Fasting every day from dawn to sunset during Ramadan has spiritual, physical, and psychological benefits.
“As Muslims, we must try our best to complete our obligation of fasting for 30 days. We must be disciplined and take care of our health to help observe the fast,” said Muhammad Farahi ‘Arif bin Tajul Ariffin, a pharmacist and entrepreneur who owns the Farmasi Al-Arif chain of community pharmacies in Selangor, Kelantan, Terengganu, and Negeri Sembilan.
“There are numerous health and mental benefits of fasting. Fasting is an opportunity to focus on our physical and psychological wellbeing.
“First and foremost, the body can redirect all of the energy normally used for digestion to other bodily functions.”
Benefits to the body and mind
It frees up the body’s enzyme system to focus on quickly and efficiently detoxifying and breaking down toxins in the body rather than heavy food digestion.
“Secondly, fasting aids in body weight management. It aids in the prevention of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia by maintaining healthy body weight.
“Fasting also promotes neuronal autophagy, which protects our brain.
“Neuronal autophagy is a natural way for damaged cells to be eliminated. This natural process promotes good memory, learning, and thinking skills.
“In terms of the mind, fasting helps develop a healthy eating habit, in which we only eat when we are physically hungry.
“This is because the leptin ‘full’ hormone and ghrelin ‘hunger’ hormone are regulated during fasting,” said Muhammad Arif.
Leptin is a hormone that suppresses appetite and signals when to stop eating. On the other hand, ghrelin increases appetite, causing hunger and initiates meal consumption.
He said fasting also instilled gratitude and humility in one’s attitude. It serves as a reminder that those living in poverty are forced to fast every day due to financial constraints and a lack of food security.
“We will learn to be more grateful with our life and be more compassionate toward the poor.
“Fasting also teaches one to be more patient. Fasting during Ramadan necessitates the control of one’s hunger, anger, and desire. It is a month of training so that we can control and better ourselves.”
Medicines during fasting
During Ramadhan, all types of medication and supplements are permitted, but not during the fasting period, according to Muhammad Arif.
“Those who take medication or supplements regularly can do so outside of fasting hours, which are before Subuh and after Maghrib.”
However, he pointed out a few things to keep in mind when making changes and adjustments to the medication regimen.
The first is whether the medication or supplement renders the fasting ineffective, determined by the mode of administration or how the medicine is consumed or used.
There are a few types of medication administration that will cause fasting invalidation;
- Consuming through the mouth such as tablets, capsules, suspensions and syrups
- Inhaler for asthmatic patients
- Pessaries (insert through the vagina) and suppositories medicine (insert through rectum)
“Another consideration is the medication’s frequency of administration, which can be once, twice, three times, or four times per day. We also need to know if the medicine should be taken before or after a meal.
“Pharmacists should be aware of the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) medicine usage guidelines. They must also take the initiative to explain and educate patients on proper medication administration.
“As pharmacists, we must do everything possible to understand our patients’ conditions and assist them in solving their problems.”
Patients with chronic diseases need to consult GPs or pharmacists before starting Ramadan fasting. This is to ensure:
- Their compliance with medication.
- They control the disease within the targeted parameters.
- They do not suffer complications from their chronic condition due to the change in the medicine intake routine.
Community pharmacy business during Ramadan
Muhammad Arif runs 16 community pharmacy outlets, and all the pharmacists he employs are well-versed in Ramadan medication guidelines.
“Patients and clients are welcome to consult us during Ramadan about their health and medication management.
“We offer consultation services both in-person and online, with patients and clients having the option of visiting one of our locations or contacting us via WhatsApp.
“Our engagement with the suppliers operates as usual during the month of Ramadan,” he said, adding that medicine stock supply is normal during Ramadan.
“We make sure that our clients’ supplements and medications, which they usually take and purchase, are always available.
“We usually have a shortage during Chinese New Year, so we have to stock up on medications a week or two before the festivities begin.”
Take care of your body
“Patients must also be responsible for their wellbeing. They must ensure they take medications and follow the healthcare professionals’ regimens and the MoH’s guidelines.
“We must be disciplined to ensure that we are healthy to continue observing the fast. Make sure to take your medications and stick to the regimen prescribed by your healthcare provider and the MoH’s guideline.”
He said patients must be disciplined to healthy enough to keep the fast going.
“Secondly, do not skip Sahur, the pre-dawn meal. It is vital as it provides the body with enough energy and resources to function throughout the day.
“Finally, have faith in your pharmacists and healthcare practitioners. Do not hesitate to visit a nearby pharmacy or healthcare facility.
“We are eager to assist with medication management and help patients observe fasting safely,” he said. — The Health