How to care for your health and wellbeing this Ramadan

21 Mar 2024

We spoke to Shabaz Akhtar, PCN Clinical Pharmacist working across surgeries in Bromley, about how you can care for your health whilst observing the holy month of Ramadan:

Image of Shabaz smiling at the camera with his NHS lanyard on.
Shabaz Akhtar, Clinical Pharmacist (Bromley)

“I work with a vast group of patients with different faiths and beliefs. Some of my patients observe Ramadan and have many questions on how to manage their health and what support is available. Ramadan holds profound significance for Muslims worldwide as it marks the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. During this time, Muslims will fast from dawn until sunset. Beyond abstaining from food, drink and other physical needs during daylight hours, Ramadan, for me and many across the world, is a time for spiritual reflection, increased prayer and acts of charity, with a focus on community bonding and integration.

In relation to health, Ramadan is a great opportunity to take care of ourselves and our loved ones. There are several small steps you can take to live a healthier, happier life. Here are some tips that I give my patients.

Ramadan offers us a chance to look at our dietary habits. Try to focus on balanced meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Whilst it’s tempting to indulge in fried and sugary foods during iftar, try to opt for healthier alternatives to prevent bloating. Any slow-release carbohydrates like oats are great for suhoor, as they will help you to stay energised throughout the day.

With long fasting hours, staying hydrated is key. Aim to drink plenty of water during non-fasting hours and limit how much tea and coffee you drink, as caffeinated drinks can make you more dehydrated.

As well as eating well, staying active is essential for maintaining overall health. Try doing some light exercises like walking or stretching. If you feel unwell at any point during fasting, please do speak with your community pharmacist or GP practice for advice.

As part of our efforts to have a healthy Ramadan, don’t forget about attending any routine health appointments or vaccinations. The majority of scholars agree that getting vaccinated does not invalidate fasting. The MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine is particularly important with measles cases continuing to rise in London. Children typically receive their first dose at 1 year old and their second dose at 18 months old in south east London. Two doses are needed for full protection. If you or a family member have missed a vaccination, contact your GP practice to catch up for free.

If you have concerns about taking any other medication this month you can go to your pharmacist or GP practice for support and advice to help you make an informed decision. Healthcare professionals are invaluable in supporting individuals observing Ramadan. For example, they promote education to help manage health conditions, awareness and monitoring. As a pharmacist in practice, I have worked with patients who have been concerned about taking their medication during this month. I have provided advice and support to patients on how best to manage taking their medicines and discuss any safety concerns they may have as well as signposting to relevant literature.

It’s important to remember that we’re here to support you during Ramadan. I wish you a happy and healthy month.”