With only a few days left before Ramadan begins, many around the world are wondering if fasting will pose an increased risk of catching the COVID-19 virus. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep its way across the world, people are being more cautious than ever. Iftar gatherings and family get-togethers also stand to be affected as governments worldwide are discouraging people from meeting each other and are also promoting social distancing. It would be safe to say that the outbreak has definitely changed the way we plan for Ramadan.
Ease into the routine
As your diet and sleep patterns are set to change during Ramadan, it would be a good practice to slowly ease your body to adapt to the upcoming routine as sudden changes can lead to headaches and mood swings. To help your body adapt to the sleep patterns during Ramadan, try getting up early every day and take a siesta, if possible, a few days before Ramadan. To help your body ease into the changes in your diet and eating patterns, you can start by having lighter meals throughout the day and by having your breakfast a little early every day. If your caffeine intake is high, consider cutting down your consumption of beverages like coffee and tea. This helps in avoiding caffeine withdrawal that could occur during the initial days of the fast and will also keep you from being dehydrated.
The Holy month of Ramadan is seen as an ideal occasion to permanently quit smoking by many and this comes with a lot of health benefits. Either way, it is highly beneficial for smokers to stop smoking during this time.
In terms of diet, make the conscious choice of reducing starchy and oily food in your Iftar meals which will avoid weight gain, gastric disorders, and lifestyle diseases in the long run. You can include more salads and vegetables that provide a lot of vitamins, fibre and above all, a feeling of fullness which will help reduce cravings during the day.
If you have been working out, do not stop during Ramadan, Instead, reduce the intensity and timing of your workout to ensure your exercise doesn’t leave you dehydrated during the day.
It’s about being mindful of how you fast and how you break your fast
What and how you eat your meals will play an important role in helping you be healthy and active for the duration of Ramadan. You should ensure that you consume food from all the major food groups and equally distribute them between the two meals.
- Stay hydrated – Make it a habit to drink water several times throughout the night, even if you aren’t feeling too thirsty. Thirst is a signal that your body is ALREADY dehydrated. Consume fluids that don’t contain caffeine, because caffeinated drinks can be dehydrating. While breaking your fast at iftar with a glass of water is traditional, it also ensures that you get the best source of hydration for your body before it gets distracted with the food you consume later.
- Variety is key – Eat a variety of foods during the evening. Now, more than ever, your body would need good nourishment to compensate for the stress of fasting and to keep your system immune. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean protein, healthy fat (fat from plants, like olive oil and nuts) — are all important to give your body all the nutrients it needs.
- Portion size is important – It takes the body about 20 minutes to register that it’s had enough to eat. Eating mindfully and listening to your body for when your hunger is actually satisfied puts less stress on your body and gives you more energy when compared to eating huge amounts at one time.
- Keep moving – Though fasting can be physically exhausting, try not to be completely sedentary. If you typically work out during the morning, see how your body feels if you exercise in the evening after breaking your fast. Think small — short and easy walks, or a few stretches can go a long way in keeping your energy up during the day.
- Eat a Sensible Suhoor – It’s easy to panic and binge eat on lots of food but overeating will only leave you feeling tired and sluggish for the rest of the day.
The best foods to eat during this meal are your slow releasing foods, such as oatmeal, eggs, a little meat, fruit and veg. Also ensure that you drink small amounts of water often. If you drink too much at once, your stomach will feel full and you won’t have room for food.
- Trust how your body feels – How each person eats is different from how another eats. Trust your body and ensure you consume what’s best for it.
With all these tips and best practices, you can win over the virus this Ramadan and not let it completely ruin traditions. With internet connections around the world, there are a number of options through which you can stay connected with family and still have Iftars together online over video calls. During this time, this could be the safest way to feel less isolated while taking all the precautions needed to protect everyone during a month that would usually include tens of family gatherings.
Dr. Thomson Antony
Specialist Internal Medicine
Aster Clinic, Muhaisnah
Dr. Titty Mary Thomas
Specialist Family Medicine
Aster Clinic, Tecom Barsha Heights