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« on: Aug 12, 2008 02:14 AM »

A Healthy Fast: 10 things to know to get the most of Ramadan

Dr. Noreen A. Kassem

This month is more than simply skipping a meal and counting the minutes to Iftar and the days to Eid ul-Fitr. Don’t just go through the motions; have a meaningful Ramadan by following these healthy tips for the mind, body and soul:

   1. Spiritual Gain: Ramadan is a time to reconnect spiritually by personal reflection and group remembrance. Its important to remember the historical events and significant days that make this month sacred and the virtues we can receive from then. The Quran was sent as guidance during Ramadan and should be a focus of our contemplation, especially in this time. Uplift yourself in every way by becoming more spiritually aware of your life and of God. Fasting is a form of worship in Islam and has many other benefits.
 
  2. Fasting is healthy: Medical research shows that fasting can actually help you live a longer, healthier life. When you fast, your body is better able to repair and purify itself. Over time, this improves your immune system, your energy level and even your ability to think!

   3. Ramadan Detox: The digestive system absorbs nutrients that every system in our body requires. According to doctors, fasting cleanses these body systems by removing harmful toxins that accumulate from normal, everyday life, helping absorb nutrients faster and more effectively. This gives us better overall health and even radiant, glowing skin!

   4. Fasting of the heart: Ramadan is a time for patience, selflessness and gratitude. By fasting, the heart becomes sensitized to others, teaching us empathy and kindness. We also learn self-control, dedication and discipline. This helps to get organized, set the right goals and priorities, as well as to decrease stress, frustration and procrastination. This empowers the mind and soul and gives us a healthier perspective on life. During Ramadan look inward at your own attitudes and habits and make positive changes.

   5. Foods for fasting: It’s especially important to keep your diet balanced during Ramadan. To boost energy during the day have slower digesting foods, especially during Sahur (the pre-dawn meal). These include fiber-rich foods, and complex carbohydrates such as whole grain breads and cereals, barley and oatmeal. Eggs are a power food because they are packed with protein and iron for energy and mental stamina. Two-Thirds of the brain is composed of fat; therefore you need essential fats, such as those in fish, cheese, and meats to avoid midday brain fog. It is also very important to drink plenty of water during Sahur and after the iftar meal. Dates, a traditional Ramadan food from the time of the Prophet are an excellent source of natural sugar, fiber, carbohydrates and minerals.

   6. Foods to avoid: During Ramadan, it’s even more important to avoid unhealthy foods, which can make you feel hungry, lethargic and dizzy soon after eating them. Avoid simple carbohydrates such as sugary foods, cookies, cakes, crackers, chips, potatoes, white bread, white rice and pasta. Too much food, as well as a heavy, unhealthy diet will also sap your energy and give you a stomachache or headache; go easy on the fried, oily and spicy foods. Additionally, limit coffee, tea and pop because the caffeine makes your body lose water; stay hydrated with water and juice instead.

   7. Finding the Ramadan spirit: We often eat because we are bored, stressed or feeling blue and when we can’t turn to food, we may feel moody. During fasting, our bodies also react to a withdrawal from food and you may feel depressed, restless, or anxious. It can be hard to get motivated especially if you’re not around the support of family and community. And it’s natural to feel tired, low on energy and irritable when you’re fasting. However, don’t use fasting as an excuse to not do your best at school, university or work and on projects or activities. Remind yourself that many people around the world fast in much more difficult conditions. Your own attitude will determine how much you benefit from your fasts. Understanding some of the benefits of fasting, eating the right foods, getting enough sleep, exercising and prioritizing your life during Ramadan will help keep away mood swings. And over time, your body will adapt to the physical and psychological effects of fasting and benefit from it. Fasting a few days of every month, as was the Sunnah of the Prophet, will also help you ‘train’ for Ramadan – not too mention you’ll reap the rewards of fasting all year round.

   8. Exercise: Yes, even in Ramadan, it’s important to stay active to keep healthy and energized. This doesn’t mean you should play your usual game of soccer or basketball or go for a long run. This month take up light activities like beginner’s yoga, walking or biking. Go for a stroll with your family after iftar. However, to stay hydrated avoid working up a sweat or being outdoors in hot climates.

