UAE doctors issue dehydration warning to fasting Muslims

Fasting Muslims are being encouraged to avoid heat exhaustion by drinking enough water between sunset and sunrise.

A man breaks his fast near the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Regular water intake is vital for fasters’ health. Christopher Pike / The National
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DUBAI // Fasting Muslims are being encouraged to avoid heat exhaustion by drinking enough water between sunset and sunrise.

Every year doctors’ surgeries and hospitals treat patients suffering from the effects of heat exhaustion caused by water and salt depletion, said Dr Wafa Ayesha, director of clinical nutrition at the Dubai Health Authority.

“We have so many complaints and cases in our hospitals every Ramadan,” she said.

“We are fasting for around 15 hours, and if we don’t drink enough water our body reacts.

“It takes a loss of only 1 to 2 per cent of our body water to cause dehydration, which is very dangerous to the body.”

Symptoms include feeling weak, confused, dizziness, nausea, headache and a fast heartbeat.

“All these are signs of having a lack of water,” said Dr Ayesha.

“When people talk to you, you are somewhere else. You are not concentrating on what people are saying.”

Without proper intervention, heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke, which can damage the brain and other vital organs.

“Of course being thirsty and not having water increases blood pressure and it can also cause heart problems,” said Dr Ayesha.

Anyone fasting should be drinking at least eight to 10 glasses of water between iftar and suhoor, she said.

“This is the minimum for the kidneys to perform the essential function of removing waste products from the blood and regulating the body’s fluid levels,” she said.

“You have to distribute it. Take the first cup as soon as you break the fast.”

After that, fluids could be taken in the form of soups, juices, green tea or plain water, she said.

Dr Ayesha warned not to make the mistake of waiting until you feel thirsty before drinking water. Thirst is not a signal from your body indicating that its water level is depleting, she said. It is a warning that you are dehydrated and you need to drink soon.

“To help support a healthy digestive system during fasting, try to consume plenty of water between iftar and suhoor,” said Dr Maher Abbas, the chief of the Digestive Disease Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

“Water is one of the best fluids for proper hydration as it does not contain added sugars or caffeine which can actually increase dehydration,” the doctor said.

“Ample water consumption also ensures that the digestive track is sufficiently lubricated, helping to prevent constipation and other digestive issues.”