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Ramadan, which began on April 2 and lasts for 30 days,  is a special time for reflection, self-improvement, kindness and spirituality – and fasting is one of the key pillars of the Muslim Holy Month, with those observing Ramadan fasting from dawn to dusk.

Fasting can be done safely if you take the necessary precautions— especially for those with certain medical conditions. If you will be taking part in Ramadan, here are some helpful tips to ensure you stay in good health throughout the month.

Stay hydrated.

Try drinking fluid several times throughout the night, even if you aren’t feeling too thirsty—thirst is a signal that your body is ALREADY dehydrated. Choose fluids that don’t contain caffeine because caffeinated drinks can be dehydrating. Remember, breaking your fast at Iftar (the evening meal after sunset) with water not only is traditional, it ensures that you get the best source of hydration into your body before becoming distracted with food.

Variety is the spice of life.

Eat a variety of foods during the evening. Now, more than ever, your body needs good nourishment to compensate for the stress of fasting. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean protein, healthy fat (fat from plants, like olive oil and nuts)—all of these are important to give your body all the nutrients it needs.

Portion size is important.

It takes the body about 20 minutes to register that it’s had enough to eat. So don’t go overboard with eating during Iftar. Eating mindfully and listening for when your hunger is actually satisfied puts less stress on your body and gives you more energy than eating huge amounts at one time.

Start your day after Suhoor.

Sleeping right after Suhoor (the morning meal before sunrise) can cause several digestive problems because your body’s working harder to digest food. Even lying for a while without actually sleeping can provoke problems such as acid reflux. It’s important to hydrate well at Suhoor and to avoid caffeine and foods high in fat.

Keep moving.

Though fasting can be physically exhausting, try not to be completely sedentary. If you typically work out during the morning, see how your body feels if you switch exercise to the evening after breaking your fast. Strenuous exercise is not a good idea during the day because you can quickly become dehydrated. Think small—short easy walks (to classes or doing errands) or a few stretches can go a long way in keeping your energy up during the day.

Find what works for you.

Depending on your sleeping schedule, you may want to experiment with how often and when you eat to keep your energy up. Which raises a (somewhat obvious) point…

Trust how your body feels.

Every person is individual and may feel best with different ways of eating. If you’re having trouble with fasting and these tips don’t work for you, talk with a dietitian or other health care provider to get more specific advice based on your situation*.

*Note: The following are usually considered exempt from fasting during Ramadan:

  • Young children
  • Menstruating, pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • People who are traveling long distances
  • Those who have acute illness
  • Those with a chronic illness who would be harmed by a fast (e.g., diabetes)
  • Frail or elderly people

Source: Cornell Health

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