Tag Archive | diet

Diet and Longevity Have More in Common Than We Think!

Diet and Longevity Have More in Common Than We Think!


By Hwaa Irfan

As we notice more and more older people looking more healthy and fit today in a globalized world where ‘youth’ by any means is an obsession, especially if it can be done with the help of a plastic surgeon, an overly priced jar of cream, or that multi-vitamin that promises all, there seems to be
more fundamentals at play in that regard including one’s disposition.

Researchers at the University of Maryland took a look at the diet of 2,500 70 – 79 year olds over a ten year period, and had some interesting findings. The participants in the study were classified into those whose diets were mainly:

  • “Healthy foods” (374 participants)
  • “High-fat dairy products” (332 participants)
  • “Meat, fried foods, and alcohol” (693 participants)
  • “Breakfast cereal” (386 participants)
  • “Refined grains” (458 participants)
  • “Sweets and desserts” (339 participants)

Those who had led a life of healthy eating habits were those who had diets that consisted of a low consumption of low-fat dairy fruit, whole grains, poultry, fish, and vegetables. Their diet was also low in the consumption of meat, fried foods, sweets, and high calorie beverages and added fat, i.e. the western diet!

Control factors like gender, age, physical activity, smoking, and race was taken out of the equation.

The findings found that those who had a high fat (dairy products) had a 40% higher risk of
mortality than those who had a life of consuming healthy foods, and that those who had a diet of sweets and desserts had a 37% higher risk of mortality than those who had a life of consuming healthy foods. A healthy foods diet consists of high amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, poultry, fish, and low fat dairy products due to the higher nutritional value, especially that present in raw foods, as too much cooking reduces the nutritional value – this improves not only one’s longevity, put also the quality of life when it comes to diet related diseases.

However, in the study who had a diet mainly of meat, fried foods and alcohol seemed to have almost the same longevity as those who had a diet of healthy foods, but as for the quality of life that is a question that the study has yet to reveal. However, it was found that the difference in consumption in between those who had a diet mainly consisting of  meat, fried foods and alcohol, was less than 2 in higher consumption of meat, fried foods and alcohol.

It is known that the high consumption of red meat on the body takes its toll. A 2009 study by the National Cancer Institute on 500,000 American middle-aged and the elderly with a daily consumption of 4 ounces of red meat had a 30% higher risk of dying prematurely through
complications like heart disease, and cancer. Processed meats increased that risk.

Risk increases because cooking red meat generates cancer forming compounds (HCAs, a family of mutagenic compounds). The longer and hotter the cooking process, the greater the amount of HCA’s). Consumers also increase the risk of having high blood pressure and cholesterol.

People who eat red meat are more likely to have, which increases the risk of heart disease. Processed meats contain substances known as nitrosamines, which have been linked to cancer. Study leader, Rashmi Sinha commented to the Washington Post that:

“Although pork is often promoted as “white meat,” it is believed to increase the risk of cancer because of its iron content.”

Not surprisingly the American Meat Institute was up in arms at such findings detrimentally affecting consumption rate hence their profit margin!

The study investigated 545,653 white volunteers aged 50 – 71 over 10 years with the end result of 47,976 male and 23,276 female mortalities. Of those deaths with a daily consumption of 1 pound of meat:

  • 36% females more likely to die for any reason especially cancer (20%), and heart
    disease (50%)
  • 31% males more likely to die for any reason especially cancer (22%), and heart disease (27%)

Those that ate mainly white meat i.e. poultry were less likely to die by about 8% as poultry
contains more unsaturated fats.

High consumption of red meat also increases:

–       Bad body odour

–       High cholesterol

–       colon, bowel, breast and prostate cancers

High consumption of high-fat foods: meat, dairy products, fried foods, and vegetable oils increases the production of estrogens in the female body,  which provides the correct internal environment for the formation of breast cancer and other organs that are sensitive to female sex hormones.

It is also known that the high consumption of fats on the pancreas has a negative impact,
but how many of consider the well-being of our pancreas?

A healthy pancreas provides:

–        Enzymes to digest our foods

–       The hormone insulin

–       Controls glucose blood level

High fat foods negatively impact on the pancreas through the production of triglycerides, also excessive consumption of alcohol leads to inflammation of the pancreas, which in turn prevents absorption of needed nutrients. The problem with inflammation of the pancreas is that it spreads
as toxins from the pancreas leaks into the abdomen damaging blood vessels. Also, the pancreas cannot cope with a high level of blood glucose as in those who consume a lot of sugar/sweet foods. This leads to a build up of fat on the muscles, and the liver causing damage to tissues and organs.

Let food be your medicine, not your illness!


“Diet and Cancer Research.” http://www.cancerproject.org/diet_cancer/facts/meat.php

Huget, J. R. “Study Links Diet To Longevity, But With Confusing Findings.” http://voices.washingtonpost.com/checkup/2010/12/this_healthful-eating_thing_mi.html?wprss=checkup

Stein, R. “Daily Red Meat Raises Chances of Dying Early.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/23/AR2009032301626.html

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Your Vitamins and Minerals

Meat By Any Means Necessary

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It’s Time to Bake Your Own Bread!

Synthetic Proteins: Cascading Effects of U.S. Unhealthy Food

Health Care Scams Employees

Take More Responsibility for Your Health

U.K: Your Health is No Longer Your Choice!

Monsanto Expanding Control Over Global Food Supply

The Diet-Based Cure for Cancer

Diabetes from Unnatural Causes

Eating Away at Our Earth

Eating Away at Our Earth

WWF as one of the largest environmental organizations has been working hard since 1961 reflecting the interdependence of all creation. In their comprehensive 2010 Living Planet Report they have outlined our eating habits and it is unbalancing the earth that sustains us, yet there are peoples in parts of the world who are dying of hunger.

 In the image above it states:

Over a given period of time our planet produced a finite amount of resources. Trees, food, oxygen and everything else are created at a balanced natural rate. If we consume more than what is produced we start to damage the earth’s ability to renew itself. Because one of the main ways we use the planet’s resources is through our diets we’ve examined what effect diets from around the world are having on the planet by showing what would happen if everyone on earth ate the same food. As you can see if everyone ate like Americans we would be using nearly four planet’s worth of resources by 2050 – WWF.

WWF informs us:

  • Globally the meat industry generates nearly 1/5 of greenhouse gases (GHGs) (
  • On average, 40% of global grain production is used in livestock feed, although in richer countries the proportion of grain used for animal feed is around 70% (
  • Water used for livestock production is projected to increase 50% by 2025. It currently accounts for 15% of all irrigated water (
  • Producing 1kg of beef requires 15 times as much land as producing 1kg of cereals, and 70 times as much land as 1kg of vegetables.
  • Worldwide, 2 billion people live on an animal-based diet and 4 billion on a plant-based diet. During the second half of the 20th century, global population doubled and meat production quadrupled. )

WWF Tips for a Sustainable Diet

  Cut down on meat and dairy products

As we become richer, our diets tend to change. We consume more calories, and particularly more animal protein – like meat, fish, eggs, milk and cheese.

