Ramadan is a time for self-discipline and self-control yet many people end their fast with a feast and end up putting on weight during this period of refrainment. Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Senior Consultant of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Saad Abdul Fattah Al Nuaimi, has stressed that consuming large quantities of food or eating an unbalanced diet during Iftar or Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) can lead to an upset stomach, intestinal disorders and a worsening of other pre-existing health problems.
He added that health is the key to happiness and the food that we consume directly affects our health. “People can experience health problems in Ramadan due to eating beyond their level of fullness at the time of breaking a fast. As a result, we see an influx of patients with gastrointestinal complaints at Hamad General Hospital’s (HGH) Emergency Department,” Dr. Al Nuaimi said.
“Lack of moderation in food intake and overindulging when eating sweet food contradicts the purpose of the fast. Islam encourages Muslims to ensure that they are mindful of their health. The blessed Prophet said: “Take advantage of good health before illnesses afflict you.”
Dr. Al Nuaimi encourages Muslims to try their best to practice a healthy living lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular mental and physical exercise and maintaining a balance between material and spiritual needs.
Bad dietary habits can lead to weight gain and obesity with subsequent complications such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, joint problems and heart disease,” Dr. Al Nuaimi explained. “Part of the benefit of fasting is to help us develop a healthier lifestyle, in addition to reinforcing community relationships and enhancing compassion and charity,” he added.
Dr. Al Nuaimi highlighted that one of the most common complaints linked to overeating during Ramadan is abdominal pain. He said: “This happens when people eat very quickly immediately after the Maghrib adhan (call to prayer). A large amount of carbohydrates/sweets in a meal can cause people to feel bloated and this is what most frequently results in stomach pain.”
“The best way to prevent such illness is to plan the Iftar meal in advance and make sure that it is light and is coupled with fluids to keep you hydrated and energized. Due to long fasting hours, we should consume slow digesting foods which are fiber-rich, rather than fast-digesting foods. Slow digesting foods last up to eight hours,” Dr. Al Nuaimi added.
Other recommendations to avoid preventable ill-health during Ramadan, as advised by Dr. Al Nuaimi, include:
Do not skip Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) as this will increase the length of your fast,
which is not advisable in the hot season and may result in dehydration and fatigue.
Drink as much water as possible between Iftar and sleeping particularly in the hot season.
Avoid salty foods during Iftar and Suhoor meals.
Avoid caffeinated drinks such as coke, coffee or tea.
Also avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar (e.g. white bread, white rice, sweets and pastries) which can cause blood sugar surges, leading to weight gain.
Try not to consume heavy fatty foods, which often cause gastrointestinal disturbances. When using oil in food preparation, use only a small amount of olive oil or other polyunsaturated fats)
For the Suhoor meal, it is advisable to eat proteins, oils, complex carbohydrates such as beans, and drink half a cup of fresh juice or eat a piece of fruit.
Break your fast for your Iftar meal with a simple, easily digestible meal such as three pieces of dates, half a cup of orange juice or one cup of vegetable soup. These help your glucose levels return to normal and help to control your appetite during the main meal.
Store food items properly in the refrigerator or as directed on the food label. During fast hours, avoid direct exposure to sun as well as exercise in a hot environment which can lead to sweating and fluid loss with subsequent dehydration.
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