   9. Build family and community: Ramadan is a time for charity and giving. Make time for your family this month and help out at home - you’re not the only one fasting! Try to attend prayers at the Masjid with your family whenever you can. Invite family and friends to break the fast with you and give thoughtful gifts to others.
      Fasting increases our compassion for those who go hungry throughout the year. Volunteer in a soup kitchen or raise funds for your local food bank.

  10. Doctor’s orders: Some may not be able to fast due to important health reasons. For example, if you are diabetic, your doctor may recommend that you don’t fast this year. Don’t worry, you will be able to fast in the coming years; people with diabetes can fast once they are able to control and treat their condition. If you are on daily medications, talk to your doctor about adjusting your schedule during Ramadan. Remember, in Islam, our bodies are our responsibility and we must make our physical and mental well being a priority. Even if you cannot fast there is a lot you can do to get into the Ramadan spirit: feed someone that can’t afford a meal, organize family and community events, help raise money for charity, and of course, read the Quran and pray as much as possible.

Noreen A. Kassem is a physician in training and freelance writer from Vancouver, Canada. This article was published in part in 2007 in MG Magazine.
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« Reply #1 on: Aug 15, 2008 03:03 PM »

Thank you for the motivating article.  The Sisters at my masjid are meeting this Saturday (August 16th) to clean up the kitchen and get the iftar area ready. I'm trying to get off the caffeine habit (a huge mug of very strong tea every morning bouncygrins) by drinking a normal size mug of tea every day for the next few days, then I will further reduce it to a normal size mug every other day.  This way there is less of a chance I will get a headache from the caffeine withdrawal.  May you all achieve your goals for this generous month.
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jannah
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« Reply #2 on: Aug 20, 2008 10:42 PM »

This is reallly nice ma'shaAllah. Learned some new stuff I didn't know too!! Kinda sad it was written by the gov't but doubt any Muslim group would have been able to do it, but would be nice if APPNA or Muslims Physicians etc group would do something like this in the U.S.

http://www.sct.nhs.uk/files/Diversity/Ramadan_Health_Guide.pdf
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Sr.Kathy
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« Reply #3 on: Aug 21, 2008 03:52 AM »

Very nice- thanks for posting. So many people think it is harmful...especially a for a teenager. More articles on the benefits of fasting would be appreciative!
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« Reply #4 on: Aug 21, 2008 06:49 PM »

Assalamo elikuim
Thanks for posting - although all the food mentioned in "Fodd to be avoided" are the ones that I like SadSmiley
Wasalam
tq
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« Reply #5 on: Aug 21, 2008 08:07 PM »

wsalaam,

hehe i know!!! i read the "foods to be avoided in ramadan" and it's like samosas pakoras etc etc ALL things people make especially for ramadan!! D'OH. but so true this is why we have such high cholesterol/bloodpressure/heart attacks in our community Sad
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« Reply #6 on: Sep 02, 2008 06:21 PM »

The Medical Benefits of Taraweeh Prayers
Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph.D

Muslims derive therapeutic and spiritual benefits starting from the Wudu to the physical movements in the Salat - Takbir, Qiyam, Ruku, Sajda, Jalsa, and Tasleems. Muslims perform five daily contact prayers (Salat) and voluntary prayers (Sunnah, Nafl) throughout the year and Taraweeh prayers during the month of Ramadan. This results in moderate physical exercise particularly to every muscle in the body. Some muscles contract isometrically (same length) and some contract in approximation or isotonically (same tension). The energy needed for the muscle during exercise is met by a process known as glycogenolysis. The rate of muscle metabolism increases during the performance of Salat, resulting in a relative deficiency of oxygen and muscle nutrients. In turn this deficiency causes vasodilation - an increase in the calibre of blood vessels - thereby allowing blood to flow easily back to the heart. The temporarily increased load on the heart acts to strengthen the heart muscle and to improve the circulation within the heart muscle.