Livestock have a bigger environmental impact than vegetable crops.

On top of this, the Living Planet Report shows there simply isn’t enough land available on Earth for everyone to eat like the average European in 2050.

The limits of our planet mean that society is going to have to decide how much land to allocate to livestock. But you can already reduce your Footprint by reducing the amount of animal protein you eat.


It can be very simple to adapt a heavy meat/dairy recipe by replacing some of the meat/dairy ingredients with vegetables, cereals or beans. It’s not that hard, for example, to make your chicken curry a chicken and vegetable curry. 

Make the most of the meat you buy – use your leftover roast chicken for cold-cuts and pies and then use the carcass to make stock and soup. 

There are many cultures around the world that produce delicious meatless and dairy-free dishes. From South Indian and Thai curries to British soups and a whole cornucopia of Italian pasta dishes.  

Look for terms like “free-range” or “extensively-reared” and grass or pasture-fed (as opposed to soy fed) meat. 

Also look for meat produced in our upland areas (areas unsuitable for farming other crops, which makes it an efficient use of land). 

Choose locally produced dairy products, use your local milkman and try using some sheep/goat’s products for a change 

It’s a good use of food resources (and often cheaper for you) to buy less common cuts of meat and offal for your cooking 

Buy sustainably produced food

Sustainable production methods have been developed for a variety of crops and other commodities, often linked to labelling schemes that you can look for when you’re out shopping. Examples include: 

Organic food


Because organic farming does not use toxic pesticides that often end up in the ground, air, water and food supply, choosing organic products can benefit the environment – and your health too.

 Sustainable seafood

Be sure the fish and shellfish you buy comes from a well-managed fishery by looking for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) eco-label and follow the advice in WWF’s seafood guides.

 Sustainable palm oil

Palm oil is present in many processed foods, including margarine, frozen dinners and ice cream – but expanding plantations are threatening tropical forests and species like orangutans.

Be sure to choose products from companies that are sourcing certified sustainable palm oil – and if your favourite brand doesn’t use sustainable palm oil, avoid it and ask the company why not! 

Buy food that is in season

Fruit and vegetables produced during their natural season have a much lower Footprint than the same produce grown out of season, such as tomatoes and strawberries produced in winter in hothouses. 

Buy local food

How far does the food you buy travel before it reaches your table?

Wherever possible, buy local, seasonal produce that hasn’t crossed the globe to get to you.

But if you really want summer fruit and vegetables in winter, it may be better to buy items produced in a warmer climate, or even on the other side of the world where that fruit is in season, than items grown in hothouses or kept for months in cold storage in your own country.

And if you are choosing produce from far away, try to make sure it was shipped, and not flown, to your country.

 Only buy what you will eat

 We waste a lot of food.

It rots in the fridge or is thrown away at the end of a meal.

In the US, 14% of food purchased at the grocery store is thrown away. This is an incredible waste of resources – not just to produce the food but also to ship, process and store it, all for nothing.

 Watch what you drink too!

If you know your tap water is safe to drink. Transporting water from its source to the supermarket is an expensive waste of energy.

And, the plastic and glass water bottles add to the mountains of rubbish that we produce. Find out from your municipality about your tap water. If you do buy bottled water, buy from a local source (read the labels) and then recycle the glass or plastic bottles.

Find our more from : WWF

Related Topics:

Do You Like Pineapples?

United Against Hunger – Standing Up For Justice

There’s Nothing Superior to Mother’s Milk

Nature Helps Our Brain Connect! 

Reclaiming Nature’s Knowledge Base

End to Nature’s Greatest Migration on Earth

Reawakening Afghan Gardens With a Purpose

The World Food Prize

Prince Charles on Islam and the Environment

What They Didn’t Tell Us About Soya Beans

What They Didn’t Tell Us About Soya Beans

By Hwaa Irfan

All of God’s nature has a place in this universe, and Islam we are told to learn from each other. Nothing has been made for play, not least the green soy bean. We have come to know of the soy through the traditional culinary practices of China for over 2,500 years before the western food industry discovered it. Two hot summers of fermentation (or equivalent thereof) kills the toxins to form derivatives what we have come to know as soy sauce, tamari, miso, tofu and tempeh all of which are rich in vitamin B¹² because of the process of fermentation, which also improves the flora of the intestinal tract and digestion itself. It was Buddhists monks who introduced soy sauce to Japan now the largest producer of tamari. The thick dark rich soy sauce, tamari is a Japanese word meaning to accumulate, derived from the fermentation of soya beans- Glycine max is rich in niacin, manganese and protein. Yet, traditionally, these derivatives are consumed in small amounts. An example of their wisdom in food is making miso soup with a seaweed stock. The wisdom of this is that soybeans contain a thyroid depressant, and seaweed being rich in iodine counters the effect.

Get Rich Quick With Soybean

Soy took on a new life under the auspices of the U.S. regulatory body the Food and Drugs Administration, FDA in 1999 .  The aim was to cut imports and to increase local production claiming soybean as a health food. It was the beginning of governmental support for health foods with the FDA claiming that a soy diet would reduce the growing problem of heart disease in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA, developed a soybean promotion campaign, Soybean Promotion and Research along with a new Act, the Consumer Information Act [7 U.S.C. 6301-6311]. Passed in 1991 under the 1990 Farm Bill, a path forward was laid for the planting, production, research, and genetic modification of soybean to expand production for both domestic consumption, and export.

The Health Claims

Since then, numerous by-products of soybean have come onto the market fitting the health food scene. To add to the conundrum, much of which like U.S. corn is genetically modified. The hype supported by many experts, has led many to believe that soybeans:

  • Are good for heart disease
  • Makes the bones stronger
  • Contains cancer fighting properties

That the isoflavones in soybeans:

  • Are nature’s estrogen
  • Eases menopausal symptoms, including increase bone density
  • Reduce risk of heart disease
  • Fights osteoporosis
  • Protect against prostrate problems
  • Lowers bad cholesterol
  • Are nature’s antioxidants

We have been told by experts to consume to servings of soy each day. From, edamame (whole soybeans), textured soy protein, soynuts, and soymilk. Soymilk has been presented as a natural alternative to cow’s milk, even mother’s milk. Replace cheese with tofu, replace mince meat with textured soy protein made to look and taste like meat.

Replacing Health with Wealth

Most governments and industry know that if one wants to convince the public, use mainstream media. In fact for many countries, including the U.S. the media is the propaganda machine for those in control. To strengthen the health food debate in favor of soy, we have been told that the isoflavone rich soy is similar to human estrogen, thus will not interfere with our own estrogen. If anything goes wrong it is the state of health of the consumer who is ill, maybe there is something wrong with the consumer’s estrogen receptors, otherwise soy products are the richest source of isoflavones, meaning if we do not eat soy products, the potential consumer is depriving their health of a much needed nutrient.

