Dr. Tariq Jagnarine
Family Medicine, Endocrinology/Diabetes

The holy month of Ramadan is a special month of the year for Muslims around the world. This is a time when Muslims connect more deeply with their religion, reflect on themselves, and give back to their communities.
There are different kinds of Muslims, and different traditions within the religion. When it comes to Ramadan, fasting is a ritual shared by nearly all. Fasting during Ramadan involves abstaining from food and water between sunrise and sunset for the entire month.
Ramadan provides the reward of self-growth and the opportunity to learn more about the Muslim religion and Muslims. These spiritual rewards require hard work and dedication to praying, a commitment to charity, and willpower when fasting.
Muslims follow a calendar based on the motion of the moon. Every year, Ramadan falls 15 days earlier than the last. Depending on where they live in the world, the days may be short or long.
The month often begins with optimistic energy, and practitioners may set many spiritual goals. However, it can be easy to falter as they try to maintain their health while fasting and balancing their regular day-to-day responsibilities.
Here are some practical tips and tricks to support a safe, successful fast during Ramadan.

There are only two opportunities to eat during Ramadan: in the early morning before sunrise (Suhoor), and after sunset in the evening (Iftar). The morning meal can be easy to skip, as it’s difficult to have an appetite so early in the morning. The food choices Muslims make will affect their energy throughout the day. Most times, people will turn to simple carbohydrates (fruits) for the morning meal; however, simple carbohydrates will not provide long-term energy. Instead, eat whole grains paired with healthy fats and proteins as well as fruits and veggies. These include dishes such as:
* Savory oatmeal
* Power pancakes
* Strawberry-chocolate overnight oats
* Porridges

Drinking water is vitally important, and has many health benefits. Not drinking enough water can result in a poor mood and increased tiredness. This can affect energy levels and memory.
Maintaining water intake can also help manage chronic health conditions, and has a role in preventing and treating headaches, migraines, kidney stones, and constipation, as well as maintaining blood pressure.
There’s also some evidence that staying hydrated lowers appetite. This is especially useful when not eating for the entire day!
Use the time before sunrise and after sunset as an opportunity to rehydrate and meet the recommended water intake. Keep a water bottle closed throughout the night, and drink whenever possible.
It can also be helpful to pay attention to the foods eaten. While sweets during Ramadan can be very tempting, try to choose foods with high water content instead.
Integrate water-filled fruits and vegetables into the evening meal. Fruits such as:
* Pineapples
* Bananas
* Mangoes
* Guavas
* Strawberries
* Watermelons
* Cantaloupes
* Cucumbers
* Zucchinis
* Bell peppers
* Tomatoes
If Ramadan falls during a warmer season, dress cool and try to avoid direct sun.

Traditional foods are very important for Muslims, especially during Ramadan. Try to be mindful of portions, as cultural foods can be very oily and heavy. Even though it tastes amazing, it can result in people feeling exhausted and tired the next day if they overdo it.
Ramadan isn’t a one-day event, it’s a month-long event. While breaking the fast is a celebration, eating traditional foods every evening may not be the best idea. After a whole day of not eating and feeling hungry, overeating is also common. This may lead to morning tiredness and weight gain over the month.
Break the fast by eating a date, some fruit, drinking some water, pausing, and completing the evening prayer before diving into any food.
The natural sugars from the fruit will allow the body to register that it has had food. Persons won’t feel like they are starving, and they are less likely to overeat.
For the evening meal, use the plate as a guide. Try to distribute food as follows:
* Vegetables or salad: Half a plate.
* Carbohydrates: Quarter of a plate. If persons choose to eat refined carbohydrates, be mindful to keep them to a minimum.
* Protein: Quarter of a plate.

Having a chronic medical condition doesn’t mean that people aren’t able to fast. It does mean that it’s essential to plan ahead, and make the necessary adjustments, though. Most medications can and should be continued while fasting. However, the time they are taken should be adjusted to fit the fasting schedule of the evening meal and morning meal.
If fasting worsens the medical condition even after modifying the medication schedule, patients should not fast. This includes critical illnesses like those requiring hospitalisation; diabetes, that requires a consistent supply of food and drink to manage blood sugars; and certain cancers.
People with common medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension can still fast, as long as their conditions are stable and controlled. However, they’ll need to closely monitor blood sugars and blood pressure, ensure adequate hydration, and adjust the timing of their medications.
Above all, have an open and communicative relationship with a healthcare professional to ensure that it’s safe to fast. Also, discuss adjusting medications.
If fasting doesn’t align with one’s health during Ramadan, do not worry. Ramadan can still be honoured by making up fasting days later, or through charity.

After Ramadan is over, it can be difficult to resume regular eating habits. Our bodies may have become accustomed to not eating for long periods of time during the day, and having heavier meals in the evening. Try out intermittent fasting, and ensure to hydrate throughout the day. If persons are leaning towards snacking, consider setting consistent mealtimes instead.
Ramadan is a time for celebration and spiritual growth. It’s also a challenging time as Muslims undertake the trial of fasting for the month. Use these tips to stay energised while fasting during the day, and enjoying cultural foods when the sun goes down.