A satisfying fast

PHOTO: A satisfying fast

Ramadan is a special and important month in the lives of Muslims all over the world. During this blessed and holy month, Muslims refrain from food, drink, as well as other physical needs throughout the day.

In fact, the Arabic word for "fasting" (sawn) literally means "to refrain", and Muslims are encouraged to abstain not only from eating and drinking, but also from evil or bad actions, thoughts and words.

Fasting is not purely physical, and should be used instead as a time to purify the soul, by practising self-restraint, self-sacrifice, and re-focussing one's self on worshipping God.

However, there are many who do not practise complete self-control, especially when they break fast, often overindulging in excessive eating. Despite knowing the harm that they can cause to their bodies by doing so, many are unable to resist the temptation of foods, especially after fasting for long hours.

Such overindulging can lead to various physical ailments. Below are some of the more common digestive disorders during Ramadan, and tips for preventing them.

Feel good fasting

Fasting actually bestows many health benefits, if you do it right. When the body is deprived of food, carbohydrate and fat stores in the body are gradually broken down to produce energy. Many people find that their energy and vitality levels are increased during the fasting period.

This can most probably be contributed to the fact that when fasting occurs, so does the detoxification process of eliminating toxins through the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph glands, and skin.

Furthermore, when energy is not used for the digestive system, it is diverted towards the metabolic and immune system, which promotes healing, and eliminates factors that can cause disease such as fat cells, arterial cholesterol plaques, and mucous.

Though fasting does offer benefits, drastic changes in diet and mealtimes may lead to digestive disorders; even more so when large quantities of food are taken in the short periods of the mornings and evenings. A wide variety of foods available for "buka puasa", and the inability to resist temptation after a long day of fasting often leads people to succumb to their cravings, which may cause problems.

Common digestive disorders

Common digestive disorders during Ramadan

One of the few digestive disorders faced during the month of Ramadan includes gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. This happens when contents of the stomach (food/liquid) flow backwards froxm the stomach into the oesophagus, causing irritation, as well as other symptoms such as heartburn.

You can prevent this from occurring by including more vegetables, fruits, cereals, fish and lean meat in your diet. Avoiding certain foods that can aggravate symptoms also helps, such as spicy foods, fatty foods, foods rich in carbohydrates such as chocolate, milk, alcohol, coffee, and even garlic or chewing gum.

Constipation is also another common digestive disorder, not only during Ramadan, but also in the daily lives of some people. Constipation can be described as having bowel movements that are fewer than three times per week, producing stools that are hard, small in size, and difficult to eliminate.

Those who suffer from constipation often find it painful to have a bowel movement, and most experience straining, bloating, or the sensation of a full bowel.

You can reduce the occurrence of constipation by increasing the intake of complex carbohydrates, which includes rice, noodles and cereals, as well as fruits and vegetables. You should also drink plenty of water whenever possible, instead of other beverages such as coffee or cordials.

Many people may even suffer from nausea and vomiting during the fasting month, which may occur due to acute gastritis, dehydration, indigestion or even bowel obstruction. These conditions usually arise due to unhealthy diet and lifestyle practices during the Ramadan month.

Try some simple lifestyle changes if you are prone to these common digestive disorders:

  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco, ie, quit smoking if you smoke;
  • Avoid foods that are acidic in nature, or fried and greasy foods;
  • Drink plenty of water;
  • Avoid stressful activities after having a meal, which may include strenuous exercise, or even arguments that tense you up.

Finally, one of the most common digestive disorders is diarrhoea, which often occurs after breaking a fast. Diarrhoea can be described as loose, watery stools, which occur three or more times in a day. A more severe version is acute diarrhoea, caused by infectious agents such as viruses, bacteria and parasites. When breaking fast, try to avoid raw foods, especially raw meat and seafood. Make sure that the foods and drinks that you consume are clean and fresh.

Keep it all together!

Your digestive system is most affected by your diet; thus, keeping up a good diet leads to a multitude of benefits. Practising self-control during the fasting month helps keep you healthy, and keeps many illnesses, including digestive disorders, at bay.

Though the huge variety of food may seem tempting after a long day of fasting, it is important to keep your cravings in check. Instead, choose wisely and eat in moderation because Ramadan is all about moderation and self-control.