Despite the 250 research documents on the toxic effect of soy with the FDA; and because of the $80 million annual investment by USDA in promotion and research, needed information for the benefit of the public has not been forthcoming.  In New Zealand, Soy Online Service encountered such politics in their initial attempt to alert their Ministry of Health over growing concerns pertaining to isoflavones phytoestrogen content in infant formula feeds. Noting the concern action was curtailed by the Ministry’s concern that soybeans represented big business for on the international commodity’s market for the U.S.  However, 4 years later, in 1998, there was a change in direction.

Mounting Evidence

It has already been established the negative impact on the body when it ingests hormones, interfering with the normal functioning of the body’s hormones as in the case of the pill, and the long term negative consequences on both the consumer, and the food chain. The “harmless” isolflavone which is an estrogen disrupts the normal functioning of the endocrine system. Taken in infant formula feed over a period of time, it leads to a malfunction of the thyroid gland.

In 2006, the American Heart Association declared that soy does not lower cholesterol, or prevent heart disease, and neither does it deserve FDA approval. Mounting evidence from reputable bodies such as the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that soy worsened the growing problem of specific form of heart disease known as cardiomyopathy, which is a weakening of the heart muscle.

Soy contains high levels of:

  • Phytic acid  .
  • Trypsin inhibitors  
  • Toxic lysinoalanine
  • Nitrosamines

For example, in a study on rats carried out by S. Abdelaziz et al of the Faculty of Science in Beni-Suef, Egypt, it was found that the presence of phytic acid lowered and changed sex hormones, specifically testosterone.

  • Phytic acid has also been found to reduce the absorption of dietary calcium
  • Phytic acid stimulates, and increases the growth rate of cancer of the connective tissues known as rhabdomyasarcoma.
  • Phytic acid inhibits the absorption of needed nutrients in the body because it binds to metals ions, copper, iron, manganese, and it also binds to calcium.
  • Trypsin inhibitors found in dietary soy protein isolate had a negative effect on the pancreas causing hypertrophy.

In a study in the U.K., on premenopausal women who were fed 60g of soy protein for 30 days, there was a reduction in the frequency of their cycle. Three months after cessation of the consumption of soy protein, the effects were still present. Genistein, another by-product of soybean has shown to prevent ovulation.

 It also lowers sperm concentration, and acts as an endocrine disruptor, and consumed over 5 years causes endometrial hyperplasia. Soy supplements have been reported to decrease the libido by 70% in rats, but do we wait for the equivalent to happen, if it is not happening already in humans?

 Whatever one’s conclusion is, the reality is that one can no longer depend on others to provide the vital information we need for a more balanced life. The Chinese were creative by extracting a healthy product out of the ambiguities of nature. The fermented soybean by-products (tempeh, miso, tofu, and all forms of traditionally made soy sauce, especially, tamari remain the safest and the most nutritional). There are always alternatives with the only real alternative for infants being mother’s milk. Besides if one explores more the less popular natural foods that are available, one might not only save on one’s health, but make savings in one’s budget as well!


Abdelaziz, S. et al. Phytic Acid Exposure Alters AflatoxinB1-induced Reproductive and Oxidative Toxicity in Albino Rats (Rattus norvegicus). http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/nem137v1  

Colbin, A.  “Food and Healing”. Ballantine Books, U.S. 1986.

Daniel, K “Soy Not Healthy for the Heart”. http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/41802/

Germain, G et al. “Phytic Acid Stimulates the Growth of a Human Rhabdomyosarcoma http://www.springerlink.com/content/88002l1g484nq007/

Gumbmann, M. et al. “Safety of Trypsin Inhibitors in the Diet: Effects on the Rat Pancreas of Long-Term Feeding of Soy Flour and Soy Protein Isolate”. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3799282

Messina, V and Messina, M. “Is It Safe to Eat Soy? http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/soymessina

 Related Topics:

Your Vitamins and Minerals

There’s Nothing Superior to Mother’s Milk

Increasing Food Insecurity for Short Term Gain

GM Foods and Fertility

The Milk You’re Supposed to Drink 

Meat By Any Means 

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Basil (Ocimum Basilicum)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Basil (Ocimum Basilicum)

By Hwaa Irfan

As summer draws to a close, one of the herbs that we like to add to our cooking is in season. We might not even be aware as to when it is in season or not because of the supply and demand of food today, but it is worth noting, especially if one wants to buy it fresh! Basil is popular in Italian, Asian, Iranian, and Middle Eastern cooking. It usually added to what is cooking at the last moment, as too much cooking destroys the flavor.  There are many varieties of basil, for instance Italian cooking uses the sweet variety in recipes like pesto. Fresh or dried basil is used in the traditional soups, and white meats in Chinese cuisine

Native to Iran, and India, it migrated from India to Europe in the 16th century with much help from the spice traders. In Western Europe, at one point, it was believed to belong to the devil, but Orthodox Greek churches used basil to prepare their holy water, and in Elizabethan times, Sweet Basil was used for colds, and to clear the brain. In India, basil is sacred to the Hindus, and is used to protect the spirit of family members.

Known in English as Common Basil, Sweet Basil, and St. Joseph’s Wort, basil belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae).  The French call it basilic, In German it is basilienkraut, in India, tulsi, and in Spanish it is called albahaca. With a preference for hot, dry conditions, basil bush (Ocymum Minumum), grows as a low bushy plant. The leaves, which we eat as a herb are slightly oval in shape, bearing small white flowers/black-purple leaves in July and August. The common/sweet basil can grow to a height of 3 feet, with grey-green leaves like that of sage. Both basils flourish best in rich soil, but when being cultivated as a herb (dried) the leaves are cut before the plant flowers. When it is being cultivated for its oil (aromatherapy), basil is cut after it blooms. It is cultivated as a herb in France, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Morocco, and the U.S., Greece and Israel; the oil mainly comes from North Africa, Cypress, Seychelles and Europe.

Medicinal Properties

It is worth noting that the medicinal properties of basil differs slightly according to the variety that is being used.

  • Limonene
  • Pinene (Low in Egyptian-African basil oil)
  • Cis-ocimene
  • Camphene (African blue basil/oil)
  • Anethole (Licorice/Anise basil)
  • Linalool (Low in Egyptian-African basil oil)
  • Myrcene
  • Terpineol
  • Phenol (low amount present in French basil (Ocimum basilicum)
  • Ether (high amount in French basil)
  • Beta-caryophyllene
  • Methyl chavicol or estragole (Egyptian-African basil oil) under review as a possible carcinogen
  • Citronellol
  • Geraniol
  • Methyl cinnamate (Bulgarian or cinnamon basil oil)
  • Eugenol (Low in Egyptian-African basil oil)
  • Geraniol
  • Sabinene
  • Alpha-phellandrene
  • Thujone
  • Ocimene
  • Para-cymene.