During the month of Ramadan, additional prayers are performed after salatul Ishaa, called Taraweeh prayers which vary from 8 rakat (unit of prayer) to 20 rakat with a few minutes break after every 4 rakat for chanting and extolling the Majesty of Allah. After Iftar (breaking of fast) the blood glucose level continues to rise from the food ingested. Just before the Iftar meals, the blood glucose and insulin levels are at their lowest level. After an hour or so after the Iftar meal, the blood glucose begins to rise and also plasma insulin. Liver and the muscles take up the circulating glucose. The blood sugar reaches high levels in an hour or two and the benefits of Taraweeh prayers come into effect. The circulating glucose is metabolised into carbon dioxide and water during the Taraweeh prayers.

Hence the Taraweeh prayers help in expending the extra calories and improve flexibility, coordination, reduce stress-related autonomic responses in healthy persons, and relieve anxiety and depression.

Physical and Emotional Well-Being
The gentle exercises performed in Taraweeh prayers improve physical fitness, emotional well-being and increase the longevity of the Namazi (one who performs the Salat or Namaz). When a little extra effort is made, as in performing the Taraweeh prayers, there will be a betterment in the endurance, stamina, in flexibility and strength. It was noted that the five daily prayers (Salat) produce the same physiological changes without any undesirable side effects as those produced by jogging or walking at about three miles per hour. Recent research studies performed on 17,000 Harvard alumni who entered college between 1916-1950 give strong evidence that only moderate aerobic exercise, equivalent to jogging about 3 miles a day, promotes good health and may actually add years to life. Men who expended about 2000 kcal of energy on a weekly basis (equal to a daily 30-minute walk, run, cycle, swim, etc.,) had one-quarter to one-third lower death rates than classmates who did little or no exercise. In addition to the health-boosting qualities of the Salat, the Namazi will be trained to be ever ready for any unexpected physical exertion such as sudden lifting of children, chairs, or catching a public transportation vehicle. The elderly will accomplish this more securely and efficiently. Hence this is an advantage for the elderly to maintain their physical fitness for a longer period of time. It has been observed that those who fast and perform the Taraweeh prayers report feeling much convalescing and robust.

The Elderly
As human beings grow older, their physiological activity diminishes, as a result their bones become thinner and if not taken care of will suffer from osteoporosis (which causes the fractures of the bones when they fall in the elderly due to a loss of bone mineral content and consequent sponginess of the bones. The bone then becomes structurally unstable, brittle and susceptible to fractures). Primary osteoporosis is most common among postmenopausal (due to reduction in oestrogen) women or those who have undergone a bilateral oophorectomy (both the ovaries removed). Women are six times more likely than men to develop Type I osteoporosis. The three major prevention strategies of osteoporosis are a high dietary intake of calcium and vitamin D, regular exercise and oestrogen replacement in postmenopausal women. The skin also becomes fragile and crinkled. The repair processes of the body become slower and immune responses are decreased. In the elderly their physical activity is reduced as a result they have lower levels of Insulin Growth Factor 1. Reserve functions of all vital organs decrease and the elderly are more susceptible to mishaps and ailments. Because of repeated and regular movements of the body during Salat the muscle strength, tendon power, joint flexibility and the cardiovascular reserve are improved. Hence Salat and Taraweeh prayers enable the elderly to enrich the quality of life and to meet with unforeseen difficulties such as falls which could injure their bodies. Therefore Taraweeh prayers will improve their endurance, self-respect and self-confidence in being self-reliant.

Adrenaline is secreted even by minor activity. The secretion outlasts the incitement. Even after the Taraweeh prayers are over the effects of adrenaline and noradrenaline are manifest. (Adrenaline also called epinephrine is produced by the adrenal glands. The middle part of these glands, the adrenal medulla, secretes the hormone, which is chemically almost identical to the transmitter substance noradrenaline produced at the ends of sympathetic nerves. Adrenaline secretion into the bloodstream in stress causes acceleration of the heart, constriction of arterioles, and dilation of the pupils. In addition, adrenaline produces a marked increase in metabolic rate thus preparing the body for emergency.) Even the thought or the intention of performing the Taraweeh prayers is sufficient to activate the sympathetic nervous system. Sympathetic nervous system (thoraco-lumbar nervous system) is one of the two division of the autonomic nervous system, which supplies motor nerves to the smooth muscles of internal organs and to the heart muscle. Sympathetic nerve fibres arise via spinal nerves in the thoracic and lumbar regions. Their endings release mainly adrenaline, which increases heart rate and breathing rate, raises blood pressure, and slows digestive processes, thereby preparing the body for "fight or flight" and antagonising the effects of the sympathetic nervous system. The adrenaline would redistribute the blood in the body to the active muscles, would mobilise liver glycogen if necessary in order to provide glucose for the active tissues, would diminish fatigue in skeletal muscles and would facilitate alveolar ventilation relaxing bronchiolar muscle, and would initiate cardiovascular changes. Exercise induces a more effective functioning of beta-adrenoreceptors located on cell membranes.

