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    Health Challenges In Ramadan

    Muslims are eagerly anticipating the arrival of the holy month of Ramadan. Homes are buzzing with activity as they get ready for a month of pre-dawn meals (suhur), evening meals (iftar), and special nightly prayers (taraweeh). Although this month brings many blessings and health benefits, it can also be a time for increased health concerns. To fully enjoy the spiritual and physical benefits of Ramadan, it’s important to be mindful of the following health issues and take steps to minimize the impact.

    Gastrointestinal Problems:
    As people increase their intake of oily appetizers and sugary drinks at iftar, two painful digestive issues become common. One is bloating, which is where the abdomen swells-up accompanied by a discomforting sense of pressure. The other is acid reflux, which occurs when stomach acid flows back up the throat causing a burning sensation in the chest. It is important to remember that overeating and over-consuming fried or spicy food stresses the digestive system, increasing the risk for more serious ailments. Such as peptic ulcers, which are painful sores that develop on the lining of the stomach and can cause worrisome symptoms like vomiting and bleeding in the digestive track. 

    Headaches and Hypertension:
    Decreased intake of water during the day, skipping the regular morning tea, abstaining from food for fourteen hours and a decrease in night-time sleep are all characteristic of the normal Ramadan routine. These are also reasons why many people report increased headaches during this time. The dehydration, caffeine-withdrawal, fluctuating blood-pressure and a drop in blood-sugar caused by these life-style changes are common reasons for headaches and hypertension. Especially during the first ten-days when your body is still adjusting to the new routine. 

    Dry Eye and Allergies:
    Although not as common as the above concerns, a lack in nutrition and reduced sleep also impacts functioning of the eye-muscles and tear glands, causing dry-eyes. This shows up as red irritated eyes, eye fatigue and even burning sensations. Another problem associated with changed routines are exacerbated summer allergies. The constant sneezing and stuffy nose caused by these, coupled with dry eyes, can make fasts extra challenging. 

    Managing Chronic Illness:
    While there are some health concerns common to everyone in Ramadan, fasting throughout the day can become especially challenging for people with chronic illness. Often these illnesses require particular diets and medicines which can get difficult to adhere to in this month. This is why your medicine dosage and meals must be adjusted through consultation with your doctor before stepping into Ramadan. A particularly challenging diseases to manage in this month is diabetes. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes require the person to be mindful of their blood-sugar levels, which may become a problem while fasting. Abstaining from food and drink for long-hours can lead to drop in blood-sugar levels and cause a diabetic person to develop hypoglycemia. It may also be the case that the person develops hyperglycemia due to changes in diet and medicine schedules. Both of these fluctuations can be detrimental for a diabetic who may experience severe fatigue, dizziness and in extreme cases even seizures.  Functioning of other vital organs such as the heart and kidneys may also be impacted due to fasting. As fluctuations in hormones and changes in blood volume can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and renal dysfunction. Therefore, it is always necessary to monitor your blood-sugar levels during Ramadan and consult your doctor on the best course of action. While chronic illness, like diabetes, need to be carefully managed, all the other basic health concerns are fortunately preventable. Ramadan is an important month where we need to be extra careful with our health. Which is why it is important to adopt a consistent routine, eat nutritious food, drink plenty of water and consult your physician when necessary, so that we can take care of our body’s needs.