SINGAPORE - Ramadan is just around the corner and with the El Nino weather phenomenon expected to lead to hotter and drier months ahead, medical and travel security risk services company International SOS has come up with some tips to stay healthy during the month of fasting in July.
Dr David Teo, Regional Medical Director, Assistance Services, South and South East Asia at International SOS, said: "The holy month of Ramadan is an important time for Muslims worldwide. From a medical point of view it is important to stay healthy during this period. That means staying hydrated, eating wisely, and making sure to take sufficient rest."
He added that there are risks of fasting and with Ramadan falling during the height of summer, those who intend to fast should adopt routines and be moderate in their eating and drinking habits.
The main risks of fasting include low blood sugar and dehydration.
For travellers, they should take note that this year's holy month falls during the hot season in the Middle East and North Africa, and during the time of year, the hours of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere is the longest. So while there is a temptation to sleep in or simply drink water during those long days, it is still recommended to eat a pre-dawn meal.
And if you are wondering if you can still continue with your weight loss programme during Holy Month, here are some answers to your questions and other helpful and practical tips to stay healthy while fasting.
1. Eat moderately at Iftar - When breaking the fast it is important to avoid large intakes of sugar and fatty foods, which can disturb the metabolism and cause dizziness, headaches and fatigue.
Break the fast with dates and yoghurt, water and fruit juice and then wait 10 minutes before consuming a sensible portion of further food, which should be rich in minerals.
2. Make sure to eat Suhour - With sunrise occurring early in the Northern Hemisphere on the year's longest days, there is a temptation to sleep or simply drink water rather than rising to eat a proper Suhour or a pre-dawn meal.
International SOS' doctors advise that it is better always to eat Suhour, and to choose complex carbohydrates such as whole-grain bread, barley and lentils to provide energy throughout the day of fasting ahead.
3. Get sufficient sleep - The holy month of Ramadan is a time of increased prayer and gatherings of family and friends. Frequently this can mean less opportunity to sleep during the night.Fasters should make sure to get eight hours of sleep in every 24 hour period, even if this is split into several separate periods of rest.
4. Adapt your exercise routine - It is still possible to follow weight loss and exercise routines during the Holy Month of Ramadan.
However, exercise plans should be moderated to allow for the change in eating patterns. Fasters should concentrate on lighter exercises, such as brisk walking, and pay particular attention to the time of day they choose to take exercise.
International SOS recommends waiting 2-3 hours after breaking fast before a work-out.
5. Managing medication and chronic illness - Fasters with chronic health conditions should consult a doctor for advice on how fasting may affect their health.
As a general rule, medication usually taken at breakfast can be taken at Iftar, whilst medications usually taken at dinner can be taken at Suhour.
Diabetics should consult a physician for advice on how they can continue to take Insulin and should monitor blood sugar carefully around mealtimes.
6. Plan workload carefully - Although in many countries work hours are reduced during Ramadan, it is advisable to plan workloads to minimise fatigue.
Work that requires heavy concentration, in particularly when dealing with heavy machinery and working at heights, should be carried out in the early morning hours.
Where possible, those who are fasting should work at intervals throughout the day to avoid unnecessary strain rather than attempting one long work period, said International SOS.
7. Be extra cautious on the road - Low blood sugar from fasting can seriously affect fasters' capabilities and concentration behind the wheel.
In many Muslim countries, traffic will be heavy in the hour before sunset, as people return home to break the fast. Traffic accidents tend to peak at this time.
Avoid road travel later in the day whenever possible and exercise extra caution if travel is required. This may include choosing to travel with a passenger who can help keep the driver alert.
Interational SOS says that it is always better to take regular breaks rather than continuing to drive for long periods of time whilst drowsy or otherwise impaired.