Have a healthy Ramadan: tips for participants and health care providers.

Ramadan will soon be here - the month of fasting and worship observed by Muslims around the world. Here are my practical tips about fasting for those who will be observing, as well as information for health care providers whose patients who may be fasting. Ramadan advances in the Gregorian calendar about 10 days each year, so the fasting days this year will be especially long in Canada. 

  • On whether to fast with a health issue: If you have a health condition or take medications, talk to your doctor about whether you can safely fast.  Some people with chronic health conditions may be able to fast, others not at all, while others may fast every other day, or two days on, one day off, for example. And of course, there are many other spiritual, family and community activities in the month in addition to fasting. 
  • Type II Diabetes: Many times, adjustments in your activity and medication can be made to allow you to fast safely, but you need to plan for it, and find out if it's advisable. Make a visit to your health care provider in advance. In London, the Primary Care Diabetes Support Program has been offering specific consultations for Ramadan advice for the past few years. Referral information is here.
  • Pregnancy: I recommend that my pregnant patients abstain from fasting, especially when Ramadan falls in the summer as it does now. If you are a health care provider caring for pregnant women, ask whether they are intending to fast and be aware that they may be.  
  • Breastfeeding: In general, I advise my patients who are breastfeeding to abstain from fasting, especially if their baby is less than six months old, and especially when the fasting days are long as they are now. 

General Tips:

  • Be especially mindful to drink enough fluids during the evening. Get up and have suhoor (the pre-dawn meal), and I highly recommend including foods or fluids with electrolytes - such as kefir, banana, or yogurt. An electrolyte drink might be worth taking if you are especially prone to dehydration headaches. 
  • Include protein and fat in the suhoor meal as well, for nutrition and to keep you feeling fuller, longer. These egg muffins are easy to make ahead of time and would be ideal. 
  • Migraine sufferer, or tend toward headaches on the first day? You may want to try ibuprofen preventatively with your suhoor. Make sure it's safe for you to take, and be cautious especially if you are over 50. Check out my migraine post for more tips for migraine prevention.
  • Coffee or tea drinker? Taper off gradually in the week before. Or, if you wish, continue having a small cup at suhoor - it might allow you to get a productive hour or two in at the start of your day. Coffee as a dehydrating drink is actually a myth. 
  • Adjust your goals and simplify your schedule as much as possible.  Keep meals simple and healthy. Include salads and hydrating fruit at your iftar meal. 
  • Keep exercise mild. You will not likely be able to achieve an intense exercise regime for the month. Remember, though, that even one minute of exercise can be beneficial
  • Be especially careful if you work outdoors, in construction, or in any other "high risk" occupation that you need to remain alert for, like surgery or driving professionally. If you start to feel lightheaded or dizzy, rest, and break your fast if need be. Keep a sports drink at work in case this happens. 

Any comments or tips for managing Ramadan, as a participant or health care provider?