By: Nadine Kamal
Every year, the Holy month of Ramadan provides us with the opportunity to eliminate unhealthy eating patterns and gives our overburdened digestive systems a much needed break. During this sacred month, the rituals of fasting, night prayer and reading the Holy Qur’an on a daily basis can have a transformational effect on our overall sense of well-being and contentment.
However, now that the blessed month of Ramadan has passed and the Eid ul-Fitr festivities are over, here are 10 tips for maintaining the incredible health benefits and habits that you worked so hard to gain in Ramadan.
By: Zainab Mudallal
With only a few days left to go in the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims who observe the fast fall into two broad categories. Some are so used to the rhythms of fasting that it feels almost natural at this point. For others, the final stretch is psychologically and physically the hardest.
This year poses an even greater challenge, with Ramadan falling during some of the longest and hottest days of the year, requiring a fast of 15 or more hours in some parts of the world. The dramatic change from regular eating habits can take a toll on an one’s health and energy, and makes it difficult to keep up a regular fitness regimen. But there are ways to turn it around.
Here are some tips to make a Ramadan fast beneficial, rather than damaging, to your health:
This video provides useful tips on how to avoid some common problems encountered in Ramadan. If followed, it would enable one to fast comfortably and enjoy fully the spiritual benefits of Ramadan.
Watch the full lecture…
“We are not living to eat, we are eating to live.” – Mufti Menk
Fasting from sunrise until sunset for 30 days certainly has a physical impact, but what really happens to your body when you fast?
The Science Part
During a fast, your body generates its own energy by burning stored resources made from excess fats, carbohydrates and sugars to produce energy. The liver is the most significant organ in this economical process; it converts the fats into chemicals called ketone bodies which are three water-soluble compounds that are then used as a source for energy.
Detoxification is one of the most important benefits of fasting. A regular body process, detoxification occurs as the colon, liver, kidney, lungs, lymph glands and skin eliminate or neutralise toxins. This process speeds up during fasting as the body breaks down fats. Chemicals and toxins absorbed from food and the environment are stored in fat reserves and released during fasting.
Fasting is also a healing for the mind, body and soul in more ways than one. At a physical level, energy and resources are diverted from the digestive system (which is constantly in overuse as we graze on food) to the immune system and metabolic processes allowing the body to heal, rebuild and replenish itself. Medical studies show that during a fast, abnormal tissue growths such as tumours become starved for nutrients and are hence more susceptible to being broken down and removed from the body.
Fasting allows the body to tap its resources to their fullest potential and focus on rebuilding from a microscopic level as DNA and RNA genetic controls become more efficient in transcribing the proteins and tissues the body needs. This revamped protein synthesis results in healthier cells, tissues and organs.
Other changes in the body during a fast include a slight decrease in core body temperature due to a decline in metabolic rate and general bodily functions. Blood sugar levels also drop as the body uses the reservoir of glycogen in the liver and the base metabolic rate (BMR) is reduced in order to conserve energy.
The digestive system, which is very often overloaded, and ceaselessly put to work, also cleanses itself for more efficient digestion and nutrient absorption. The lining of the stomach and intestines are allowed to restore glands and muscle, and remove waste matter. Other processes that sustain the foundational infrastructure of the body are increased during fasting, for example hormone production is increased as well as the release of anti-aging growth hormones.
By: Anisa Abeytia
Your digestive tract is a self contained unit that does not (when working optimally) allow the food you consume to be absorbed and distributed to the body without first sterilizing, identifying and processing it. Without proper digestion there cannot be health. Not only is the health of the gut important for commonly known reasons, but the digestive tract is also home to a large part of the immune system.
During Ramadan, digestive issues can be put at the forefront due to the types of foods we choose, how fast we eat them, and the lack of sufficient chewing.
There are many steps you can take to ensure that digestive distress does not ruin your Ramadan this year. They are simple and can make a large difference if done consistently:
- Drink water. Water is needed for digestion as well as to make HCl. – Chew your food well. This will enable the body to do less work. – Eat in a calm and relaxed manner. – Do not combine carbohydrates and proteins. People with digestive issues find this combination difficult to digest. The classic example is beans. – Start with a salad. Salad prepares the digestive tract to work. – Take a full spectrum enzyme supplement right before your meal (make sure it is vegetarian).
- Do not over stuff yourself. Eat in stages. – Avoid white rice and white bread. They are inflammatory foods and can cause lose bowel movements and other digestive issues. – Avoid overcooked food. – Avoid black tea, coffee and soda as these are diuretics. – Have a cup of chamomile or mint tea after your meal. This will help ease digestion.
