Keeping hydrated during Ramadan is important for keeping your body healthy.
The month of Ramadan holds great significance for millions of Muslims across the world, including those living in the Gulf.
This special period, marked by a month-long fast stringently observed daily from sunrise to sunset, is deeply connected to the noble act of sacrifice. However, while there is no doubt about the spiritual benefits of this practice, the health risks of staying away from food and water as well as disrupted sleep and eating patterns is linked to a number of health conditions such as dehydration, indigestion and fatigue.
“Dehydration is a common problem seen in patients who visit us during Ramadan,” says Dr Mohamed Berer, the medical director at Medeor 24×7 Hospital in Dubai. “The fact that Ramadan falls during the summer this year also raises concerns. The unrelenting heat, harsh sunlight and longer days don’t make it easy for people who fast. When you add dehydration, fatigue and weakness to the equation, you can have several health complications, including kidney stones and urinary tract infections (UTIs) in both men and women,” he says.
The leading cause of kidney stones is a lack of water or hydration, which is common during Ramadan, explains Dr Deepak Janardhanan, specialist urologist at Medeor 24×7 Hospital.
“Stones are commonly seen in people who consume less than the suggested eight to 10 glasses of water a day,” he says.
“When there is not enough water to dilute the uric acid, which is found in urine, the pH (alkaline) level within the kidneys lowers and becomes more acidic. A highly acidic environment in the kidneys is linked to the incidence of kidney stones. People who consume a protein-rich diet are also at risk.”
According to Dr Janardhanan, these stones, which consist of calcium oxalate, are formed due to the collection of dissolved minerals found in the kidneys. These deposits can be anything from the size of a pea to a small ball. These are often very small and pass out of the body through the urinary tract. Sometimes they cause a lot of pain while doing so. If they don’t exit, they can block the flow of urine, causing severe pain, among other complications.
“This is exactly why we recommend proper hydration of up to three litres of fluids a day, and a low protein and salt diet outside of fasting hours,” says Dr Berer.
“We recommend water and fruit juices to energise the body, quench thirst and ingest a host of vitamins and minerals that build immunity. People should also avoid too much coffee when you are fasting, as it is a diuretic and may stimulate further water loss. Drinking lemonade, with less sugar, reduces the risk of kidney stones, as it increases the natural citrate level in the body, which in turn, stops stones from forming.
It’s also important to pay attention to symptoms that could indicate the presence of kidney stones.
“Severe pain in the groin, blood or pus in urine, burning sensation during urination and a frequent urge to urinate are all signs that are linked to kidney stones. In such a situation, visit a medical professional immediately. Treatment includes pain-control medications and other drugs to facilitate the flow of urine,” reveals Dr Janardhanan.
Urinary tract infections are another common problem seen in women who observe fasting during Ramadan. If left unchecked, UTIs can affect the kidneys.
“The most common cause is when bacteria make their way into the urethra. The heat and humidity encourage the growth of the bacteria, causing an infection that comprises the bladder. The other important cause is the lack of water to flush out the bacteria before it affects the bladder. Together, these conditions can cause the infection to worsen. UTI infections can be controlled with medication,” he says.
“We also recommend eating less spicy or salty food, which affect the pH levels of urine. Differing levels can worsen the infection. In addition to drinking lots of water, we also suggest drinking cranberry juice, as it is linked to curbing the infection.”
These health problems can be avoided with a proper diet and adequate hydration. It is also important to see a doctor, especially if an individual is suffering from kidney disease, recurring kidney stones or UTIs before they embark on their fast, to avoid any serious short-term or long-term complications.