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UAE doctors warn of overeating at Iftar to avoid a trip to the hospital

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Doctors in the United Arab Emirates are urging Muslims fasting this Ramadan to avoid overeating at Iftar and breaking the fast with high consumptions of unhealthy food.

Medical specialists told Al Arabiya English that hospitals each year see an influx of patients suffering from gastroenteric issues and stomach ulcers.

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During the holy month, medics said that they often see patients complaining of gastritis – an acute inflammation of the stomach – and gastroenteritis, often known as stomach flu, which is an infection of the stomach and intestines together resulting in vomiting or diarrhea. This can often put a strain on hospital resources, they said.

Archana Baju, a clinical dietician at Burjeel Hospital, said that after long hours of fasting, metabolism slows down and so while breaking the fast, it is very important to introduce food slowly, as this aids in easier digestion.

“It is quite obvious after fasting there is a tendency to feast and often, we grab a calorie dense meal loaded with sugar and fats,” Baju said. “But overeating after fasting slows down the digestion and may lead to gastrointestinal difficulties such as indigestion, bloating and diarrhea and often ends up with a visit to the doctor.”

“It is the quality - not the quantity to be focused on. Right meal choices replenish energy and provide adequate nutrition and hydrate to our cells. And in turn will boost our energy levels,” he added.

The dietician advised on eating small meals spread throughout the feast period, eating slowly and shewing food well and planning healthy food alternatives ahead of time to avoid reaching for a sugary or calorific alternative.

Dr Sawsan Humaida, a specialist in internal medicine at Bareen International Hospital in MBZ City, said Ramadan is a good opportunity to revise lifestyles and adopt healthier habits.

“Eating food items with high saturated fats or overeating in general after fasting may cause poor digestion. To avoid this, people should eat small portions which can be repeated as desired, in a balanced manner,” she explained.

“Eat adequate amounts of proteins while drinking plenty of water in frequent intervals is a good trick to be healthy, enjoy Ramadan and avoid being sick and having to rush to hospital emergency rooms suffering with indigestion.”

“It is advised to eat dates and drink water once breaking the fast; that will help balance the body’s glucose level and assist with digestion. It will also help to prevent overeating as its high sugar and carbohydrate content causes the body to feel full quickly,” she added.

Dr Aswathy Mechur Jayachandran, a general practitioner at Doctor Moopen Medical center in Al Qouz, told Al Arabiya English: “This (overeating) is an annual occurrence we see during this holy month of Ramadan. Patients come in such distress it is difficult to manage their physical and emotional pain.”

“The key to avoid over eating and the uneasy acid reflux is to eat slowly and mindfully. Chew your food slow and savor the taste.”

“The brain tries to trick you to grab the next morsel before you finish your current one. When a flavor touches the tastes buds, it ignites the brain. You are under the impression to the grab the next bite as soon as possible. This leads to you to overeat and then a cascade of issues happens.”

Acid reflux is one of the main complaints seen after breaking the fast, said the doctor.

Many patients need medication to ease stomach cramps, intravenous fluids to rehydrate and sometimes a stay in hospital.

“The symptoms can vary from a heartburn to severe abdominal pain to vomiting and diarrhea. All these lead to severe discomfort and distress. Small simple and easy steps can help you prevent this.”

“Take a deep breath every five mins while eating and access your hunger level. Stop when you feel 80 per cent full.”

For those breaking the fast, choose foods with lesser fat and higher protein content, said the doctor.

“Drink less of sugary drinks and stick to more refreshing coolers. Try to also limit the caffeine intake,” she said. “Complex carbs such as oats and millets are your best friends.”

“They keep you full for longer with less of stomach issues. The lesser burden for the stomach, the less of a burden will the stomach be to you,” she concluded.

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