Written by Adil Naeem. Pharmacist at Clinova.
Ramadan, a month of prayer, meditation and sacrifice in the Islamic calendar, includes fasting. A strict fast prohibits eating, drinking and smoking during daytime hours.
Ramadan requires fasting for around 11-22 hours, depending on the season and location. For those fasting hotter areas of the world, patience through the heat of the day is their test. For others in other parts, it may simply be the length of the fast due to the longer daylight hours and altered sleep pattern, rather than the heat that puts them to the test.
Either way, preparation, forbearance and focus is the key to a good experience throughout the month for physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Having the right nutrition to nourish you throughout the day and also long night (Taraweeh) prayers is important.
For Suhoor, it is important to drink adequate amounts and have food that can keep hunger and thirst under control for the day.
It is traditional to eat dates at both Suhoor time and Iftar time.
Dates are packed full of nutritional value and many healing properties, which is useful for all age groups. Dates are a good source of vitamin A, B vitamins, Vitamin C, and trace elements flora, manganese, potassium, zinc, and iron. They are also a source of fibre. These trace elements, when taken alongside water, can help hydrate the body.
Foods with high water content are also ideal to have throughout Ramadan, especially fruit (like watermelons, apples, pears) and vegetables and salads (including cucumber). Dairy yoghurt is also very filling early in the morning and some people find this can help prevent thirst throughout the day.
Avoid foods that can dehydrate you. Having too much food with high sugar or salt content can sometimes make you more thirsty and caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee may have a diuretic effect, causing you to lose more fluid, which may be counterproductive.
Pitfalls you can try to avoid!
Ramadan is a month of sharing and hospitality, and many families cook and share hearty meals at Iftar time.
Quite often, after the first few dates, a glass of water and Maghrib (sunset prayer), for some it’s straight into that spicy biryani, pizzas, kebabs, samosas, cakes, ice cream, fizzy drinks and more. After all it’s been a long day, plus you deserve it, right? We don’t judge but we cannot recommend this!
All in “moderation”... it’s what people say, but the term is very subjective to say the least! As per Islamic (sunnah) teachings, it is recommended to eat slowly and thoroughly and have a small bit of everything, drinking small sips of water or fluids throughout the meal.
This can also help to prevent overeating and associated symptoms of bloating - which is not good preparation for Taraweeh prayers!
Avoid drinking a whole glass of water or drink immediately after a meal. This can often lead to digestive issues, since all the digestive acids and enzymes in the stomach are there to help break down the food.
Drinking too much too soon will simply flush these acids and digestive enzymes down the gut, which the stomach has to produce more of to digest the food, potentially leading to a cycle of indigestion, excess acid and acid reflux. This can also lead to bloating, gas and cramping lower down in the gut.
Try to drink a glass after breaking your fast, then take small sips throughout your meal. Wait at least 30 minutes or longer to allow the stomach to empty before drinking a full glass of fluid if needed.
Best times to hydrate and top up your fluids
It is best to drink larger volumes of fluids before Suhoor and at least 30 minutes after Iftar (sunset) time. It is also best to top up fluids during the night (Taraweeh) prayer too. This is ideal as the stomach is relatively empty after digesting food.
During Ramadan in hot countries, there is an even greater need for adequate replacement of lost fluids. Heat throughout the day can cause more perspiration to help cool the body. In countries where the day is longer and the night is short, the window of opportunity to drink enough water can sometimes be challenging.
When the body's water content decreases, the mineral balance (salts and sugar) is disrupted.
When we get dehydrated, our blood changes, and blood oxygen levels can drop. Less oxygen means tighter muscles. Less muscle movement = less force. With less force, we feel heavy and our body searches for energy. Fatigue means the body's reserves are depleted. Without enough water, fatigue hits faster.
Our bodies need time to heal. If we have an imbalance, we can feel tired for days. Our body's systems deliver nutrients to key energy sources to replenish them. Good hydration eases transport. Hydration widens veins and increases blood oxygen levels.
It is therefore important to ensure that all members of the family who are fasting are drinking enough fluids whenever possible, especially at the times mentioned above.
How can O.R.S Hydration help?
O.R.S Hydration Tablets are formulated using a precise combination of electrolytes, glucose, and minerals when made up into a solution.
They are formulated by pharmacists to World Health Organisation oral rehydration solution guidelines, to make a solution of drink that brings the body’s fluid balance back, especially in times of exertion, heat exposure or risk of dehydration.
The mix of electrolytes combined with a low-calorie dose of glucose (17.2 kcal) is not only proven to be the fastest way to restore a healthy level of hydration, it also keeps you hydrated for longer than water alone.
How do we lose electrolytes?
The body is a giant electrical circuit. Your nerves and muscles send and receive tiny electrical signals that create judgements and actions that we are unaware of.
Electrolytes must be distributed throughout the body to govern these functions. This ensures that these vital chemicals are always accessible.
When we labour hard, like when running for a marathon, playing football in hot weather or cleaning, we can sweat 1.5 to six litres each hour.
For those working long shifts at work or on their feet all day during Ramadan, it is important to replenish your fluid balance, which includes both water and electrolytes.
O.R.S Hydration Tablets are suitable for adults and kids, are vegan-friendly, gluten-free, lactose-free and have no artificial preservatives.
They are used by professional athletes, people exercising and participating in sport, people travelling and those who may be suffering from low hydration levels.