Beneficial effects of Gentle Exercise
The Taraweeh prayer is considered to be gentle exercise. The beneficial effects of gentle exercise on the body are many which are elaborated here.

Effects on Skeletal Muscle
Once muscles atrophy inspite of the availability of ample proteins. During the Salat and Taraweeh, every muscle in the body contracts isotnically and others isometrically. This gentle exercise also enhances endurance and diminishes tiredness. It helps the incapacitated to make the most of their remnant capabilities. The blood flow in strung muscle is low. During the prayers the blood flow is greatly increased to the muscles. Blood flow sometimes increases even before the start of Taraweeh prayers, with just the thought of performing the Taraweeh prayers. In addition to needing fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, the human body requires minerals such as Potassium for nerve and muscle activity. It is found in fruits, meats, seafood and milk. Potassium deficiency leads to muscular and neurologic disorders. Potassium is also important in the transmission of nerve impulses and is a major positive ion in intracellular fluids. Potassium is involved in cellular enzyme activities, and it helps regulate the chemical reactions by which carbohydrates is converted to energy and amino acids are converted to protein. Also Potassium ions cause vasodilation of arterioles. During the Taraweeh prayers, systolic Blood pressure may rise (the larger number in B.P.) a little and the diastolic Blood Pressure(the lower number in B.P.) may remain unchanged or even fall. However after the Taraweeh prayers are over, the B.P. may drop to just below normal levels which is a welcome sign. Taraweeh prayers improve respiratory efficiency; circulation in the capillaries surrounding the alveoli, or air sacs, is increased, and this brings about enhanced gas exchange and deeper breathing. The increase in the maximal consumption of oxygen is what makes the Namazi feel better. Those who perform the Taraweeh prayers, apart from the prescribed Salat, are more alert and active than those who do not perform the Taraweeh prayers, even after the age of retirement. Taraweeh prayers improve physical strength and joint stability and reduce the risk of injury to the tendons and connective tissues. After age 40, the bone mineral density falls with age. Taraweeh prayers increase bone mineral density in both menopausal and in elderly women and prevents osteoporosis and maintains normalcy in bone structures. Osteoporosis results in hip fractures in women after menopause and in elderly men. The risk of osteoporosis is substantially reduced by regular Salat and Taraweeh prayers. The prayers improve lubrication of joints, movement, and maintain flexibility. Deep vein thrombosis (the most common cause of ulceration of the legs in the elderly) is prevented by performing Salat and Taraweeh prayers.

Metabolic Effects
Salat improves body weight control and expend calories without proportionate increase in appetite. A combination of moderate dietary restriction, both at the Iftar and Sahur (early morning breakfast before the start of fast) meals, accompanied by the Taraweeh prayers, should achieve weight reduction. This will also reduce both fat and body weight, but fat-free weight will remain constant or may even increase slightly. Hence during Ramadan one should not overeat at the Sahur and Iftar meals and continue to perform Salat and Taraweeh prayers in order to lose some of the excess weight.

