During the holy month of Ramadan, a healthy adult Muslim fast from dawn until dusk. The fast includes abstaining from drinking, eating, immoral acts and anger. Doing other acts of worship such as prayers, reading the Quran and charity are encouraged. Muslims also believe that Quran was revealed in the holy month of Ramadan.
Fasting is one of the pillars of Islma; there is also a verse in the Quran that prescribe fasting for all Muslims who are mature and healthy enough to fast all day. This month is believed to bring people together and become compassionate to one another; fasting is also seen as a way to be patient and break bad habits.
During this month, those who fast have two main meals; they wake up at dawn to eat a meal called suhoor and break the fast in the evening with the meal referred as Iftar.
Every year during Ramadan, healthcare professionals across the country see hundreds of residents suffering from a condition that only surfaces that month, stomach cramps and bloated bellies.
After more than 14 hours of fasting, it can be tempting to break your fast with enthusiasm, but you could be spoiling your enjoyment and harming your health.
“It is usually because they over eat,” says Pazi Mwinyimvua, a Nutritionist at College of Agricultural Sciences and Fisheries Technology (CoAF), University of Dar es salaam.
Every year, doctors repeat the same advice to those fasting: Break you fast by eating in moderation and gradually.
And every year, the numbers are steady across the hospital network.
Mr Mwinyimvua says when breaking your fast, you are advised to eat healthy by including all groups such as vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins, fats and minerals.“And all that has to be eaten in the right amount,” he says.
What to eat
Mr Mwinyimvua says, “Think of your stomach as a car engine that has been switched off for a long time. When you restart it, you need to give it time to warm up before speeding off. The same applies to the digestive system. It has been dormant for a long period of time and you can’t suddenly overload it with food.”
Nutritionists advice to start breaking fast with a few dates and some soup or porridge followed by a short break, perhaps to pray, before returning to eat more.
It is always advisable to have small, light, frequent and nutritious meals during Iftar, food with natural sugar such as sweet potatoes, pumpkins, cassava are more advisable for Iftar because they are light food and easy to be digested” says Mr Mwinyimvua. “And avoid fatty foods, beverages, juices and syrups with high concentrated sugar that are always served during Ramadan,” he added.
Many vegetables and fruits are high in water content. It is advisable to have them during Iftar to compensate for the water loss during the day.
Suhoor is in many ways the most important meal during Ramadan and prevents nausea and headaches while fasting during the day.
The nutritionist advices to eat heavy food such as foods made from grain, wheat flour, milk and lots of vegetables which means when fasters rise for work, they will have plenty of energy, at least for the start of the day, and not feel queasy from hunger.
“It is best to avoid any salty, processed and canned foods, avoid eating food with too much sugar, oil and salt,” Mr Mwinyimvua says.
For those who suffer from caffeine withdrawals he says, “Decrease the number of caffeine intake a week or two before Ramadan, also it is not advisable to drink tea or coffee because it causes to pee many times, which may result to dehydration”.
Skip the gym
Health experts advise people not to use fasting as a means to diet and reduce their weight by additional workouts. The body is already fatigued and this is not the purpose of fasting.
Sleep is also of particular importance if an individual wants to keep their energy levels up while fasting.
This can be challenging when Ramadan tents and entertainment run into the early hours of the morning.
“Managing our sleeping hours is the most difficult area but is also very important. If you don’t get enough sleep and in addition to fasting, then you will be unable to focus at work,” Mr Mwinyimvua says.
Mr Mwinyimvua recommends sleeping after Iftar until about 11pm or midnight, and then after suhoor.
After suhoor they can sleep again for a few hours before heading to work so that in total you would have slept around six to seven hours.”