Ramadan Mubarak to those of you celebrating this holy month. For those of you who haven’t guessed it just from my name, I am a Muslim. Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and it is compulsory for all Muslims over a certain age to participate in.
During this month, we cannot eat or drink while the sun is up, so we are up early to eat and drink before sunrise and then we wait until sunset when we can break our fasts. This can be especially challenging when the days are long and hot.
However, even though Ramadan is compulsory, there are times where people can be exempted from participating. These exemptions included; when you’re traveling long distances, if you’re pregnant, if you’re on your period, if you haven’t started puberty yet and if you are sick.
This brings me onto my next point nicely. If you’re sick then you need food and drink to recover and without it you will just make yourself worse, but what if you suffer from a chronic illness such as IBD? Well if you suffer from a chronic illness this is still considered as being sick and so you should not fast. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t and some people including myself have been able to fast while suffering from a chronic illness.
So, if you’re planning to fast and you have a chronic illness I’ll share with you my top tips with you which would hopefully help you through the whole month of Ramadan.
1. Don’t change your medication routine: If you have a set medication routine, my biggest advice is do not change that to fit with sunrise and sunset if you’re on oral medications. There was a time where I was on a few different tablets and my usual routine was to stagger them through the day, so I wouldn’t suffer from the side effects as much. I thought I’d found a loop hole by taking all my medicine before sunrise and then the rest at sunset. How wrong was I?! This made me worse and much sicker as fasting all day deprived me of the very little energy I had especially as I have fatigue.
2. Find ways to participate: Remember Ramadan is not just about fasting. There are other ways in which you can participate and benefit by doing good deeds. You can volunteer at a homeless shelter, prepare food and drink for the less fortunate, read more Qu’ran, the list is endless. The whole point of Ramadan is not to show that you can go through the month without eating and drinking but it’s to get closer to God and feel and see how fortunate you are to have what you have, especially your health!
3. Stay hydrated: If you’re able to fast with or without a chronic illness one of the most difficult things to deal with is thirst. Try and stay as well hydrated as you can by taking on as much fluid before you start your fast, but don’t down bottles of water minutes before sunrise, try and stagger the amount you drink. Staying hydrated can be very important if you have a stoma or fistulas as they can cause you to lose more water than you would usually do if you didn’t have one.
4. Pace yourself: For those of you who have fasted and gorged yourself to the point where you can’t move when breaking your fast raise your hand. *Raises hand*. Yep, I’ve done it, we’ve all done it and we all know how uncomfortable that fullness feeling can be. Even though you would be hungry and thirsty, try and pace yourself. Try avoiding fizzy and sugary drinks as these will make you ‘crash’ and feel even more tired, so try sticking to water with either wedges of lemon or lime in it. Try and also avoid sugary, oily/greasy and spicy foods that can make you feel heavy and can cause constipation and diarrhoea.
5. Don’t feel guilty if you break your fast: If you’re fasting there may come a point where you reach your limit. Do not try and fight through it as you will most likely make yourself sicker, possible faint and end up in hospital. If you reach this limit there is no shame in breaking your fast early and do not feel guilty if you do. I have broken my fast early before and I would feel embarrassed that I couldn’t go through the day but remember that we are sick to begin with and while we are not supposed to fast you should celebrate the fact that you’ve managed to do it a little bit.
6. Let work know: If you’re worried about managing your fast at work, make your work aware that you will be fasting and see if you’re able to change your hours to help you manage. I know this is kind of contradictory to my first point especially if you have a medication routine but if you’re able to change from doing the day shift to the night shift or maybe even start work later and finish later then you may find this suit you better while keeping your medication routine. It can also give you the opportunity to stay well rested.
I hope some of those tips will help those of you fasting even if you don’t have a chronic illness, but I can’t stress the importance of discussing fasting with your IBD doctors or your GP. If you’re are fasting I wish you all a blessed month.