The beta-caryophyllene present in basil acts as an anti-inflammatory in diseases of the bowel, and in arthritis. In a study by P Suppakul et al, looking at implications of having basil present in food packaging, the presence of basil demonstrated antimicrobial activity against bacteria, yeast and mold. One can bear this in mind in terms of keeping foods in the refrigerator. An Iranian study by Jamal Javanmardi et al, found the phenols present in the leaves and the flowers of basil serve as a good genetic source of phenolic acid having good potential for the improvement of other crops.

In Ayurvedic (India) and Siddha (Tamil) medicine Ocimum canum is the variety of basil employed.

The smell of oil of basil, as used in aromatherapy awakens the mind, ease sinus congestion, and cools fevers. The therapeutic qualities include the following:

  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-viral
  • Anti-microbial
  • Analgesic
  • Antidepressant
  • Antispasmodic
  • Anti-venomous
  • Carminative
  • Diaphoretic
  • Emmenagogue
  • Expectorant
  • Insecticide
  • Stimulant
  • Tonic
  • Sudorific

Oil of basil relieves stress related headaches, migraines and allergies. It is used to clear the mind and relieve intellectual fatigue, while giving clarity and mental strength. As an emmenagogue it helps to balance the menses, and correct scanty periods.

Nutritional Content

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Protein,
  • Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol),
  • Riboflavin and Niacin
  • Fiber,
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin B6
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Phosphorus
  • Zinc
  • Copper


As the price of food becomes increasingly ridiculous, herbs are worth reconsidering from a nutritional point of view. It is possible to grow it one’s self. Fresh basil can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days. If one wants to keep it longer, try blanching it quickly before storing it in the freezer.

In W. Africa the variety grown is Ocimum Viride which possesses a strong febrifuge therapeutic quality making it suitable for fevers. A decoction is mde and drunk as a tea as a remedy for fevers.

The seeds can be soaked in water until they become gelatinous, and like this the seeds known as sabza, falooda, selasih in certain Asian countries Like Malaysia and Vietnam before adding the seeds to drinks and desserts. The Ocimum canum variety and Ocimum gratissimum are used in India for colds, and the Ocimum crispum in Japan is also used as a remedy for colds. A decoction is made from the Ocimum Americana variety in the Caribbean for respiratory problems, and the Ocimum basilicum variety was used traditionally to keep away mosquitoes, in a bath to cleanse the system from poisoning, as a tea for cold remedies, and to detoxify the liver.


Bush Basil (Ocymum Minumum) http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/basbus17.html

Basil Oil http://www.essentialoils.co.za/essential-oils/basil.htm

Basil, Sweet (Ocymum Basilium) http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/basswe18.html

Honeychurch, P. “Caribbean Wild Plants and their Uses” Macmillan Publishers, U.K. 1989.

Javanmardi, J. et al. Chemical Characterization of Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) Found in Local Accessions and Used in Traditional Medicines in Iran http://lamar.colostate.edu/~jvivanco/papers/JAFC/2002a.pdf

McVicar, J. “Jekka’s Complete Herb Book” Kyle Cathie Ltd., U.K.  1994.

Simon, J.E. “Ocimum – “Basil, Bush Basil, Sweet Basil, Tulsi” http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/CropFactSheets/basil.html

Suppakul, P, et al “Antimcrobial Properties of Basil and Its Possible Application in Food Packaging” http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf021038t  


Allah’s Medicine Chest: Lemons

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Garlic

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Oranges

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Almonds

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Shea Butter

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Turmeric (Curcuma Longa)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Strawberries (Fragaria vesca)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Dates (Phoenix dactylifera)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Pumpkin (Cucurbita Pepo)

Basil Essential Oil

Slow Digesting Foods and Ramadhan

Slow Digesting Foods and Ramadhan

By Hwaa Irfan

One of the virtues of fasting during the summer months is that the body requires less food, however one might feel this is countered by the longer days spent fasting. For those with physically demanding jobs, there will be some concern how one is going to facilitate this obligatoty act of worship. If one is receptive to one’s eating habits during summer, one will not feel so overwhelmed at the idea of fasting in summer. However, if one has over a period of time accustomed one’s stomach to take more than it needs, then the initial week as opposed to 3 days will feel as if we just cannot do it, regardless of the simple fact that one will live to see another day.

If one is run down, or in a state of undefined state of ill health, summer usually makes one feel worse, yet we negate one of the world’s most ancient healing remedies, fasting. What does one naturally do when one is ill – eat less or not at all! This is how the body tries to fast stimulating the immune system. Also one’s level of growth hormone increases when fasting, thus mobilizing fat as an alternative source of energy. In an Iranian study published in the Annals of Saudi Medicine, Vol 22, Nos 5-6, 2002 Dr, Durdi Qujeq and team found amongst men (57) and women (26) volunteers aged 21 -55, and 20 – 58 respectively that there was a lower level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, LDL, in mid – end of Ramadhan overall, but moreso for the female candidates. However, there was higher levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol for in mid – end of Ramadhan in comparison to before Ramadhan with the serum of the female candidates being only slightly higher than the male candidates with an overall decrease on weight. This is beneficial for people who have hyperlipidemia. LDL is deemed bad cholesterol because it takes cholesterol from the liver to the bodily tissues, circulating in the blood, and building up in the arterial walls thus narrowing the arteries. The lowering of LDL reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol protects against a heart attack, and low levels of HDL, increases the risk of heart disease.

One way of taking one’s mind off one’s bodily consumption, is to get used to eating slow digesting foods (complex carbohydrates) after iftar (break fast), and for suhur (morning meal before fasting) for the long Ramadhan summer days ahead, which last up to 8 hours. Complex carbohydrates include:

    • Whole grain cereals – brown rice (with husk) – whole wheat – barley – oats – millet – buckwheat – rye – corn – bulgur – popcorn – squash – whole wheat pasta.

What these have in common is that if one wants to maintain the spirit of Ramadhan, the all one has to do is go out and buy in bulk for the month. Looking out for good quality (no worms etc.), can ease the hassle of frequent shopping, and hopefully save some money at a time when food prices are getting ridiculously high.

Another form of complex carbohydrates are starchy tubers like yam, cassava, manioc, potatoes, dasheen, taro, which contain other nutrients like protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C.

Then we must add soluble fiber to the meal to aid the digestion process and keep the colon healthy. These foods include:

    • Rye – oats – barley – soy – carrots – bananas – beans

And soluble fiber which helps to eliminate waste from the body. This includes:

    • Nuts – skin of fruits – vegetables – seeds – whole grain

Once again, seeds, nuts, and grains can be bought in bulk.

Fat takes the longest for our bodies to digest at a rate of 10 grams of fat per hour varying from person to person depending on state of health.

Then there are legumes, which are difficult to digest by themselves because we do not produce enough of the enzyme amylase. As such, they are best eaten with other legumes, leafy green vegetables, and vegetables in general, and not combine with fatty and starchy foods. Legumes include:

    • All beans – peas – lentils – nuts.

