Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) urges people with anaemia to take precautions during the holy month.
Fasting can aggravate the symptoms of anaemia and cause dehydration as well as low blood sugar, which affects the body and brain function and can lead to weakness.
Anaemia is a condition in which a person has a lower than normal number of red blood cells or the amount of hemoglobin in the red blood cells drops below normal, which prevents the body’s cells from getting enough oxygen.
There are 400 types of anaemia but iron deficiency anaemia is the most common and develops due to insufficient iron.
Hanadi Falah Quffa, a nutrition specialist, Department of Clinical Nutrition, Al Wakra Hospital, said people with anaemia are generally able to safely fast during Ramadan as long as they are careful and manage their diet appropriately.
“It is safe for a person with iron deficiency to fast. However, it is important that the patient gets proper rest. For a person with anaemia, their problem lies with iron absorption rather than a lack of iron in the diet,” she said.
Symptoms of anaemia include weakness, fatigue, a pale complexion, breathlessness, palpitations and an increased susceptibility to infection. Doctors can determine if an individual is anaemic, or at risk of becoming anaemic, through a blood test.
According to Quffa, iron-rich foods come in two forms, animal sources and plant sources. Animal source iron is thought to be better absorbed by the body and is found in animal products such as meat, poultry, and fish.
Plant source iron is found mainly in plants such as beans, pulses, and green leafy vegetables. It is also added to many foods such as bread, cereals, and flour.
Quffa suggests individuals with anaemia who fast during Ramadan include iron-rich foods in their Suhoor and Iftar meals.
She also highlighted the importance of staying well hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids – mostly water between iftaar and Suhoor.
Eating foods that contain vitamin C, such as lemon and tomato, with iron-rich foods will help aid iron absorption.
Vitamin C is a strong promoter of iron absorption so when vitamin C-rich foods are combined with foods rich in iron, absorption of the iron is increased.
Nutritionists advise against drinking coffee and tea with meals as this can reduce the amount of iron that is absorbed. Calcium-rich foods, such as yogurt, cheese, and milk also interfere with iron absorption, making it harder for the body to absorb iron from supplements or food.
The Ministry of Public Health, HMC and Primary Health Care Corporation have partnered again to provide the public with information about common health issues through a Ramadan Health website www.hamad.qa/ramadanhealth.