It is well known that exercise prevents coronary heart disease (CHD), increases high density lipo-proteins (HDL or healthy Cholesterol), increases maximum oxygen uptake, slows the heart, lowers the B.P. slightly, decreases ventricular ectopic activity, enlarges the lumen of the coronary arteries and increases cardiac output. Exercise also improves carbohydrate tolerance and improves late-onset diabetes, and helps cases of chronic respiratory diseases. Beneficial changes have been recorded in the lipid profile, B.P., clotting factors, weight reduction and insulin sensitivity of muscles and other tissues in persons who exercise regularly. Growth Hormone secretion is elevated by fasting and it is further elevated by Taraweeh prayers. As Growth Hormone is necessary for collagen formation, this may be an important factor as to why the skin of those who fast regularly during Ramadan and perform the Taraweeh prayers do not get wrinkled, even when they grow old.

Mental Health
It is a known fact that exercise improves mood, thought and behaviour. Exercise improves the quality of life, induces greater sense of well-being and energy, reduces anxiety and depression, influences mood favourably and contributes to self-esteem and an aura of confidence; improves memory in the elderly especially with constant repetition of the Ayaat (verses) from the Glorious Quran and other Ayaat which exalt His Glory. This constant repetition of the Quranic Ayaat would help to screen the mind from the incoming thoughts. It has been found by a Harvard University researcher, Dr. Herbert Benson that repetition of a prayer, Ayaat of the Quran or remembrance (Dhikr) of Allah or muscular activity coupled with passive disregard of intensive thoughts causes a "relaxation response" that leads to the lowering of Blood Pressure and decreases in oxygen consumption and a reduction in heart and respiratory rates. All these are combined in the Taraweeh prayer which is an ideal condition for "relaxation response." It combines repeated muscular activity with repetition of Salat, chanting of words of glorification of Allah and of supplications. The Taraweeh prayer puts the mind in a relaxed state. This calm state of the mind may be partly due to the release of encephalins, beta-endorphins (endogenous morphines) and others into the blood circulation. Endorphins are any one of the neuropeptides composed of many amino acids, elaborated by the pituitary gland and acting on the central and peripheral nervous systems to reduce pain. Endorphins are categorised as alpha-endorphin, beta-endorphin, and gamma-endorphin which produce pharmacologic effects similar to morphine. Beta-endorphin found in the brain and GI(gastro-intestinal) tract is the most potent of the endorphins and is a powerful analgesic(pain killer) in humans and animals. For example during childbirth many women release endorphins reducing a woman's sensation of pain. The release of endorphins is associated with an euphoria. During childbirth, women who give birth with little or no medication sometimes label this euphoria a "birth climax."

ConclusionIslam is the only religion where physical movements of Salat and Taraweeh prayers are combined with spiritual exercise. When Salat and Taraweeh prayers are practised throughout a person's life, recurring every few hours or so, trains a person to undertake the difficult task of meditation during physical manoeuvres of Salat and Taraweeh prayers, so that the Namazi(one who performs the Salat) benefits both from spiritual as well as physical exercise. Salat and Taraweeh prayers are unique in that tension builds up in the muscles during physical manoeuvres on the one hand, while tension is relieved in the mind due to the spiritual ingredient, on the other hand. The following benefits have been noted among those who perform the Taraweeh prayers: burning off calories and losing weight, maintaining muscle tone and body composition, joint flexibility (stiff joints are often the result of disuse, not arthritis), increasing metabolic rate, improving circulation, improving heart and lung function and aerobic capacity, decreasing heart disease risk profile, increasing your sense of self-control, reducing your level of stress, increasing your ability to concentrate, improving your appearance, reducing depression and resistance to depression, helping you sleep better and suppressing your appetite. Evidence is also accumulating that those who perform regular Salat along with voluntary prayers can conserve and actually retard the loss of bone mass in the elderly, thus staving off the ravages of osteoporosis that afflicts both men and women. It is also possible to retard the aging process and confer some protection to health in later life. Those who have performed Salat (Fard and Wajib), Sunnah and Nafl and Taraweeh prayers throughout life get protection and a positive effect in terms of health and longevity. They reverse the life-shortening effects of cigarette smoking and excess body weight. Even people with high blood pressure (a primary heart disease risk) reduced their death rate by one-half and their risk of dying from any of the major diseases is reduced. They also counter genetic tendencies toward an early death.

