Digestive Health During Ramadan
As a dietitian, I see many people with digestive problems during the holy month of Ramadan.
Digestive problems can leave you feeling embarrassed, anxious and fatigued – not ideal for what should be a joyous occasion.
In this post, I will explain the different ways in which you can help your digestive symptoms and avoid the bloating and embarrassing symptoms.
1. Focus on Fibre
You should be eating 30g of fibre a day. To do this is just 2 meals is extremely difficult and takes a lot of planning. But without fibre, you can end up bloated and constipated. Fibre can also help with diarrhoea as it bulks up your stool.
Easy ways to increase fibre during Ramadan are;
- Add flaxseed to meals – 1 tablespoon is 3g of fibre.
- Go for wholemeal / wholegrain carbohydrates – oats, wholemeal breads and brown rice.
- Add beans and pulses to meals.
- Add hummus to meals.
- Have ½ plate of vegetables with your Iftah.
- Use fibre supplements such as Fybogel and Psyllium husk to boost intake.
Whatever you do, just increase your intake slowly to avoid bloating.
2. Avoid Large Portions
Large portions can lead to acid reflux. Over time this can result in inflammation and scarring in the oesophagus which could even result in cancer.
It is easy to eat large portions during Ramadan as you go so long without eating. Instead, weigh out your portions.
When eating out, try to have a snack before you go. This can help avoid the urge to over-indulge.
Using your phone to time your Iftah meal over 15-20 minutes can also help. Giving yourself more time will allow your body to tell your brain when you are full before it is too late.
3. Avoid Fatty Foods
Foods which are high in fats take longer to digest and can leave you feeling nauseous. In some people, fatty foods can lead to diarrheoa.
4. Use Dates Wisely
Dates are one of the nation’s favourite traditional foods and are often eaten at both Suhoor and Iftah.
One date contains around 1.6g of fibre which means that they are great for avoiding constipation. However, they also contain a type of carbohydrate known as a fructan. This will ferment in the bowel and give off gas. It can also cause loose bowel motions in some people.
So, let dates be your friend. Have them in moderation!
5. Pick the Right Fluids
Staying hydrated can be difficult with a limited window to be able to drink.
However, dehydration can lead to constipation and sluggish gut. Try to drink around 35mls / kg body weight / day.
Split this over Suhoor and Iftah (with 1/3 being at Suhoor).
Avoid fruit juices and smoothies. These often contain large fructose portions which can lead to diarrhoea and bloating in some.
Also avoid drinking more than 400mg caffeine / day (around 3 cups / day). More than this can stimulate your gut causing stomach cramps and diarrhoea.
6. Get a Gastroenterology Review
If you are on regular medications for your digestion, then you will need advice on how to take these for Ramadan. Simply avoiding them all together could lead to long-term damage of your gut. Instead, think ahead and book in for a review.
You will also need to see the gastroenterologist if you have new symptoms during this period.