KARACHI: Health experts, medical scientists and senior gastroenterologists have agreed that fasting is not only beneficial for the entire digestive system of human beings as it helps repair damages to gastrointestinal tract, but it also boosts immunity — a key element that defends the human body from diseases, including communicable diseases like Covid-19.

They said with the help of continuous fasting in Ramazan, many people with obesity problem could reduce their weight, manage their health issues, including gastric problems like acid reflux and also remain mentally fit.

The experts also urged people to eat simple and healthy food, drink plenty of plain water after iftar till Sehr and suggested them to walk regularly after breaking fast to keep themselves from many stomach-related issues.

They were speaking at an online seminar organised on Friday by the Pak GI and Liver Disease Society (PGLDS), which was attended by hundreds of people throughout the world through social media platforms.

The seminar was addressed by patron of the PGLDS Prof Dr Shahid Ahmed, Prof Dr Lubna Kamani from the Liaquat National Hospital Karachi, president of the PGLDS Dr Sajjad Jamil from LNH, registrar of the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) Prof Amanullah Abbassi, Dr Hafeezullah Shaikh while it was moderated by Dr Nazish Butt, consultant gastroenterologist at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), Karachi.

Prof Amanullah Abbassi described the month of fasting as a blessing for Muslims saying that during fasting the digestive tract of those who fast gets repaired while it also improves immunity which helps people in fight against many communicable diseases, including Covid-19.

“Fasting also helps in reducing viral load in patients with hepatitis B and hepatitis C if they regularly take their medicines. So this month is a blessing for people, whether they are healthy or having some disease. All they need to do is to eat healthy food, exercise regularly after iftar and take their medicines, if required, in consultation with their doctors regularly,” Prof Abbassi added.

Responding to a query, Prof Abbassi said fasting does not cause constipation in contrary to a belief in some people and advised the people to take food rich with fibre, including fruit, vegetables, wholegrain bread and pulses and drink plenty of water to avoid having constipation.

Fasting, not ‘feasting’

Prof Lubna Kamani in her talk informed that patients of liver cirrhosis whose disease has not progressed could keep fast in the month of Ramazan, but advised them to consult their physicians first and take their medicines regularly in consultation with their doctors to avoid having any complications.

“There are many patients who are on drugs that cause dehydration and they have to drink plenty of water. Such patients need advice from their doctors on whether they can keep fast or not but people with mild illness of liver can fast on the advice of their doctors,” she said adding that fasting is a beneficial process as it reduces obesity if people don’t consider it a month of ‘feasting’.

Dr Sajjad Jamil said Covid-19 patients with no or mild symptoms could keep fast after consulting their physicians, adding that people with moderate and severe illness due to coronavirus should be in hospitals, where they should receive treatment under the supervision of experts.

On the other hand, people with other non-communicable diseases should fast, but take all precautionary measures, like reduce salt intake, maintain their sugar and exercise regularly to remain healthy in the month of Ramazan, Dr Jamil added.

Dr Shahid Ahmed emphasised the need for eating balanced and healthy food during the month of Ramazan, avoiding oily and fried food, and most importantly avoiding overeating to remain healthy and fit in the month of fasting.

“If we don’t consider Ramazan a month of eating and avoid eating pakoras, spicy, oily and fried food, walk after iftar and Sehr, we can reap most of the benefits of Ramazan,” Dr Ahmed said and urged people to eat fruit, vegetables, milk-based products especially yogurt and drink plenty of water to prevent themselves from stomach gasses, acid reflux and other gastric problems.

Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2020