ABU DHABI // Despite the annual warnings, hundreds of people have been admitted to emergency rooms already this Ramadan because of overeating at iftars.
Burjeel Hospital has treated at least 50 patients a day for gastroenteritis, vomiting, acute stomach pain, acute inflammation of the stomach and diarrhoea caused by eating too much too quickly after the fast.
“Don’t break the fast with a feast,” said Dr Magdi Mohamed, a specialist in emergency medicine at Burjeel in Abu Dhabi.
Dr Mohamed said that about a third of the patients admitted to the emergency department every Ramadan were there with problems from eating too much, putting a huge strain on the hospital.
“Stomach pain is one of the most frequent admissions to any hospital department but especially during Ramadan, when it dramatically increases due to overeating,” he said.
Many need medication to ease stomach cramps and intravenous fluid to rehydrate after vomiting or diarrhoea, he said.
Dr Mohamed said the fast should be broken gradually with a date and water, then deep fried or spicy foods that can aggravate the stomach should be avoided.
Dr Indira Gouthaman, a general practitioner at LLH Hospital, said her emergency centre treated 15 to 20 patients every day so far this Ramadan.
“It is the same problem year on year,” Dr Gouthaman said.
She agreed that people should break their fasts with a couple of dates and a glass of water, and eat their main meal after the maghrib prayer.
“When it is time to break your fast after 13 to 14 hours of fasting, you should be gentle on your stomach,” Dr Gouthaman said. “Your stomach is in a sleeping mode and you have to slowly waken it, hence the traditional way of consuming two to three dates and a glass of water.
“One good habit would be to plan ahead about the food you are going to consume when breaking fast. This would prevent the urge to binge eating when food is served.”
Dr Ravi Arora, a specialist internist and diabetologist at Abu Dhabi’s NMC Specialty Hospital, said that every Ramadan he saw a rise in patients with abdominal complaints.
“Sometimes it is due to prolonged fasting which may cause acidity, abdominal discomfort and gastritis,” Dr Arora said. “However, quite often it is due to excessive eating during iftar after having fasted for the whole day.”
On average the emergency departments receive up to 30 such patients a day during Ramadan, he said.
“This is quite common and a recurring feature every year,” Dr Arora said. “Problems can arise during iftar when someone who has been fasting for 13 to 14 hours starts consuming too many liquids and eating too much carbohydrate-rich food in a short period of time.
“As a result, many people develop bloating, gaseous distension, gastritis, reflux symptoms and can even experience vomiting.
“Excess carbohydrate consumption also leads to increased sleepiness and lethargy after iftar, while some people who fast gain weight during Ramadan by overindulging in a high-calorie diet.”