Fasting the act of willingly abstaining from food, drink, sexual intercourse for a period of time. No doubt, fasting has health and spiritual benefits, but we must never lose sight of the main goal of fasting, the spiritual meaning of the Fasting which includes:
- It teaches man the principle of sincere Love: because when he observes Fasting he does it out of deep love for God. And the man who loves God truly is a man who really knows what love is.
- It equips man with a creative sense of hope and an optimistic outlook on life; because when he fasts he is hoping to please God and is seeking His Grace.
- It imbues in man the genuine virtue of effective devotion, honest dedication and closeness to God; because when he fasts he does so for God and for His sake alone.
- It cultivates in man a vigilant and sound conscience; because the fasting person keeps his fast in secret as well as in public. In fasting, especially, there is no mundane authority to check man’s behavior or compel him to observe fasting. He keeps it to please God and satisfy his own conscience by being faithful in secret and in public. There is no better way to cultivate a sound conscience in man.
During Fasting, daily diet should not differ greatly from normal and should be as simple as possible. We should be able to maintain our normal weight, neither losing nor gaining. However, if one is over-weight, fasting is an ideal practice to lose weight. We should aim to consume slow digesting foods including fiber-containing foods. Slow-digesting foods last up to 8 hours, while fast-digesting foods last only 3 to 4 hours. Slow-digesting foods are foods that contain grains and seeds like barley, wheat, oats, semolina, beans, lentils, whole meal flour, etc. (complex carbohydrates).
Fast-burning foods are foods that contain sugar, white flour, etc. ie refined carbohydrates.
Fibre-containing foods are bran-containing foods, whole wheat, grains, seeds, vegetables like green beans, peas, sem (papry), marrow, mealies, spinach, methie, fruit with skin, dried fruit especially dried apricots, figs and prunes, almonds, etc. Meals should be well-balanced, containing foods from each food group, i.e. fruits, vegetables, meat/chicken/fish, bread/cereals and dairy products. Fried foods should be limited. They cause indigestion, heart-burn, and weight problems.
During Fasting the following food should be avoided
- Fried and fatty foods.
- Foods containing too much sugar.
- Over-eating .
- Smoking cigarettes. If you cannot give up, cut down gradually starting a few weeks before fasting.
What you can eat
- Complex carbohydrates at the night before so that the food lasts longer.
- Haleem is an excellent source of protein and is a slow-burning food.
- Dates are excellent source of sugar, fibre, carbohydrates, potassium & magnesium.
- Almonds are rich in protein and fibre with less fat.
- Bananas are a good source of potassium, magnesium and carbohydrates.
- You should drink as much water or fruit juices as possible between the period of breaking the fast and bedtime so that your body may adjust fluid levels in time.
Problems to avoid during Fasting
Constipation can cause piles (haemorroids), fissures (cracks in anal canal) and indigestion, with a bloated feeling. Causes: Too much refined foods, too little water and not enough fibre in the diet.
Remedy: Avoid refined foods, increase water intake, use bran in baking, brown flour when making roti.
- Indigestion and Wind
Causes: Over-eating. Excessive fried and fatty foods, spicy foods, and foods that produce wind e.g. eggs, cabbage, lentils, fizzy drinks like Cola also produce gas.
Remedy: Do not over-eat, drink fruit juices or water. Avoid fried foods, add ajmor to wind-producing foods.
- Lethargy (Low blood pressure)
Excessive sweating, weakness, tiredness, lack of energy, dizziness, especially on getting up from sitting, paleness and feeling faint are symptoms associated with “low blood pressure”. This tends to occur towards the afternoon.
Causes: Too little fluid intake, decreased salt intake.
Remedy: Keep cool, increase fluid and salt intake.
Caution: Low blood pressure should be confirmed by taking a blood pressure reading when symptoms are present. Persons with high blood pressure may need their medication adjusted during Ramadan. They should consult their doctor.
Causes: Caffeine and tobacco-withdrawal, too much exercise, lack of sleep, hunger usually occur during the day and worsen towards the evening. When associated with “low blood pressure”, the headache can be quite severe and can also cause nausea before breaking the fast.
Remedy: Cut down caffeine and tobacco slowly starting a week or two before fasting. Herbal and caffeine-free teas may be substituted. Reorganize your schedule during fasting so as to have adequate sleep.
- Low Blood Sugar
Weakness, dizziness, tiredness, poor concentration, perspiring easily, feeling shaky (tremor), headache, and palpitations are symptoms of low blood sugar.
Causes in non-diabetics: Excessive sugar consumption i.e. refined carbohydrates. The body produces too much insulin causing the blood glucose to drop.
Remedy: Limit sugar-containing foods and drinks.
Caution: Diabetics may need to adjust their medication when fasting, consult your doctor.
- Muscle Cramps
Causes: Inadequate intake of calcium, magnesium and potassium foods.
Remedy: Eat foods rich in these minerals e.g. vegetables, fruit, dairy products, meat and dates.
Caution: Those on high blood pressure medication and with kidney stone problems should consult their doctor.
- Peptic ulcers, Heart burn and Gastritis
Increased acid levels in an empty stomach aggravate the above conditions. It causes a burning feeling in the stomach area and can extend up to the throat. Spicy foods, coffee, and Cola drinks worsen these conditions.
Medications are available to control acid levels in the stomach. People with proven peptic ulcers and hiatus hernia should consult their doctor well before fasting.
- Kidney Stones
Kidney stones may occur in people who have less liquids to drink. Therefore, it is essential to drink extra liquids so as to prevent stone formation.