I Want to Fast, But I’m Anemic


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Photo: Stefano Curso

By Dr. Nisha AbdulCader

Question:

I am a sister who is anemic, and fasting is pretty difficult for me. Sometimes, I have a tough time getting out of bed, and I often feel dizzy when I get up. I think I have low blood pressure too, and I feel weak and light-headed sometimes. I want to keep fasting, and don’t feel like my condition is that extreme to break my fast. Do you have any tips for how I can have a healthy Ramadan this year?

Answer:

Many sisters face the additional challenges of anemia and low blood pressure when observing the fast of Ramadan. It is important to differentiate anemia and low blood pressure, although the symptoms can be the same and both can be exacerbated by fasting.

Anemia is low red blood cells or hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying “metalloprotein” of our blood. Our body needs oxygen as a fuel, so if we are anemic, our blood has difficulty delivering oxygen. With low oxygen, we can feel weak and light-headed. Menstruating women are more at risk for having anemia. Other issues such as low iron in the diet, genetic conditions, or other diseases can also cause anemia.

Low blood pressure means that the blood is flowing through our body at a less than ideal pressure. Therefore, not only does oxygen transport suffer, but so do the transportation of nutrients and organ function as well.

Thus, both anemia and low blood pressure can make us feel weak. Both conditions are exacerbated by fasting, since dehydration and low blood sugar also affect how well our bodies and brains function.

It is important to stay very well hydrated and drink plenty of fluids—mostly simple water. Remember, caffeinated products like tea and coffee can act as diuretics, which actually promote fluid loss. Some people who drink caffeinated products regularly can have rebound headaches, which may be worsened by anemia and low blood pressure. It is best to wean off caffeinated products one to two weeks before fasting.

Avoid simple sugars, which cause rapid fluctuations in blood sugar. Always eat a pre-fast meal (suhoor) with protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.

In some cases, anemia may be a medical reason not to fast. Your physician or medical provider can help you to make that decision. It is not the intention of the fast to cause or worsen illness.

The Qur’an says: “…So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.” (2:185)

Dr. Nisha AbdulCader is a pediatrician in San Luis Obispo, California.  She is the medical director for Child Abuse Services for San Luis Obispo County and was one of the founders of the UMMA Community Clinic.

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10 Comments

  1. Sanja says:

    As salamu alaikum,

    I don’t mean any disrespect at all, but i am extremelly disappointed in the modern medicine. It’s time to think outside of what medical school preaches.

    For the anemic sister, try eating beef liver couple of times a week at suhur. You can mix it with all kinds of spices to make it more palatable. Also, at suhur time, drink the nettle infusion, which you make by infusing nettle chopped up dry leaves in hot water over night. These arevery rich in iron.

    If this doesn’t work, then try the supplements such as floradix and feosol bifidera. Also,barley grass powder mixed with hot warer would be wonderful for any kind of fatigue, as it is rich in minerals, vitamins, chlorophyll and all sorts of protective plant substances.

    Finally, anemia is a symptom of hypothyroidism. It could be so in your case, but not necessarily. About 86% of Americans have subclinical hypothyroidism but are told that they are ok because their numbers fall into the range ( which is awefully broad and misleading). There is good information on the “stop the thyroid madness” website which will explain what lab numbers you need to test to paint a better picture of the thyroid function within the cells and not just the blood!

    If you have low blood pressure and feel dizzy upon getting up, this is because your adrenal glands are not producing enough cortisol and aldestorone. This can be temporarily remedied by taking a small amount of adrenal cortex glandular to support and augment your own glands.

    Follow the advice here from the article to make sure to eat protein ( whole eggs, chicken, meat and whole fat dairy ) with carbohydrates. The doctor might not agree with whole fat, but you can educate yourself on the importance of saturated fat from the Wston Price Foundation. People have been eating butter and animal fats from the beginning of times, and contrary to what modern medicine claims, no they do not cause heart disease.

    This information is from my own research. My own research has led me to a cure of my degenerative disease called Multiple Sclerosis. Same way you can carefully look and search for the cure for your own health condition.

    I hope some of this was helpful.

    Salam
    Sanja

    • Sanja says:

      I need to say that Allah alone is who healed me and led me to the cure for my illness and many other illnesses.

    • Zahra says:

      Assalam alaikum, I pray you are well. I have MS and was wondering could you advise me on the diet you followed?

  2. Sheima Sumer says:

    Thank you very much for touching on this important issue. A lot of women suffer from these conditions and it is nice to hear women’s issues being discussed and acknowledged.

  3. daisy says:

    @sanja. While i commend ur research and willingness to embrace nature, it doesnt give liberty to discredit orthodox medicine.both hav its pros and cons.
    The sister in question shld visit d hosp to really ascertain which of d 2(anemia or hypotension) she has and get treated appropriately.Basic investigations will reveal whether it is safe to go on wt d fast or not.A stitch in time saves nine!

  4. Sanja says:

    The pojnt of my message is that modern medicine is incompetent in treating most of illnesses. Modern medicine seeks to put the band aid on symptoms and almost never treats the root of the issue. It’s good for the emergency procedures, but for chronic conditions it has not much to offer.

    Here particularily, doctors will not consider hypothyroidism as a possible cause of anemia. Anemia is a symptom of something else greater going on in the body.

    The same with hypotention. Modern medicine will not seek to restore adrenal glands because it assumes that adrenal glands aren’t functioning only when they are just about completely destroyed.

    The similar and more important incompetence of modern medicine can be clearly seen in the way autoimmune illnesses, heart disease illnesses, mental disorders and numerous others are treated. For these cases, “natural medicine” restors the function of the body and thus offers the true relief from an illness, while the modern medicine that employs man-designed medications fails shamefully.

    I am speaking from experience, not just day-dreaming.

    In my opinion, conventional doctors from about 80 years ago were far more competent than the current ones, despite lacking the modern medical equipment and scientific insight.

    I do not wish to upset anyone. I am speaking from my own experience and that of many others’, and strongly feel the need to let others know that there are better ways to treat chronic conditions.

    Wa salam.

  5. Teresa says:

    Jazakallah khair for this article. I have recently found myself in a similar situation and my Dr has told me not to fast right now. However, we need to remember that sometimes anemia, or other deficiencies due to the inability of the digestive system to absorb nutrients properly. I was recently diagnosed with Celiac’s and have found out that I have A LOT of levels out of whack. Until my system heals, nothing I take orally will fix the symptoms I suffer from. 1 out 100 Americans have Celiac’s and 83% of people don’t even realize it.

  6. monica says:

    Anaemia does not always equal iron deficiency, that is only one cause. Modern medicine does seek to find a root cause and tailor treatment towards that. Blanket advice and negativity towards proven medical orthodox guidelines is unsafe and potentially dangerous. Again postural hypotension (low blood pressure on standing) is a symptom of an underlying cause and adrenal insufficiency is one of the rarer causes of this. If she is severely anaemic for other reasons other than that, pumping someone with steroids un-necessarily is very dangerous.

  7. monica says:

    Being a specialist doctor I’ve seen 100′s of patients lives turned around by the treatment of chronic illness. It is unfortunate that you haven’t had the same. But modern medicine can given you a much better idea through proven widespread studies and research of their success rates unlike unconventional alternative medicine.

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