These vegetables combine well with proteins, fats, oils, starches, grains, legumes, vegetables (all types), and fatty fruits:

    • Aubergine (eggplant) – fresh corn – kale – brussel sprouts – cabbage – courgettes (zucchini) – summer squash – okra – broccoli – sweet peppers – green peas – beets.

Easily digested foods include fruits, raw foods: salads, leafy green vegetables, but what about desserts?
Desserts are generally easy to eat, and easy to digest, but they provide a nice treat. However, if you want to ensure colon health, desserts high in fiber include apples (unpeeled), oranges, pears (unpeeled), grapes (unpeeled), which add valuable vitamins and minerals to one’s Ramadhan diet.

If one suffers from slow digestion and/or a low metabolic rate the intake of slow digesting foods should be reduced and balanced out by plenty of vegetables of all types, however at the end of the day we are made of water so drink lots of water!

Don’t let the food you eat rob you of the spiritual aspects of Ramadhan without which Ramadhan would be just another Xmas!


Corbin, A. Food and Healing. Ballatine. 1986.

Morley, J.E. Introduction: Principles of Endocrinology http://merck.com/mmpe/sec12/ch150/ch150a.html

Qujed, D. et al. Effects of Ramadan Fasting on Serum Low-Density and High Density Lipoprotein-Cholesterol Concentrations. http://www.kfshrc.edu.sa/annals/Old/225_226/01-247.pdf

Related Topics:
Your Vitamins and Minerals
Ramadan and Healthy Eating
Stopping the Menstrual Flow During Ramadhan
The Ramadhan Reminder: Taking Time Out With God
Allah’s Medicine Chest: Dates (Phoenix dactylifera)
Fasting and Pregnancy
From the Symbolic Ascension to the Ascension of Our Lives
Night Prayer and the Human Body Clock
A Season for Forgiveness

Attention Deficit or Information Overload in Our Children?

Attention Deficit or Information Overload in Our Children?

By Hwaa Irfan

One of the concerns expressed by American parents this summer is the extent to which their children are being diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder, ADHD, and being forced to put their children under drug therapy by teachers and doctors. The parents are not within the low income bracket that has been included as one of the key factors with ADHD children, and neither are their professions. The fact that these parents express concern indicates that they have a difference of opinion about their children, negating the history of the number of parents in the U.S. who have contributed significantly to understanding the nature of a childhood disease from deaf and blindness to autism. But what is ADHD!

Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder

According to the World Psychiatric Association:

    “Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder is a behavioral disorder that affects up to 1 in 20 children in the U.S.”

The characteristics include:

• Inattention and/or impulsivity and hyperactivity

The definition by the American Psychiatric Association, APA “as it is now defined” according to the World Psychiatric Association has led to the understanding of this illness. APA definition found on their website is:

“ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a behavioral condition that makes focusing on everyday requests and routines challenging.

“People with ADHD typically have trouble getting organized, staying focused, making realistic plans and thinking before acting. They may be fidgety, noisy and unable to adapt to changing situations.

“Children with ADHD can be defiant, socially inept or aggressive.

“Families considering treatment options should consult a qualified mental health professional for a complete review of their child’s behavioral issues and a treatment plan”.

As stated on their website, this definition is taken from the Encyclopedia of Psychology. However in the World Psychiatric Association, WPA, overview of the problem, consistency in definition is not reflected throughout the profession, in their attempt to ascertain whether ADHD is “… largely an American disorder”.
In looking at the landscape around the world, WPA have found disparity in definition despite 40 years of American research. The World Health Organization, WHO, use the term “hyperkinesis.” In the U.K., Australia, Canada, and New Zealand the problem is referred to one as “hyperactive”, with hyperactive meaning restless and distractable being distinct from antisocial, defiant and aggressive behavior. In the U.K. children who are hyperactive are diagnosed as having “conduct disorder”, and in the US, ADHD. Taking into consideration the differences in method of diagnosis, WPA found that ADHD is not peculiar to the US, however there is difference in degree. A child is forced to keep too still without any experiential imput is bound to become agitated, and from what can be seen by the definitions used can fall under the WPA/APA definition of ADHD. However, there seems to be a more cautious definition in European countries in an attempt to avoid those who may fall within the false-positive margin. In Europe, the hyperkinesis, HKD, is used for children who are deficient in attention span, motor control and perception i.e. DAMP though WPA defines this as a severe form of ADHD; yet WPA admits:

    “… the absence of adequate recognition of the disorder by the medical community, the teaching profession, and the public in general…”

Child Development

What is apparent, is that the diagnosis of ADHD if considered a genuine disorder is higher in boys than in girls. Many of the studies around the world looked at by the WPA confirms the APA findings in the US. In addition, those studies that included the parents, and the children themselves in terms of diagnosis, report a significant difference between professional (medical-teaching) assessments and that of the parents and children. In all of this, there seems to be a widening gap between what is expected of a child developmentally, and what is expected socially. It has long been established, though not implemented, that boys need to have a more experiential learning experience, even into their late adolescence than girls. The nature of the gap between cognitive, and social developmental needs show quite clearly that the process of puberty as a social drive, and therefore becomes a greater arena of attention for young people, than the cognitive, and begins to level out towards late adolescence, and early 20s, yet schooling demands of them the opposite – ready or not! In any given country, one can see the difference in development, self concept, and maturity between a child raised in the countryside, and those raised in the city. Particularly for boys, being raised in the city, is less likely to provide suitable medium for self awareness, a developed self concept, and the ability to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. This marked difference becomes heightened once again when comparing cultures markedly different in that some cultures do not perceive adolescence in the same way as the West. Looking at the rites of passage that still takes place in some parts of Africa, Professor Manu Ampim points out the following:

    “Adulthood rites are usually done at the onset puberty age (around 12-13 years of age in many cultures) and they are to ensure the shaping of productive, community-oriented responsible adults. There is nothing automatic about youth being productive members of society, nor is there anything particularly difficult about transitioning from a child to an adult. This transition to adulthood is exceedingly difficult in Western societies because there are no systems of adulthood rites to systematically guide and direct the young person through this important stage in his or her life cycle”.

As such, taking into consideration the pertinent natural developmental needs of a:

9-12 Year Old

– Fairness – justice – honesty – adventure – adaptability – trust-reciprocity

13 – 17 Year Old

Challenges-adventures-personal space-opportunity to explore ideals-autonomy-interconnectedness-humility-personal power.

18 – 21 Year Old
Exploration- experimentation.

How much of the above developmental needs are undermined/oppressed by schooling today, and how much of what they are being forced to learn matches their developmental needs?