Hence Salat (Fard, Wajib), Sunnah, Nafl and Taraweeh prayers are necessary for Muslims to preserve life and their desirable qualities into old age.
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"Do not treat people with contempt, nor walk insolently on the earth. Allah does not love the arrogant or the self-conceited boaster. Be modest in your bearing and subdue your voice, for the most unpleasant of voices is the braying of the ass." [The Holy Qur'an, Surah Luqman - 31:18-19]

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« Reply #7 on: Sep 03, 2008 03:56 PM »

Muslims, doctors find ways to balance physical, spiritual health during Ramadan fasting
Medical advances help faithful follow scripture with fewer risks


By Robert Mitchum | Chicago Tribune reporter
10:56 PM CDT, August 31, 2008
For Muslims such as Nadia Aslam, the tradition of fasting from dawn to dusk during the lunar month of Ramadan is a treasured experience of sacrifice and spiritual resolve.

"There's a different feeling in Ramadan. I just feel closer to God," said Aslam, 26, who lives in Glendale Heights.

But when Aslam entered Ramadan seven months pregnant in 2006, she faced the difficult decision of whether it would be in the best interests of her and her unborn child to observe the tradition of going without food, drink or medication during the daylight hours of 29 or 30 days.

For the first three days of Ramadan, Aslam said she followed the example of older relatives and tried to fast, but she found that it made her feel lightheaded and ill. When she consulted her obstetrician, her doctor recommended that she end the fast, news that Aslam initially found difficult to take despite the Quran, Islam's holy book, giving pregnant women an exemption from fasting.




Tribune religion page "It was disappointing because fasting is one of the main things we are supposed to do in Ramadan," Aslam said. "But in the end, I felt she was right . . . I knew that in the end it was best for the baby."

But in an example of scientific innovation helping to facilitate traditional practices, doctors more often are using advances in medical technology to help Muslims struggling with chronic illnesses to fast during Ramadan, which starts on Monday, without consequences. And while consensus is sometimes difficult to find, some Islamic scholars have reassessed whether certain medical treatments are a violation of the rules for fasting.

"It is a balance," said Dr. Mohammed Zaher Sahloul, a pulmonary, critical care and sleep specialist in Oak Lawn. "We want to give them the chance to do it because of the blessing and reward they expect to get. But at the same time, we don't want them to have complications or problems related to health issues."

The Quran scripture that describes the traditional Ramadan fast allows some exemptions, reflecting the religion's overarching belief that Muslims should not harm their bodies, even for spiritual practices. Those unable to fast—including travelers, children and breast-feeding and menstruating women—are expected to make up the fasting later or make a donation to help feed the impoverished.

"In no way should you be hurting your body during the process of fasting," said Dr. Hafizur Rehman, a pediatrician and president of the Islamic Medical Association of North America. "Fasting is for you to come closer to God, to feel godliness and to feel the pain and hunger of other people in that process. But it has to be reasonable. God is not looking to punish you in any way. He is looking to bring you closer to him."

For Muslims suffering from severe chronic illnesses that would be exacerbated by fasting, the decision not to fast is usually clear, Rehman said. But Muslims with diseases such as diabetes or asthma that must be controlled with regular medication face a tougher choice, and often consult both doctors and religious scholars about whether they should observe the annual fast.

Dr. Hussain Sattar, a pathologist at the University of Chicago and part-time Islamic scholar, said he is approached by as many as 20 people each year with questions about whether it is spiritually proper for them to fast or not because of a medical condition.

"You get two extremes in that circumstance," Sattar said. "One extreme is that a person may try to get out of the fast because they really don't want to do it and use the illness as excuse. But the other extreme is a patient who so badly wants to fast, and even though ill, they will try to fast."

Doctors say they usually come across the latter case, forcing creative strategies and the adjustment of medication schedules to meet the Quran's requirement that no substance pass the throat during fasting.

Rehman, who is diabetic and said he has fasted for the last 20 Ramadans with no complications, makes sure that the diabetics he treats change the timing and dose of insulin injections and closely monitor their blood-sugar levels throughout the daylight hours.

For patients struggling with high blood pressure, heart disease or other illnesses requiring regular medication, the development of longer-acting pharmaceuticals that don't need to be taken as frequently have helped more patients fast, Sahloul said.

