During Ramadan, Muslims worldwide observe a strict daily fast. For some people participating in Ramadan, sudden lifestyle changes may result in digestive problems, such as constipation.
Muslims consider Ramadan one of the holiest times of the year. During this time, they fast for about 1 month.
Fasting is one of five fundamental beliefs and practices of Islam. It involves abstaining from food, drink, and other physical needs. Muslims consider fasting an important act of worship that teaches empathy, self-discipline, and spiritual awareness.
Muslims have an early morning meal before sunrise and do not eat or drink anything, including water, until after sunset when they break their fast. Some individuals may be exempt from fasting, particularly if they have certain health conditions.
In this article, we examine why some people experience constipation during Ramadan. We discuss the symptoms and causes of constipation and ways to treat and prevent it.
People may experience constipation during Ramadan due to sudden changes in their eating habits and a lack of fluids throughout the day.
There are no scientific studies on constipation and Ramadan, specifically. However, a 2017 study explored gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms people note during Ramadan. Study participants reported an increased frequency and severity of constipation when fasting for 2 weeks or more.
What is constipation?
Constipation is a condition that occurs when a person has infrequent bowel movements or difficulty passing stools. Occasional constipation is common, but some people have chronic constipation that interferes with their ability to perform their daily activities.
Symptoms of constipation may include:
- passing fewer than three bowel movements in a week
- stools that are hard, dry, or lumpy
- stools that are painful to pass
- feeling as if the stool cannot completely pass from the rectum
- feeling as though there is a blockage in the rectum preventing bowel movements
People should discuss constipation with a doctor if they:
- continue to have constipation after Ramadan
- are regularly experiencing constipation over an extended period
- have bloating that lasts a long time
- have blood in their stool
- are losing weight without trying
- have constipation and feel tired constantly
- have constipation with abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting
- have chronic constipation and a family history of colon cancer
For many people, the link between constipation and Ramadan may simply be due to dietary changes. However, the timing may also be coincidental and indicate a medical condition, so people should discuss their symptoms with a doctor in any of the above circumstances.
The Ramadan fasting period varies depending on a person’s geographical location but typically lasts
Fasting for several hours triggers many changes in the body, some of which may benefit health. These body changes can also cause several side effects, including constipation.
Factors that may contribute to constipation during Ramadan may include:
Not enough fiber
During Ramadan, people may not get enough fiber because their nutrient intake comes from one meal just before sunrise (suhoor) and another meal after sunset (iftar). People can also snack between the two meals in the evening and early hours of the morning.
Not enough fluids
Dehydration is a
Water plays a crucial role in maintaining physiological functions throughout the body. The human body is around
Dehydration is more likely during Ramadan when there are high summer temperatures or when people lose fluids through sweat when exercising.
A lack of physical activity
People may face several barriers that prevent them from exercising during Ramadan. Consuming no food and drink during daylight hours may cause people to experience fatigue and low energy levels. In turn, they may not participate in physical activity.
Overeating after breaking a fast
Rapid food ingestion after a fast could lead to several gastrointestinal symptoms, including abdominal pain and constipation.
Changes to a person’s routine could contribute to constipation. Alterations to the times people eat, exercise, and sleep
Constipation during Ramadan may result from dietary changes. The following treatment strategies may help ease symptoms:
Eat more fiber
Dietary fiber helps gut motility and constipation. Gut motility is the movement of food from the mouth through the throat, esophagus, stomach, and intestines and out of the body.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Diseases (NIDDK), adults require about
Good sources of fiber to include in meals include:
- whole grains, including whole wheat bread and pasta, bran flake cereal, and oatmeal
- fruits, such as apples with skin on, berries, pears, and oranges
- vegetables, such as collard greens, broccoli, green peas, and carrots
- legumes, including lentils, kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, and soybeans
- nuts, such as peanuts, pecans, and almonds
People can add fiber to their diet slowly so their body adapts to the change.
Drink enough water
People can use the time after sunset and before sunrise during Ramadan to rehydrate. They may find it helpful to keep a water bottle by their bed so they can drink throughout the night.
Health experts have differing opinions on daily fluid recommendations. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined in 2004 that an adequate fluid intake each day is around 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) for males and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) for females.
These figures include fluids from water, other beverages, and food. Approximately 20% of daily fluids typically come from food, and the remainder from drinks.
It is important not to drink too much water too quickly after breaking a fast. Overhydrating may cause excessive urination and
Although it is a rare condition, hyponatremia occurs when too much water dilutes sodium levels, resulting in water moving into body cells and causing them to swell. This swelling can lead to many health problems, ranging from mild to life threatening.
Exercise helps manage constipation. Researchers are unclear exactly how it helps, but they suggest exercise may help move waste through the digestive system by stimulating the vagus nerve, decreasing blood flow to the GI tract, and increasing GI hormones.
Physical activity that involves bouncing, gravity, and contracting abdominal muscles may also provide mechanical stimulation that helps stool move into the rectum.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend
Some people who regularly train may need to adjust the intensity, frequency, and timings of weekly workouts during Ramadan. These changes can help the body adjust, particularly in the first week of fasting.
Some people may have constipation due to other factors, or chronic constipation that persists for several weeks or longer. In these cases, people may require medication to relieve constipation.
People can discuss recommended medications and strategies with a healthcare professional.
People can take steps to prevent constipation during Ramadan. Strategies may include the following:
- Avoid or limit foods with too much salt or little to no fiber, such as:
- fried or fast foods
- processed foods, such as some microwavable dinners
- prepared foods, including frozen meals and snack foods
- Eat fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, to improve gut function.
- Drink enough water between suhoor, iftar, and during the nonfasting period. Consider incorporating the following foods containing water into the evening meal to rehydrate after fasting:
- Prevent dehydration and constipation in the warmer season by wearing light layers to stay cool and avoiding direct sunlight.
- Avoid drinking too many caffeinated drinks. Caffeinated drinks can cause people to lose fluids and salt.
- Keep moving to loosen bowel movements and keep them regular. Walking for 10–15 minutes several times a day can help keep the digestive system working. For people who regularly exercise, cardio exercises such as running, dancing, or swimming can stimulate the bowels. Yoga may help move stool through the intestines as well.
- Avoid overeating or eating too quickly after breaking a fast. People could break the fast with a lighter, easily digestible meal, such as three dates and water or milk, or one cup of vegetable soup, before evening prayers to help blood sugar levels return to normal and lessen appetite during the main meal.
- Do not skip suhoor. Skipping the first meal of the day increases the length of the fast, which may contribute to dehydration, constipation, and fatigue.
- Try having a bowel movement at the same time each day. Schedule a time of day to encourage bowel movements, and do not resist the urge to go too often. Resisting the urge for bowel movements can lead to constipation.
Constipation during Ramadan usually resolves with dietary changes, increased fluid consumption, and physical activity.
A person can speak with a healthcare professional if their constipation is severe, or if they experience any accompanying symptoms that concern them.
Some people experience constipation while fasting during Ramadan. Constipation usually results from changes in dietary routine when fasting, dehydration, and reduced physical activity.
People can treat and prevent constipation during Ramadan by using strategies at permitted times, such as eating more fiber, drinking adequate fluids, and keeping active.
These lifestyle and dietary alterations generally resolve constipation. However, if constipation is severe or has accompanying symptoms that worry an individual, they should speak with a healthcare professional for advice.