The Learning Environment

An example of established natural learning methods that work is that of Waldorf Education developed by Rudolph Steiner, who was revolutionary therefore controversial offering a real alternative to the damage caused by factory education. Waldorf Education contributed greatly to the understanding that child’s full potential can only be fulfilled by observing and facilitating the natural way in which children learn, which would enable them to meet their own potential the unification of the spirit, body and soul via the true understanding of human nature.

At age 7 in Waldorf education, a child’s imagination is the medium through which learning takes place. This isn’t the limited understanding of imagination through books etc, or in the case of T.V. which robs a child of their imagination, and replaces it, but the imagination that comes with one’s relationship with the world, i.e. experiential: constructive and creative play, art, linguistic development, storytelling, and gardening for example.

    “…if we want to stimulate the child pedagogically during the first seven years, then we
    don’t train its thinking but we support its imagination, its powers of imitation—especially if we give space for real activity of will” – Michaela Glockler, M.D.(teacher in the Waldorf method).

Ages 7 – 14, the desire to belong is the medium through having the same teacher throughout the course of a school day/week etc., class mates, and as a collective experience explore the world. The curriculum is more structured with a multisensory approach with the aim of developing expression and memory. Text is not provided, but created by the children as a means for them to reinforce, and affirm what they have learnt experientially i.e. literature, through storytelling, eurythmy, practical crafts, the natural sciences, foreign languages, art, outdoor activities and music.

    “Our ego is our purest agent of spiritual intentions. I am not referring to the sort of willfulness arising from the drives and instincts of our body, but the sort of will coming from our ego intentionality, our ego organization. When we can observe in the youngster this sort of will in the thinking, then puberty is over because idealism is born.” – Michaela Glockler.

The high school years are focused on developing the intellect through rationale, ethics, social responsibility, and handling of complex issues.

    “… when the ego organization becomes free in the middle sphere and feeling appears in thinking. Then a sense for what is true, what is authentic, is born along with a tremendous feeling of powerlessness, of feeling insufficiently grown up to meet the world. So it is that at this age we have a high incidence of suicide. Feeling enters into thinking as the ego organization becomes free in this realm. So first we learn to bring will into our thought; then into our emotional lives as we struggle with our emotions including the danger of suicide. Then in the last phase of this period—from around 18 2⁄3 to about 21—this free will enters into our physically orientated will. One can say that “the will enters into the will.” We acknowledge these changes in the feeling life and later in the will by allowing our youngsters to vote at 18 (at least in some countries). With this right we recognize that young people have reached a stage of maturity at which they can think independently and, yes, handle their emotions.” – Michaela Glockler.

In the Waldorf approach to learning, a child is allowed to grow developmentally aligning the child physical, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, i.e. according to their developmental needs, which allows them to be fully prepared for their next developmental phase. The whole child is involved in the process of learning what they experience, rather than the brain only absorbing information rather than knowledge, which is experiential in nature. This is antithetical to what happens in schooling whereby knowledge is reduced down to being an endless stream of information because it is second hand, and not experienced; and what one does experience/one’s world may or may not form a part of one’s understanding of the world in balance!
In the more widely “accepted” Montessori approach to education, the adult-teacher plays a directors role, which began life with children who had disabilities in the slums of Rome, working with a child’s natural intelligence, developing a child’s confidence, and inner discipline until there is less need to interfere.
In both the Waldorf, and Montessori method children end up being more balanced, have greater self esteem, and able to express a more intelligent relationship to their environment.

The research in the U.S. over 40 years runs parallel with the standardization of schooling in the West becoming widespread, and as the formal means of education at a time when urban living and a less open environment becomes the norm for children growing up. In this period, we have become accustomed to the world of a child being confined within the four walls of a school from ages 5 – 18. Increasingly, the child’s world is decided by the adult, without the willing involvement of the child. Though seemingly willing, a child becomes increasingly imbalanced as aspects of their self development go unaddressed.

Man-Made Chemical Factor

Today we find ourselves in a situation whereby we have to be concerned about everything form of “food” our body ingests, that is external factors that feed either the body physical as in the food we eat, the physical environment as in the “foods” we absorb either indirectly or directly through various media including the air we breathe, and spiritual foods which nourish us or harm us. With a vast onslaught of man-made chemicals to add to the ADHD agenda we find that there are certain foods that children are sensitive too. Now there are some widely used compounds in our environment which has been linked to ADHD. Looking at 571 children aged 12 – 15 from the data of the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a higher level of polyfluoroalkyl chemicals, PFCs was found in their blood by the Boston University School of Public Health. PFC’s can be found in stain-resistance coatings, food packaging, and fire-fighting foams.

Perth’s Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Australia in 2010, have found a direct relationship between ADHD in teenagers and the Western diet. Looking at the diet of 1,800 teenagers, they found the Western diet doubled the risk of ADHD.

A “healthy” pattern is a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and fish. It tends to be higher in omega-3 fatty acids, folate and fibre. A “Western” pattern is a diet with a trend towards takeaway foods, confectionary, processed, fried and refined foods. These diets tend to be higher in total fat, saturated fat, refined sugar and sodium.

    “When we looked at specific foods, having an ADHD diagnosis was associated with a diet high in takeaway foods, processed meats, red meat, high fat dairy products and confectionary,” Dr Oddy, leader of the study said.

Yet still, it has been generally accepted that there is a direct link between the food colorings and additives in foods and ADHD, but addressing this problem continues to go ignored. Professor Andrew Kemp of the University of Sydney points out:

    “Of the three main treatments for ADHD in children–drugs, behavioral therapy, and dietary modification–only drugs and dietary modification are supported by data from several trials. Yet, behavioral therapy, which has no scientific evidence base, is still thought of as necessary for “adequate treatment.”

There are many contributory factors which may indicate that susceptibility to one makes one susceptible to other(s), however it is only by looking at the whole child development process honestly and opening can we see how far current systems that are obliged to grow up in impacts on them as people. Maybe one day rather than try to change a human being, a gift of nature, into something unnatural according to man-made codes of what is considered to be normal, we can change the systems to becoming more natural for the development of man. As parents, if we are concerned about our children in the coming new school year we might want to take this time to review what it is we are providing for our children.

o Is your child happy at the school they have been attending? If you can’t tell or if you have been too busy to tell, try observing your child in different learning environments both conventional and unconventional. Observe what kind of information/knowledge they are able to share with you.

o If for reasons of income, you are not in a position to reflect on what your child learns everyday, make a point at least half an hour before bedtime, to share, and listen.

o Reduce the impact of the environmental challenges that your child might be struggling with by not buying processed foods or eating out

o Buy wholefoods, fresh foods, and when possible buy in bulk foods that keep well.

o Take the opportunity to have days out at local farms, where you can buy direct fresh fruits and vegetables. This would also provide a learning experience for your child.

o When possible buy organic, there is no better alternative despite all the counter-campaigns. The counter-campaigns are only half truths because there are those who will exploit for profit, equally as the food and agricultural industry are frightened of losing their profit-margin.

o Reduce information overload, as a child is faced with a constant bombardment of contradictory “dos” and “don’ts”. This can be done by only watching valid programs on T.V. only listening to forms of media that contribute to self understanding, getting to know the friends (and their parents) of your child, and participating more in their life outside the home, including school. This might mean a lifestyle change, but it might provide the window of opportunity towards leading a more fulfilling life!

o Make time for acts of worship, and appreciate life as a whole!


