The most important factor to keep in mind on these long, hot, humid days is to stay well hydrated. We lose a lot of water and electrolytes as we sweat. Also, as some of us use air conditioners a lot, there will also be dryness of skin.
Due to the long fasting hours, we are not able to replenish our fluid needs constantly, so there is excess loss from the reserve that we have, and in some cases, we may develop dehydration.
To avoid this, we have to make sure that we take in adequate amounts of fluids after we break the fast, and keep drinking during the period we are not fasting. That way, our body can recover the fluids lost during the day, and be ready for the next day.
It has to be emphasised that only drinking plain water will not be adequate for proper rehydration. The best choice is fresh fruit juices, as they contain water, minerals, sugar and fibres.
Coconut water is a very good choice, as is lassi. All these drinks are rehydrating, as well as nutritious.
Because of the summer heat, mixing some crushed ice with drinks is a good idea, but not too much, as the body's immunity is down, and so, extremely cold fluids or food may cause sore throat, runny nose, and even bring about a fever. So it's best to have it in moderation.
Also, care has to be taken as to who the drink is for. If the person fasting is diabetic, make sure that it is sugar free. In case of fresh juice, do not add any sweetener, and water it down a bit, as fruits have natural sugars in them.
If the patient has kidney problems, it is best to stick to fruits with low phosphate levels. Hypertensive patients, and patients with high cholesterol should avoid added salts and drinks which may contain milk products. Having these drinks once in a while is ok, but taking it daily will cause blood pressure and cholesterol to rise.
People who suffer from hyperacidity should avoid fruit drinks on an empty stomach, and instead, drink normal water, and then, maybe have juice once they have had solid food. So, whatever the drink is, the main goal is rehydration, so keep drinking the whole time you are awake and not fasting.
Besides correction of dehydration, we also have to have enough nutrition to sustain 14 hours of fasting. That does not mean that we load ourselves with heavy food like meat, paratha, and biryani and other fried foods.
As the days are long, it is best to break fast with simple, non-spicy food that will be gentle to our stomach. 'Chira' —flat rice — mixed with yoghurt, oat based meals, and plain soft rice are good choices to break the fast. Then, you can move on to fruits, and our all-time favourite iftar items like piaju, chola, halim, etc. in moderation, of course.
It's best not to have a heavy iftar. After waiting for 2/3 hours, you can have a light dinner. I know some people who skip sehri, but that is not a good idea, as the stomach will be empty for more than 20 hours.
Make sure to have a square sehri with plenty of fluids in-between.
People who take regular medications for chronic illness should adjust their medication with the diet schedule.
Skipping medications for fasting is not recommended for diseases like diabetes, hypertension etc. Diabetic patients should monitor their sugar at least once or twice a day so they can adjust the insulin and oral medications.
It is very important to try to maintain diabetic diet as much as possible. Being diabetic does not mean you cannot fast, you just have to monitor blood sugar levels and adjust the medication accordingly.
Iftar can be treated as breakfast and sehri as dinner. The same rule applies for hypertensive patients. If anyone needs to take antibiotics, which are eight or twelve hours apart, please ask your doctor if one daily dose is applicable, and switch. If not, then you must finish the antibiotic dose, and then start fasting.
Ramadan is the time of the year when we should sit and think of what we have done all year and maybe do a bit more to help those less fortunate than us. Be kind to others and take care of yourself to pass this glorious month and have a wonderful Eid.