day, when fasting employees will have more energy and will be better able to retain new information.

5. Don’t stop exercising

Although you may feel more tired and understandably less active while fasting, skipping regular exercise for a full month is unhealthy, particularly as most of your food intake will be consumed at night.

Moderate exercise is advisable and will also help you feel less sluggish. Just remember to wait a couple of hours after Iftar before doing an activity.

At the same time, be mindful of the following guidelines to have a safe Ramadan amidst COVID-19:

  • Follow general hygiene measures strictly.
  • Wash your hands frequently, regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
  • Wash all the fruits and vegetables before consumption.
  • Maintain social distancing at least 2 meters (6 feet) and avoid gatherings with friends and relatives during Breaking Fast (Iftar), Suhoor times and stay at home.
  • Stay informed and follow the advice given by your healthcare provider and health authorities.

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