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Ramadan 2021: Tips For A Stronger Immune System When Fasting

The holy month of Ramadan has begun on 14 April, and people who observe the ritual fast from dawn to dusk for the entire month. The fasting ritual is called 'roza' in India. The festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, is going to be celebrated on 14 May.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been concerns over the practice of fasting, where people are concerned whether fasting may increase their susceptibility to respiratory illness. When you are fasting - that is, depriving your body of food and nutrients, your body becomes weak, making you prone to diseases. However, that is not entirely true.

Fasting can help improve your overall health. The benefits of fasting are that it can help control blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, hypertension, obesity, inflammation in the body, decrease blood sugar levels and increase metabolism [1]. Some studies show that fasting is also good for mental health. It can reduce depression, anxiety and the risk of dementia.

So, how can you fast in a safe way, that is, how to have a stronger immune system when fasting in Ramadan? Let's take a look.

The Importance Of A Strong Immune System

Our body's immune system is responsible for protecting us from diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, and toxins. A well-functioning immune system help removes foreign bodies and malignant cells from the system. It helps regulate the immune responses against harmless external triggers such as food or the bodies' tissue.

Individuals who have pre-existing illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory issues are at a higher risk of having COVID-19 complications because these conditions affect the immune system by making it weak and increasing the chances of contracting diseases such as COVID-19 [2].

And now, for a second consecutive year, Muslims around the world are observing the holy month of Ramadan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Fasting during the holy month gives you a chance to cleanse your body and flush out all the toxins [3].

As mentioned before, most people doubt whether to fast during COVID times or not. Worry not, because doctors say that it is completely safe to fast during times of COVID-19 if you do it the right way. Here are some essential tips to consider when fasting this Ramadan month.

Tips For A Healthy Immune System During Fasting In COVID Era

Fasting for 12+ hours during the day and getting up in the middle of the night can be a challenge, so is the added challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is some expert advice to have the healthiest Ramadan possible while keeping your immune system strong.

Do not skip on Suhur/Sahur: Don't just wait for the iftar; make sure you get up in the morning for your Suhur (Suhur is the meal consumed early in the morning by Muslims before fasting (sawm), before dawn). Having two meals during your fasting month allows the immune system to be more active because this permits your body to focus its energy on one at a time, promoting better digestion as well [4]. While sleeping in sounds perfect, it will affect your immune system negatively as your r body will be stressed due to a prolonged period of hunger.

Avoid fried foods: Not all fried foods are unhealthy but consuming fried foods during your fasting season can affect your gut and heart health [5]. During fasting, avoid eating fried potato chips, deep-fried tikkis, vada, gulgule, pakodas and puris.

Increase fluid intake: Increase your liquid intake by including different types of beverages in your diet. You can start your day with a detox drink and continue drinking it throughout the day. Coconut water, lemon juice, mint juice, green tea are some other good options. Maintain a 2-litre white water intake or the equivalent of 8-9 glasses a day [6].

Here are more important tips to consider while fasting for Ramadan:

  • In the early morning (Suhur time), eat complex carbohydrates and fibres that take a long time to digest as it will help keep you feeling full throughout the day. Eat foods such as brown rice, potatoes, whole wheat bread, grains, beans, oats, and sweet potatoes [7].
  • Limit sugar consumption to no more than four tablespoons because it can affect immune cells' ability to fight off infections.
  • Avoid consuming foods with high trans-fat content (baked goods, cookies, french fries, doughnuts etc.).
  • Reduce foods or drinks that contain simple carbohydrates, such as foods or drinks that are too sweet.
  • Consume fruits, such as watermelons, papayas, melons, oranges, dragon fruit etc.
  • Make it a point to consume green vegetables, as well as broccoli and carrots, for immunity.
  • For protein, consume fish, eggs, chicken, meat, tempeh, and tofu.
  • Get enough rest at least 8 hours a day.
  • DO NOT starve yourself.
  • Consume a variety of food, including lots of different coloured vegetables, fruits, pulses and legumes, as well as fermented foods.
  • Both under- and over-eating can affect the immune system, so make sure your meals are balanced.

Note: Fasting doesn't necessarily increase their risk of developing COVID-19 or catching the virus responsible for it. You can also get the vaccine and take a COVID-19 test while fasting.

Fasting Can Boost Your Immunity

Studies have pointed out that fasting is beneficial to the immune system or immunity and, there is no proof that fasting increases the risk of Covid-19 infection [8]. As observed, a fast can help repair damaged cell tissues; fasting for 30 days can stimulate the production of new white blood cells. This, in turn, help regenerate your entire immune system, further strengthening the body in preventing the onset of various bacterial and viral infections and other diseases.

It is important to keep note of the nutritional intake, as that plays a major role in influencing your immunity. Fasting can also reduce body fat mass, as excess fat in the body can damage the balance of the human immune system [9][10].

On A Final Note...

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, health experts have pointed out that, while it is crucial to mention hygiene standards like washing your hands frequently - it is equally important to improve your immunity.

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