Amber L. Howard, Monique Robinson, Grant J. Smith, Gina L. Ambrosini, Jan P. Piek, and Wendy H. Oddy. ADHD Is Associated With a ‘Western’ Dietary Pattern in Adolescents. Journal of Attention Disorders, 2010; DOI: 10.1177/1087054710365990

Ampim, M. “The Five Major African Initiation Rites.”http://www.manuampim.com/AfricanInitiationRites.htm

APA. ADHD. http://www.apa.org/topics/adhd/index.aspx

Faraone, S. V. et al. The Worldwide Prevalence of ADHD: Is It an American Condition?. World Psychiatry. 2003 June. 2(2): 104 – 113

BMJ-British Medical Journal (2008, May 23). A Trial Of Removing Food Additives Should Be Considered For Hyperactive Children, Experts Suggest. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 4, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2008/05/080522210010.htm

Glockler, M. How Does the Middle School Meet Puberty? AWSNA Teachers’ Conference 2002.

Kate Hoffman, Thomas F. Webster, Marc G. Weisskopf, Janice Weinberg, Verónica M. Vieira. Exposure to Polyfluoroalkyl Chemicals and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in U.S. Children Aged 12-15 Years. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2010; DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1001898

Related Topics:
Egypt’s Creative Talent: Vanishing Within Education?
How Not to Master a Skill!
Homeshooling as the Last Option
The Problem with Precocious Puberty
Prince Charles on Islam and the Environment
Climbing the Mountain
Schooling Your Child in Violence
Taking Control of Your Family Home
The Missing Link in the Education of Our Boys

Fasting and Pregnancy

Fasting and Pregnancy

By Hwaa Irfan

As the secular forces gather to weaken our resilience to the superficialities that it has reconstructed our lives with, yet unable to provide any sustainable means outside of our respective faiths, let us realize that which is worth living for, that which gives life meaning, and that which give our lives a purpose as we approach the blessed month of Ramadhan, Increasingly what secularism has done to Christianity, is becoming the same for Muslims, most noticeably during Ramadhan. The spiritual richness that was once felt collectively has been struggling against the appetites that secularism has been nurturing us on, making the lift beyond the mundane that we feel when we carry out our acts of worship together during a month that binds us, make no difference on our hearts and minds like the other months when we “forget”. At the same time, let us not pressure and bully each other into “behaving” in what may be considered an “Islamic” way, for surely that has become subject to interpretation, eliminating the spirit of Islam. Remember that when everything around us seems to not make sense, and offers little respite, prayer like Ramadhan offers us an opportunity to slow down, reflect, rebalance, and to reclaim who we are.

For pregnant women during the summer months, certain fears might set in. First of all, let it be said that there is no compulsion on pregnant Muslim women to fast for what is obligatory on those who are well in body and mind. However, the benefits are great.

Allowing the workings of the body to take its natural course has just become another item to place on the agenda and sometimes the requests of the body is not well received when it has a mind of its own. Fasting beyond three days not only reduces the blood protein, lowers blood fats, possible increase of uric acid and here is as lower red blood count and iron level, but the period attracts a lot of questions about one’s life and one develops a new sensitivity towards those around one . The whole process of pregnancy adds additional demands on the body. Californian physician Gabriel Cousens describes fasting as:

    “… a means to abstain from that which is toxic to the mind, body and soul. A way to understand this is that fasting is the elimination of physical, emotional and mental toxins from our organism, rather than simply cutting down on or stopping food intake. Fasting for spiritual purposes usually involves removing oneself from worldly responsibilities ….”

Pregnancy is an important period whereby the bonding between mother and child begins from conception bringing warmth, love, security and complete nutrition depending on the health and age of the mother. From a Western point of view it can be considered surprising how harsh some Muslim women can be on their own bodies during pregnancy, assuming that fasting is compulsory on all healthy Muslims of responsible age.

Every situation has been catered for if only we knew. We are reminded of this fact in Prophet Muhammed’s Last Sermon when he informed his follower that he had completed for us the religion that is Islam and that we must turn to the two weighty things that is the Qur`an and the Sunnah (the traditions of the Prophet). Muslim women around the world are living under differing circumstances some of which undermines the health of the pregnant woman, Islam would not be so merciless as to impose such a hardship on those who have poor health or poor nutrition. In Islam, those who do not have to fast are:

• Woman in advanced of pregnancy, or in a stage where fasting is harmful

• Those who are breast-feeding

• Those who are menstruating and

• Those women who are in nifas. (the blood that appears after childbirth)

If a pregnant woman or a breast-feeding woman fears for her health or the health of the unborn child, she can fast the same equivalent of days at another time or feed the poor to compensate. This is confirmed in the ahadith :

“”For those who can do it (with hard-ship) is a ransom, the feeding of one, that is indigent,” he said: This was a concession granted to the aged man and woman who were able to keep fast; they were allowed to leave the fast and instead feed an indigent person for each fast; (and a concession) to pregnant and suckling woman when they apprehended harm (to themselves)” (abu Da`wud 13 #115) in explanation of Al Baqarah 2: 184)

Islamic fasting makes our bodied go into an elimination cycle by the act of not eating. Where there is toxicity present in the system, there are withdrawal symptoms like headaches, irritability or fatigue. In contemporary Western medicine, it is generally considered as a form of starvation and has even been considered as a factor towards eating disorders – do any of these arguments have a weight of truth?

The Effects of Fasting for Healthy Pregnant Women

‘Eating for two’ is usually the expression declared given to encourage the likelihood of a healthy mother and child, but how much real knowledge is there in this expression? Islamic fasting helps to address dietary abuse problems that in pregnancy can also affect the unborn child. It also helps to release some of the toxic build up which is attracted to the extra body fat that women carry. So therefore fasting detoxifies the body. Toxin release occurs from the kidneys, bladder, lungs, sinuses and skin discharging mucus from the intestinal tract, respiratory tract, sinuses and urine. The reality is that the benefits of fasting in pregnancy vary from person-to-person depending on the condition of the body. Islam allows fasting for a healthy mother-to-be and allows an expectant mother who is not so predisposed the right not to fast surely belies that tale. This is possible because of the eating periods of iftar and suhur that allow for a balanced intake of nutrition. This was in fact ascertained by Dr. Soliman in Jordan at the University Hospital who tested 42 men and 26 women in 2984. Having tested all the features of the blood before testing he was able to compare differences. The only aspects of significance was the fact that men gained weight slightly higher than women and higher than their own weight before fasting and the same applied to their blood glucose levels. But all other elements i.e. cortisol, cholesterol, lipoprotein etc had remained the same. In Islam, the safe period of fasting for pregnant women has been determined to be during the 1st and 2nd trimester. Clinical professor Dr. Shahid Athar suggests the 2nd Trimester (at 4 – 6 months), and then depending only on the health of the expectant woman and that she has permission and supervision from her obstetrician.