Usually, the symptoms of digestive distress are there before Ramadan begins, but surface with a vengeance during this time. Common signs of digestive problems are:
- Gas – Bloating – Nausea – Constipation – Diarrhea/loose stool – Burping – Food allergies/sensitivities – Poor appetite – Fatigue after eating – Abdominal cramps
- Indigestion up to three hours after a meal – Mood swings – Poor memory – Joint pain
- Hives, skin rashes and eczema – Chronic nasal congestion – Headache – Heart burn
- Sour taste in the mouth
Many of these symptoms are associated with a lack of gastric juice, beneficial gut flora (bacteria), or digestive enzymes. These are symptoms of a larger problem occurring in the body and should not be medicated away. If they are only masked by taking pharmaceuticals, the problem will become worse.
There are many reasons for symptoms associated with digestive problems. Some of the most common are:
- Food allergies/sensitivities – Leaky gut – Poor quality of gut flora – Insufficient digestive enzymes – Low hydrochloric acid (stomach acid)
Food Allergies/Food Sensitivities
What are commonly called food allergies are really not “true” food allergies, but rather food sensitivities. The reason for this is that eating a food your allergic to causes a very specific and immediate response, it can also result in a medical emergency.
Food sensitivities are relatively rare. They are not usually life threatening and many people develop them over time. The most common food sensitivities are to soy, corn, dairy and wheat, although one can have sensitivity to any food. There are lab tests that can determine if you have specific food sensitivity and which foods are causing it.
However many people have an idea that they may be sensitive to a food already. If this is the case, simply remove that food/foods from your diet and see if your symptoms resolve (see list of symptoms above).
Intestinal permeability or leaky gut is a condition in which the lining of the intestines has become damaged allowing the contents passing through them to “leak” out into the blood stream. The most common cause of leaky gut is food sensitivities.
Over time foods that are irritating to the digestive tract cause “openings” to appear in the lining of the gut. As this occurs, large food molecules enter the blood stream and trigger an immune response (causing inflammation).
Every time the offending food such as wheat, milk or corn is ingested, the body becomes conditioned to recognize it as a harmful substance and flu like symptoms occur.
Leaky gut can cause many complications such as malabsorption of nutrients and food allergies. It can also trigger an immune response and cause auto immune disorders.
Removing food sensitivities can ease the symptoms, but it does not resolve the problem or stop the consequences. In order to improve your condition and start the healing process you will need to seek out a competent nutritionist.
Our gut harbors many “non-native” organisms that can be beneficial, benign or harmful. The beneficial flora such as lactobacillus, which can be found in yogurt, help prevent opportunistic organisms, like yeast, from occupying the lining of the large intestine and causing an over growth, or pathogens from anchoring in the large intestine.
When this happens, these pathogens can compete with the host (you) for nutrients, causing a vitamin or mineral deficiency. The metabolic wastes of these pathogens can also overwhelm the body’s detoxification system and cause a toxic buildup in the body that can cause health issues.
There are many available probiotic supplements that will help restore the beneficial bacteria. You can also eat fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and olives. However, you will first need to find a holistic practitioner to work with in order to remove the harmful bacteria.
Low Hydrochloric Acid
Low stomach acid allows pathogens to enter the digestive tract. Hydrochloric acid (HCl) sterilizes the contents of the stomach and eliminates any harmful substances prior to entering the rest of the digestive tract. Many people that are diagnosed with acid reflux are surprisingly actually acid deficient, and often fall prey to chronic infections, like Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that can cause peptic ulcers.
A quick home test to check if you have sufficient stomach acid is to drink a carbonated beverage and if within a minute you belch, you have enough stomach acid. You can also have a doctor check your levels of HCl.
Insufficient Digestive Enzymes
There are many types of enzymes in the body, but here we are concerned with the digestive enzymes that are made in the pancreas. These enzymes help us digest fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
Raw and fermented foods contain the greatest amount of enzymes. When food is overcooked, the enzymes are destroyed and the food becomes more challenging to digest. In order for digestion to take place much energy is needed, when we supply the body with enzymes, it frees up the body’s energy to carry out other functions.
During Ramadan we are given a wonderful opportunity to allow the body to heal and carry out functions that it was not able to carry out due to excessive eating and digestion. Adding in a digestive enzyme (if you need to) will add to the physical benefits of fasting.
Alhamdullilah, I have been married for almost three years now and I feel that Muslim Marriage is one of the most beautiful gifts that Allah has given to Muslims in this world.
However, Muslim Marriage doesn’t come easy right away. Actually, many husbands today have been spoiled by family or their environment or even society and media. This has caused us to lose our manliness and personal striving that our forefathers and great men in the history of Islam had.
Now, as a Muslim Husband in this generation, I know how important and necessary it is for every Muslim Husband to work hard at their marriage in order for this Ummah to be strong again. After all, without the Muslim Family foundation, all other foundations cannot be formed.
I’ve put together some habits as a personal reminder to myself first and hopefully it can benefit Muslim Husbands out there who want to create a blissful marriage. Some ideas presented are from what I’ve read and heard and some are from experience. Take what applies to you and act on it.
