Ramadan 2021 commenced on April 12, and even amid a global pandemic, most of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims will observe it in some form, including many of us here at A&E Agency. Following on from our day in the life of an A&E Agency doctor about the challenges being faced whilst working as a doctor during Ramadan, we spoke to some of those in our team who are abstaining from eating during daylight hours and uncover some of the challenges and their tips for fasting safely.
Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year for Muslims - the Prophet Mohammed proclaimed "When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of hell are closed and the devils are chained". During the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims fast every day from dawn until sunset. It is meant to be a time of spiritual discipline - of deep contemplation of one's relationship with God, extra prayer, increased charity and generosity, and intense study of the Quran.
While the practice of fasting serves several spiritual and social purposes during Ramadan, abstaining from eating and drinking, and even taking medication also carries risks. As the first meal of the day is before sunrise, it involves waking up earlier than usual which can lead to sleep deprivation. This can have numerous effects on the body including lack of concentration, weight gain, high blood pressure and an increase in blood sugar levels.
On the other hand, some scientists believe fasting can trigger autophagy which allows the body to clean out damaged cells and regenerate newer, healthier cells. This process could reduce the likelihood of contracting some diseases and prolonging lifespan.
So, what's the deal with fasting during Ramadan?
Although challenging, fasting can amplify awareness and add perspective and purpose to the important things in life. Fasting for a few days probably would not hurt most people who are healthy but fasting for long periods of time can be dangerous. We asked some of our team here who fast every year during Ramadan how they get through the day while working at the same pace, and what tips they might have to push through the challenges.
1. Stay hydrated
Drink ample water during eating time so that you remain hydrated through the daylight hours. Hydration is important for energy and brain function, helping joins and muscles function and keeping your organs functioning properly.
2. Eat balanced and healthy meals
Avoid salty and fried foods as they can contribute towards dehydration and an increase in blood pressure. Eat both types of carbohydrate before starting your fast as this is your body’s main source of energy to help fuel your body.
3. Eat fruit
It is important to include various fruits during your eating window. Due to lack of water, an individual can suffer from constipation. Eating various fruits can deliver natural sugars, vitamins and most importantly fibres to the body.
4. Cut out caffeine and reduce nicotine
Cut out stimulants like caffeine and reduce nicotine intake at least a week before Ramadan. This allows your body time to adjust before introducing the fast into your daily routine.
5. Keep busy
Keeping your mind and body active means you will have more energy as opposed to feeling lethargic and hungry.
Eat simply and remember how fortunate we are to have the things we do have. There are always people with much less.
Despite the hardship of fasting for a whole month, everyone who we spoke with here at A&E Agency told us they really look forward to Ramadan for all that you endure and the feeling enlightenment you are left with once the month is over.
At the end of Ramadan there’s a big three-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr, or the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast. We've been told it's kind of like the Muslim version of Christmas, in the sense that it's a religious holiday where everyone comes together for big meals with family and friends, exchanges presents and generally basks in the glory of life.
Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic has made many of the more social aspects of Ramadan a lot harder to do safely, given restrictions on travel and the need to maintain social distancing and avoid large, indoor gatherings. But Muslim community leaders are aware of this, and have put out detailed guidance on how to have a happy and fulfilling Ramadan while making sure everyone stays safe.
If you have any stories or tips you'd like share with us while your celebrating Ramadan this year, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org