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Coping with a thirsty Ramadan
Published in The Egyptian Gazette on 04 - 09 - 2010

CAIRO - Ramadan in such hot weather makes people very thirsty and thirst is a sign of dehydration. Whether or not this information comes as a surprise, the fact is that, if you're feeling thirsty, you're already dehydrated.
In order to avoid dehydration, you need to avoid becoming thirsty in the first place and the best way to do this is to drink enough fluids.
In Ramadan, there are certain things you can do to lessen your thirst, although you'll still get thirsty during fasting, especially when the holy fasting month falls in the summer.
The tips from Dr Amal el-Bastawisi, a professor of the technology and science of nutrition in Cairo , will help lessen your need for water between the last drink at sohour and that first sip at Iftar. She recommends the following:
- Prepare for your day of fasting by drinking enough water throughout the night. Keep a bottle of water close by during the evening, and try to drink a cup or two at least every hour.
An easy way to remember to drink water is to associate it with a common, daily act. Many health websites suggest having a drink whenever your phone rings. We suggest drinking water when commercials come on during your favourite TV show.
Try to drink three litres of water a day, but remember that you need to drink more water when you have sugary drinks (which is the case with a lot of typical Ramadan drinks) and caffeine.
Be careful when picking your daytime clothes during Ramadan. The colour of your shirt, the fabric of your pants, and the layers of clothes all play an important role in keeping your body temperature as low as possible.
If you work indoors, pick a light-coloured shirt; if most of your day is spent outside, a darker colour will help protect you from the effects of the sun. Black, however, is not advisable, as it tends to attract the heat and lock it close to your body. Some people believe that a cotton undershirt can help protect your body from the sun.
The truth is that an undershirt, especially with the humidity in Cairo, can increase your risk of dehydration.
The undershirt will absorb sweat, slowly becoming a wet, hot piece of cotton fabric that will increase your body temperature, especially if you are wearing an additional second layer of clothing. A loose cotton T-shirt, which allows your sweat to evaporate, is a better idea.
- Cold showers help you in many ways to rehydrate during the holy fasting month of Ramadan. After a couple of days of fasting, thirst becomes a normal feeling, so try to notice other, obvious signs of dehydration: cracked lips, flushed skin, fatigue, increased body temperature, and increased breathing and pulse rate, followed by dizziness, increased weakness and laboured breathing.
If you feel one or more of these symptoms, you should try to lower your body temperature in any way possible. Spend 5-10 minutes with the base of your head under direct cool water. But make sure the water's not too cold, or else you might catch a chill.
Taking a cold shower in a public bathroom can be considered rude, so if you are in an office, wet a small towel with cold water and apply the towel to your forehead, the area around your ears, the base of your neck, the upper back and the chest.
- What you eat plays a huge part in dehydrating or hydrating your body. Food that contains a lot of sugar (such as Ramadan sweets) can really dehydrate you, while fruit is perfect for providing extra water.
So, instead of ending your Iftar feast with piles of sweets, eat a couple of slices of watermelon or an orange. Green salads are another good source of extra water, so include them in your Ramadan diet.
- Because you lose a lot of water when you sweat, working out can undoubtedly cause dehydration.
But exercising also helps your body dispose of toxins and other harmful elements that might cause dehydration later on. Pick a good time for exercise (two to three hours after Iftar is advisable) and attend a cardio class, but try to counterbalance the amount of water lost by drinking water before you go to sleep.

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