"Technology may make it actually easier for patients to fast in the future than it was previously," Sahloul said. "The trend now is to shift to longer-acting medicines and shift to patches instead of oral medication. It will make it much easier for patients to fast if they are taking one pill a day instead of three or four."

But exactly which treatments are allowed during the daylight hours remains a matter of debate within the Islamic community. The use of inhalers by asthmatics, for instance, was ruled to not break the fast by a meeting of Muslim experts and doctors in Morocco in 1997, Sahloul said. But Sattar said he advises people that inhalers should not be used by fasting Muslims, because it would allow particles to enter the throat.

Regardless of debates over suitable treatments, Dr. Memoona Hasnain, director of family medicine research at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said that open communication between patient and doctor is crucial to prevent Muslims from putting themselves at risk by fasting. Hasnain—who, like Nadia Aslam, once tried to fast while pregnant but stopped after advice from her doctor—said religious respect is especially critical in cases where a Muslim may be asking advice from a non-Muslim physician.

"There needs to be more work done to develop that trust between western clinicians and Muslim patients," Hasnain said. "Doctors need to be sympathetic to patients, willing to listen and accommodate their beliefs as much as possible. But the most important thing is the well-being of the patient."

rmitchum@tribune.com

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-ramadan-01-sep01,0,6862837.story
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« Reply #8 on: Sep 18, 2008 09:27 AM »

Why Religious Fasting Could Be Good for Your Brain

Ramadan is in its third week now, and the required dawn-to-dusk fasting often feels like a daily mini–marathon. By late afternoon, hunger and thirst have sucked me dry, leaving me sleepy, slow-minded, and sometimes short-tempered.

I know that the purpose of fasting is spiritual—God will reward us in the next life—but in this lifetime, fasting sometimes makes me an ineffective, irritable person. So I was excited to learn that Harvard psychiatrist John Ratey, MD, had spoken at a recent Renaissance Weekend event about how caloric restriction can improve brain function.

I emailed Dr. Ratey to find out if those benefits might extend to religious fasting, and he sent me a 2006 paper on the brain functioning of men during the Ramadan fast. The researchers studied a small group of healthy men during and after the holy month, looking at their brain activity via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). They concluded that “all individual results showed consistent and significant increase of activity in the motor cortex during fasting.”

Other research shows similar results
That research builds on the work of other scientists, including Mark Mattson, PhD, who heads a neuroscience lab at the NIH’s National Institute on Aging. Mattson has done important research on how dietary restrictions can significantly protect the brain from degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

In a 2003 article, Mattson and others reported that rats who were deprived of food every other day, or restricted to a diet at 30% to 50% of normal calorie levels, showed not only decreased heart rates and blood pressure, but also “younger” brains, with “numerous age-related changes in gene expression.”

Mattson and his colleagues also shared data from research on humans, which shows that populations with higher caloric intakes—such as the United States and Europe—have a greater prevalence of Alzheimer’s than do populations that eat less—such as China and Japan. The authors speculate that humans may have adapted to conditions of feast and famine; the stress of having little food, they write, “may induce changes in gene expression that result in adaptive changes in cellular metabolism and the increased ability of the organism to reduce stress.”

Although this research is relatively new, with many questions left unanswered, the authors conclude that “it seems a safe bet that if people would incorporate a spartan approach to food intake into their lifestyles, this would greatly reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and stroke.” (Of course, how this recommendation translates for individual people remains almost a complete unknown; consult with your own doctor before restricting your diet in dramatic ways.)

But here’s the hard part: Although we know eating too much leads to all sorts of health problems, “it has proven very difficult to successfully implement prolonged dietary-restriction regimens,” reports Mattson and his team. Information and doctor’s orders are rarely enough motivation.

This last observation gave me hope, because it seemed the authors were overlooking the role of religion; it can inspire people in ways information or experts don’t. Would I be undergoing this rigorous month of fasting unless I believed strongly it was the right thing for me to do? Probably not. And the same goes for millions of Muslims around the world.