So, let’s start…
1. Exercising, Staying Fit and Healthy
Sorry, brothers, you know this was coming. It is important that we stay healthy, exercise and keep fit for our wives and children. Many of us let ourselves go after marriage when it should be the other way around. When we are fit, we can do more for our wives and children. We also feel good that we are a strong contributing member of the Ummah.
My wife told me a story of how she was visiting a Muslim country recently and saw many couples where the wife was still dressed up nicely but the husband had totally let himself go.
I’m not asking everyone to be Arnold Schwarzenegger but to exercise so that when your kids are 12 years old, you can still kick a soccer ball with them. Because of my career in the software industry, I have to especially work hard at it as it is so easy for me to slack off (which I already have on a few occasions).
Doing what you enjoy will also help you stay fit. You don’t have to lift weights to stay in shape. As long as whatever you do helps you maintain a healthy, fit, Islamic lifestyle.
Also, it is imperative to eat a healthy diet. It doesn’t make much sense to work-out and stay fit and indulge in sweets and desserts everyday. Having a sweet tooth my whole life, I have now limited my sweet intake to one day of the week and have noticed positive changes like having more energy.
2. Dress well and with Ihsan (Excellence)
This is something I had to work on as I was never a good dresser when growing up. It doesn’t mean you have to wear rich expensive clothes. It means that your clothes are in good condition and you look presentable.
Muslims in history were known to dress excellently and to take care of their bodies. In the middle ages, Muslim Spain had running water and baths while the rest of Europe hardly washed their bodies.
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to wear Musk to smell good.
Muslim narrated that Abu Sai’d Al-Khudri said that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The best type of perfume is Musk.”
Try to buy quality over price or quantity as this is what dressing with Ihsan (Excellence) is about. At the end of the day, your wife will be happy with you and be thinking “MashaAllah.”
It is no surprise that the first word revealed from the Quran to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was “Read…” (Surah Alaq 96:1).
I always struggled with reading growing up as I was too preoccupied with TV and video games. Even though I excelled in school, reading was always a chore and I didn’t do a lot of it.
However, as a Muslim Husband, reading is an important skill to have. Not only will it enrich you with more knowledge, it can also help with your communication and conversation skills with your wife and children. You will have much more interesting and important things to say and teach your children too.
Especially in today’s age of changing media and technology, if you are not reading and learning, you will be more susceptible to negative influences around you.
One of the most significant sources of antioxidants in the human diet is onions, reports Cornell University Associate Professor Rui Hai Lui. These antioxidants provide this vegetable with its sweet flavors and distinct aroma. Consuming onions supplies your body with soluble fiber and flavonoids, antioxidant compounds that fight free radicals. These flavonoids assist in thinning your blood, decreasing inflammation and fighting cancer.
Onions may assist in thinning your blood, as they contain thiosulfinates — the agents that provide an onion with its pungent odor and cause teary eyes when you come in contact with this vegetable. Additionally, this sulfur compound prevents platelets in your blood from aggregating and operates as a natural blood thinner. When platelets cluster in your blood, your risk for experiencing a stroke or heart attack significantly increases. Thiosulfinate concentrations are more prevalent in onions with a dry consistency and high-carbohydrate content. Eat your onions raw for maximum thiosulfinate content, as cooking onions significantly decreases the quantity of this compound. If you take a prescription blood thinner, consult with your physician about consuming onions in conjunction with your medication, as you do not want your blood to become too thin.
Fiber is present in all plant-based foods, including onions. Consuming fiber in your diet assists in regulating your blood sugar, decreasing your bad cholesterol, promoting healthy intestinal functioning and maintaining an optimal body weight. Onions also contain a special form of soluble fiber known as fructan. When you consume fructan, this soluble fiber turns into a gel-like substance in your colon and converts to fatty acids. These fatty acids act as a natural laxative, stimulating bowel movements. The fructan in onions, inulin fructan, promotes the growth of good bacteria in your intestines, which may combat any infections in your colon.
Onions may help reduce inflammation, as they contain organosulfurs — antioxidant compounds that assist in combating inflammation. Inflammation in your body can cause and exacerbate symptoms of asthma, arthritis and heart disease. According to a 2010 study published in “Molecular Aspects of Medicine,” regular consumption of organosulfur compounds from onions and garlic can prevent the development of cardiovascular disease. Organosulfurs decrease inflammation in the blood vessels, a sign of heart disease, by separating blood platelets and inhibiting the production of toxic substances.
Onions are packed full of anticancer compounds, such as flavonoids and phenolics. Shallots, Western Yellow, Northern Red and pungent yellow onions assist in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, which may protect against the development of colon and liver cancer. Onions with higher antioxidant quantities offer greater protection against certain types of cancer than onions with fewer antioxidants. For example, the Western Yellow contains 11 times more antioxidants than the Western White and provides the strongest protection against the production of liver cancer cells. The Western Whites contain the least amount of antioxidants among onion varieties and offer the least protection against cancer cells.