Dubai: As residents prepare for Eid, food and sleep specialists have highlighted the importance of slowly easing into regular eating, proper hydration to replenish water reserves in the body and slipping back into normal routines to avoid any drop in immunity. This is even more important in the current times when the threat of COVID-19 looms around us.
Juliot Vinolia, clinical dietician with Medeor Hospital, said: “This year, Ramadan fasting has been remarkably different. Owing to the COVID-19 related restrictions, people have been eating healthy anyway, with greater emphasis on home-cooked food in the absence of heavy community eating at iftar and suhoor tents."
The dietician said, "Being at home has meant people have not been returning from work after a physically tiring day and therefore, are not going big on iftar, This is a positive thing, but the drop in physical activity and restrictions on movements have also meant that residents need to go far easier on food, especially during the first days of Eid. Lack of proper physical activity means being stricter on portion control and cutting out rich food and dessert, now more than ever. It is important to avoid the onset of diabetes and obesity and have a robust immune system during this pandemic.”
Rebooting the biological clock
During Ramadan, it is normal for people to stay awake till late after dinner, catch a few hours of sleep in the night and then arise early for prayers and suhoor. Most people make up for the sleep during day time. This greatly disrupts the biological clock or circadian rhythms of the body. Dr Hassan Hariri, head of the department of the Sleep Clinic at Rashid Hospital explained: “People suffer from sleep deprivation during Ramadan. This is equivalent to having stress that releases two hormones – cortisone and non-adrenaline. These cause spikes in blood sugar, can trigger hormonal imbalance, interfere with the body’s metabolism and can also cause general fatigue, diabetes and obesity.”
Our body naturally produces melatonin in the night which is a hormone that helps us sleep and feel refreshed. However, with increased light exposure in the night, the production of melatonin falls and the regular circadian rhythms are disrupted.
“This feeling is akin to jet lag. So during Eid, it is important to set up a schedule to wake up early, even if you go to bed late, as you are resetting your biological clock. It is okay to have a short nap during the afternoon, but while resetting, it is important to arise early, Gradually, push back to a an earlier sleeping time,” said Dr Hariri.
Post-Ramadan anti-inflammatory diet
In the first three days of re-set, it is recommended that residents choose foods that are healing and anti-inflammatory, and be mindful of macro and micronutrients. They should have smaller portions but make sure they establish a regular routine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Introducing three meals and perhaps a healthy snack is what is required with men going in for a 1,400K calorie intake and women a 1,200k cal meal plan. Make sure to have enough greens, nuts, seeds, dairy products, proteins and dense carbohydrates to build a strong immunity to fight diseases and also cut back on obesity.
“With no big Eid events on our calendars it would be possible to avoid large portioned, rich meals and build back good health with sensible eating,” said Vinolia.
Keeping in mind the role of vitamins in strengthening the immunity and lowering inflammation, it is important to focus on Vitamin, C and D, protein and omega 3 fatty acids in this meal.
Rehydrating the body
Rehydrating and replenishing the electrolyte balance of the body that may have been disrupted during long hours of fasting is very important. It is recommended one drinks at least two glasses of water half an hour before each meal. That way, by bed time one would have consumed at least eight glasses of water, besides water-rich fruits such as melons, vegetables such as cucumber and herbal infusions. This will greatly help in rehydrating the body.
“Do not go for fruit juices (high in sugar, lacking in fibre), tea and coffee or carbonated soft drinks, all of which are diuretics and can cause more dehydration, said Vinolia.