And many other religions include fasting or dietary restrictions as part of their religious observances. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons, for example, fast one Sunday a month. The Orthodox Church in America notes five separate fasting seasons on its website, in addition to individual fast days; during some of these fasts, all food is restricted, and during other fasts, only certain foods are off-limits. Some Roman Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays, and all do during Lent. Many types of Buddhist monks abide by a code that prohibits eating after noon each day.

Science may only now be discovering that some of these religious practices, both ancient and modern, offer nourishment not just for the soul, but for the body as well.




Source:
pokedandprodded.health.com/2008/09/17/why-ramadan-might-be-good-for-your-brain/
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« Reply #9 on: Aug 19, 2009 12:08 AM »

Fit for Fasting
Emel Issue 59 August

The long summer days during Ramadan mean that we should all ensure a more beneficial month of fasting. Dr Noreen A. Kassem suggests some tips for a healthy holy month.

 

This year the lunar month of Ramadan falls in August and September, which means that the days will be much longer and hotter than they have been in a long time. Fasting will prove even more of a challenge for many of us, so it is vital to take extra steps to look after our health. Preparing for the day ahead at the dawn time meal, and making sure we eat the right foods at the sunset meal will ensure we make the most of a blessed and beautiful month.
 

 

 
Balance your meals

Make sure that your suhoor meal is the largest meal of the day. Avoiding heavy foods and overeating in the evening allows for a larger meal in the morning.

 

 
Cut caffeine

Limit coffee, tea and fizzy drinks as their caffeine content makes your body lose water.  

 

 
Avoid brain fog

Get your essential fats, such as those in fish, cheese and meats to avoid midday brain fog.  

 

 
Avoid dehydration

It is very important to drink plenty of water in the pre-dawn meal (suhoor) before fasting and when breaking the fast at dusk.

 

 
Foods to avoid

Avoid simple carbohydrates such as cookies, cakes, crackers, chips, potatoes, white bread, white rice and pasta. Also having too much fried, oily and spicy foods will sap your energy and give you a stomach ache.

 

 
Break with dates

Dates are an excellent source of natural sugar, fibre, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. They provide energy and antioxidants.  

 

 
Get energised

To boost energy, have slower digesting foods, such as whole grain breads and cereals like barley and oatmeal. Eggs are a power food because they are enriched with protein and iron for energy and mental stamina.

 
 
Exercise

Take up light activities like beginner’s yoga, walking or cycling. Go for a stroll with your family after iftar. However, to stay hydrated avoid working up a sweat or being outdoors on a hot day.
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« Reply #10 on: Nov 28, 2009 07:04 AM »

Found this 6 part article very interesting. WRitten by a health guru about fasting:

http://www.fitnessspotlight.com/2008/08/11/part-1-what-happens-to-your-body-when-you-fast-energy-production/

It's quite long. Here's a summary.

What happens to your body when you fast?

Recapping The Goodness

First, I’d like to give a quick bullet-point run-down of some of the effects of fasting that I reported on in the last five posts.

    * Liver glycogen levels are depleted within 8-10 hours. Muscle glycogen falls by 50% over 24-hours, even without exercise.
    * After depleting glycogen, amino acids are recycled to be broken down for glycogen through gluconeogenesis.
    * We see increases in three of the four hormones driving lipolysis, indicating a propensity towards fat burning. Somewhere around 12-18 hours, lipolysis becomes a major energy pathway, producing energy from body fat.
    * T3 levels fall slightly, indicating a slightly lower metabolic rate. Urinary nitrogen excretion falls, indicating less catabolism of muscle proteins.
    * Beta-hydroxy butyrate, hGH, and IGF all increase. Proteins that protect cells from stress also increase.
    * Inflammatory markers decrease. Insulin sensitivity improves. AGEs likely decrease.
    * Cancer protection increases, healthy cells are better protected from chemotherapy, and markers of heart disease decrease. General immunity seems to improve.
    * Brain neurons are protected from stressors, BDNF increases (helps grow brain neurons), and the brain is better protected from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases. Fasting after a brain injury lessens the damage of the injury.
    * Exercise during a fast shows a higher rate of fat burning for fuel.
    * Learning is enhanced and jet lag may be reduced.
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