UAE hospitals report influx of people with stomach pains after iftar overeating

Doctors say every year at Ramadan hospitals deal with the results of people eating too much, too soon, while breaking their fasts.

ABU DHABI // Hospitals have reported an influx of people with stomach pains and nausea after overeating at iftar.

Abdominal distension, constipation and vomiting are among the complaints emergency rooms and clinics have reported since the start of Ramadan.

“We have seen many patients, usually the problem is because they overeat over a short time,” said Dr Ahmed Bahaa, an emergency physician at Abu Dhabi’s Burjeel Hospital.

Dr Bahaa said between 40 and 50 per cent of his patients on a night shift were there because they had eaten too much, too soon after breaking their fast.

He said the problems were seen every year.

“This is the usual complaint in Ramadan after people break fast,” said Dr Bahaa, an Egyptian.

“They should start with food slow at first and eat gradually – not eat too much food over a short time. It’s better to start with a little amount of food.

“They can eat anything but the most important thing is that you have to start with fluids and the food with less calories, non-fatty foods.”

Dr Murray Van Dyke, chairman of emergency medicine at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, said that in every holy month patients attended the emergency department with severe abdominal pains, and this year had been no exception.

“With regard to the breaking of the fast, overeating and abdominal pain are very common during Ramadan,” Dr Van Dyke said.

“We see a lot of complaints relating to overeating – at least a 10 per cent increase during Ramadan.”

Symptoms include abdominal pains, vomiting and diarrhoea, he said.

“We treat these symptoms very quickly. The vast, vast majority of these patients with these complaints take a short time to treat and then they are sent home from the emergency department.”

Dr Van Dyke said patients should try not to eat a typical day’s food intake in a matter of hours.

“Do not overeat – it is that simple,” he added. “Do not try and eat in six to eight hours what you would normally eat in 24 hours.

This is meant to be a month of fasting.

“I believe that moderation is the key to addressing these issues.”

Dr Mazen Alasadi, a consultant of gastroenterology and hepatology at Mafraq Hospital, said he typically saw three people a day during Ramadan who were suffering from overeating.

“We see it every year,” Dr Alasadi said. “They come to the clinic and they complain about digestive problems. Some people, they fast all day long then suddenly they break the fast and they eat a lot.”

The body, he said, could not cope with the sudden intake of so much food, leading to indigestion and heartburn.

Many tend not to exercise during Ramadan, preventing food from being properly digested.

Constipation is another health impact, Dr Alasadi said.

“This is because of a lack of water during the day, then the time between eating and drinking when they break the fast,” he said, recommending food that is high in fibre.

Those fasting should have three small meals between iftar and suhoor, he recommended, and said people should avoid too much orange juice or acidic drinks that can lead to heartburn.

Many fasters break the fast with a cigarette, Dr Alasadi said, which also leads to heartburn and indigestion.