Consuming large quantities of food or an unbalanced diet for Iftar can lead to stomach upset and intestinal disorders that may worsen existing health conditions.
People can experience health problems in Ramadan due to eating beyond the level of fullness at the time of breaking their fast. As a result, HMC sees an influx of patients with gastrointestinal ailments at Hamad General Hospital’s (HGH) Emergency Department.
If people don’t maintain moderate food intake and overindulge, this contradicts the purpose of the fast. It can also lead to weight gain and obesity and associated complications, such as diabetes mellitus and heart disease. Part of the benefits of fasting is to help us develop a healthier lifestyle, in addition, to reinforce community relationships and enhance compassion and charity.
One of the most common ailments observed due to overeating in Ramadan is abdominal pain. This happens when people eat very quickly immediately after the Maghrib adhan (call to prayer) is given. A large amount of carbohydrates in meals makes people bloated and this is what most frequently results in stomach pains.
The best way to prevent any such illness is to plan the Iftar meal in advance and make sure that it is light, coupled with fluids to keep you hydrated and energized.
Other recommendations to avoid preventable ill-health during Ramadan include:
- Do not skip Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) as this will increase the length of your fast, which is not advisable in this hot season and may result in dehydration and fatigue.
- Drink as much water as possible between Iftar and sleeping time.
- Avoid salty foods during Iftar and Suhoor meals.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks such as coke, coffee or tea.
- 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).
- 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.
- For Suhoor meal, it is advisable to eat proteins, oils, complex carbohydrates such as beans, and drink half a cup of fresh juice or eat half a piece of fruit.
- Break your fast by your Iftar meal with a simple, easily digestible food such as three pieces of dates, half a cup of orange juice or one cup of vegetable soup. These help your glucose level return to normal and help you control your appetite during the main meal.
- Store food items properly in the refrigerator or as directed on the food label.