First Trimester

• By the third week the head and the spine begins to form at opposite ends growing toward each other until they fuse to form the “neural tube.”

• In the fourth week tissue buds form that will later develop into the lungs, pancreas, liver and gallbladder. The ears, eyes and some facial structures begin to form. The cartilage, bone and muscles of the back emerge in paired bulges. The heart develops. It is during this period that the embryo is at the greatest risk of birth defects.

• During the fifth week, external ears become visible, the nose, the upper and lower jaws form, and the limbs. The walls of the chest and abdomen, and the umbilical cord develops.

• From six to eight weeks, the face becomes readily recognizable as a human. The neck forms, the torso and head become more erect, the tail disappears and the limbs become jointed, forming fingers and toes.

Second Trimester

• At eight weeks, the embryo is a full-formed, tiny baby, now called a fetus.

• By fifteen weeks, the fetus can kick, curl its fingers and toes, and squint its eyes. Genitals have developed and the kidneys work.

• Circulatory and urinary systems are operating, and the liver is producing bile. The reproductive organs of male or female have developed, but the gender of the fetus is difficult to distinguish externally.

Third Trimester

• Fat begins to accumulate, the placenta has stopped growing and cannot keep up with the growing need for nourishment. The fetus can survive outside the womb if placed in an intensive care unit. It can taste sweet and sour and respond to stimuli, including pain, light and sound.

• The brain develops very rapidly. In the last two months, a fatty substance called “myelin” develops speeding up transmission of nervous impulses.

In West Africa, it was observed that 90% of pregnant women fasted during Ramadhan. Twenty-two pregnant women, ten lactating women and ten non-pregnant women, were tested by medical researchers Prentice et al. It was found that the glucose level was significantly lower in women who were in their later stages of pregnancy than the control group. This is useful in incidences of Gestational pregnancy whereby the blood sugar level becomes higher than normal whilst pregnant but may return to normal after delivery. Body fat cannot form the glucose required by the body for energy and during the period of fasting, The process of ketosis takes place (which only occurs in fasting) preventing the loss of protein. Body glucose decreases and there is increased weight loss. One of the purposes of researching into pregnant fasting women is to assess whether the glucose level in blood during the fast can be used as a measure to screen for Gestational diabetes. In a medical trial of 520 pregnant fasting women in Zurich, Switzerland the women’s blood sugar was tested in the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. The purpose of the trial was to see what risks and preventative measures could be taken in cases of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy due to increased intolerance of glucose) that is prevalent amongst Asian and African women. One method of treatment recommends dietary management under medical supervision in fasting women. Periodic blood testing is carried out to assess the glucose level whilst fasting and after taking iftar (break fast) in order to maintain necessary blood sugar levels and adequate nutrition for the unborn child. Gestational diabetes can lead to a larger than normal fetus, stillbirth or a caesarian section.

With the difficulty in making up the fast at a later time, most women prefer to seize the opportunity to fast during the month of Ramadhan itself. Depending on the stress factors of one’s domestic conditions which might lack psychological and domestic support to be on the safe side, it would be wiser to consider ones general health and to seek approval from ones doctor before making a decision. The intake of food should be balanced and the intake of fluids plenty. For instance it is often assumed that for nursing mothers fasting leads to dehydration therefore decreasing milk supply. Prentice and his team found in their study of nursing mothers in Nigeria who were fasting for Ramadhan that there was in fact no decrease in volume of milk due to the periods of iftar and suhur (morning meal before fast) when a higher volume of fluids were consumed to over-compensate for the day time fast. It just goes to show, between the Qur`an, the Sunnah and women’s knowledge of their own bodies, that more myths are too be broken in order to allow the natural laws passed down to us to put balance in our lives.

Fasting in the Summer

The first ever Ramadhan may have taken place in the summer, given that the Middle East observe long summer months. As the global temperature rises to a level that tests all of us, and as the days are longer that the nights in the west, we have a few challenges on our hands. Increasingly secular and Christian trends are pointing to the benefits of fasting in the summer from the point of view of cleansing the body, and losing weight. Always the first three days are the most difficult as the body adjusts, but as long as your mind is causing contention with negative emotions, then the rest of the fast will be easier.

One should aim to break one’s fast with something light. The Sunnah of praying Maghrib (dusk prayers) allows one’s digestion to work on the light break-fast by attempting something more filling. Kazan Dr, Ildar Tukhvatullin in Russia places emphasis on eating foods that are high in carbohydrates (dried fruits, dates, figs, poultry, fish, and dairy products), low in gaseous ingredients, and avoid overeating. This in includes food that contain yeast, fried foods, processed foods, fizzy drinks, high sugar content, One needs to bring up one fluid and sugar up take without overdoing it. One such way is to eat fruits and freshly squeezed fruit juices. Food should be chewed properly before swallowing, drink plenty of water for we are made mostly of water, and do some light exercise, which will help to improve one’s digestion, and metabolism. People tend to feel lethargic, because that is what their minds tell them, but by using energy one creates more energy.

This summer marks the beginning of a seven year period of fasting in the summer, and given that niyyah, our intentions are the most important aspect of anything we do, let us make the next 7 Ramadhans a mercy to us, our families, to the environment and the humanity as a whole insha-Allah

Listen to:
Healthy Eating Tips To Take From Ramadan

Athar, Shahid. “ Health Concerns for Believers Contemporary Issues”. http://islam-usa.com/h8.html

CrescentLife.com. “Studies on Islamic Fasting”. http://www.crescentlife.com/spirituality/studies_on_islamic_fasting.htm

Cebmh. “Pregnancy: Gestational Diabetes”. National Electronic Library for Health. http://cebmh.warne.ox.oc.uk/diabetes/professional/pregnancy/page8.html

Haas, Elson. M. “Nutritional Program for Fasting”. http://www.healthy.net/templates/article.asp?PageType=article7ID=1996

Healthlibary.com. “Diabetes and Pregnancy”. 4. http://www.healthlibrary.com/reading/yod/nov/diabtes.htm

Perucchini, Daniele et al. “Using Fasting Plasma Glucose Concentrations to Screen for Gestational Diabetes Mellitus: Prospective Population Based Study”. British Medical Journal. 25: 319 (1999) 812-815. 9. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlrender.fcgi?artid=28232

Prentice, A. M. et al. “Metabolic Consequences of Fasting During Ramadan in Pregnant and Lactating Women”. Human Nutrition 37:4(1983)283 – 94. July. 2.. PubMed. http://www.ncbi.nlm.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=

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It’s Getting Hot! Hot! Hot!
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From the Symbolic Ascension to the Ascension of Our Lives