We wait patiently for it all year to cleanse our bodies of toxins and free our souls to worship, now Ramadan is upon us. Unfortunately, many look forward only to the food that is eaten during this time and tend to over-indulge, turning this healing time into a potential health risk.
When we over-eat, we put the body under a great deal of stress. So much stress that we may even need to see a doctor and be rushed to the Emergency Room (ER) with severe digestive problems and difficulties.
Thankfully, the Emergency Department team at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is gearing up for the occasion. We spoke with Dr. Mohamed Mazen, Senior Consultant of Emergency Medicine, about the possible dangers of over-eating and what people can do to prevent digestive complications.
“Most of the cases coming in are those with digestive problems—people who suffer from stomach pain, dizziness, nausea, and constipation, which are all caused by over-eating and eating at a fast pace,” says Dr. Mazen.
His advice to help avoid these symptoms:
- Don’t eat too much in one sitting.
- Eat small portions.
- Eat in four stages—gradually.
- Increase your consumption of fruit and vegetables.
- Drink lots of fluids, specifically water.
- Try to postpone Suhoor as much as possible.
The Emergency Room at Hamad Hospital was renovated two years ago to accommodate the increasing number of patients. According to Dr. Mazen, Ramadan is just like every other month for the ER—not many more patients come in. On average, about 1,200 patients visit the ER in a day. During Ramadan these visits could increase to 1,500 a day. “The difference we see in Ramadan is the times when patients come in. Most people come in the evening, right after they have had their iftar from about 9pm until right before Suhoor.”
In Ramadan 2014, 35,944 patients came into the ER, which equates to an average of 1,200 patients a day. In 2015, a lower number was recorded, 32,783 patients in total, which equates to an average of 1,130 patients a day.
Patients come into the ER during Ramadan with multiple symptoms, some of the most common being:
- Joint and muscle pain
- Heat stroke
- Mixing medications or missing them
Many of these symptoms are due to not drinking enough water coupled with the rising heat and humidity, which can especially affect people who work in the sun. Older patients who have various diseases and need to take medication, especially those who take medication affecting urinary output, are also some of the most common ER visitors in the holy month.
Dr. Mazen’s advice is to drink more fluids when not fasting, break your fast with water and consume lots of water at Suhoor.
Some of the milder symptoms reported by people visiting ER during Ramadan include:
- Stressed body
These are mostly seen in patients who drink lots of coffee, or smoke. The body is addicted to the caffeine and nicotine and therefore responds in this way. Stressing the body with too much work, staying up late, and lack of sleep can also contribute to these symptoms.
The expert advice is:
- cut back on coffee and smoking, especially before and during Ramadan.
- Don’t stress your body while fasting, and don’t stay up late.
- Take whatever rest and sleep your body needs.
According to Dr. Mazen, the ER staff are prepped and ready prior to the month of Ramadan with knowledge of all the possible digestive problems that patients might complain about. Staff and doctors work 8 hour shifts, which enable them to efficiently manage patient visits. “Our staff is available 24/7 for all your needs and to give advice on treatments or ways in which to avoid over-eating during Ramadan.”
Some patients, however, are advised not to fast unless checking with their doctor first:
- Diabetes patients finding it hard to control their blood sugar levels – especially Type 1, in which the person relies completely on insulin injections. Those with Type 2 diabetes suffering from insufficient insulin levels or resistance to treatment, are also advised not to fast.
- Those suffering from kidney or heart problems must consult their doctor, who will be able to advise whether or not they should fast.
- Pregnant women with diabetes, or newly pregnant women.
- People suffering from kidney failure and going through dialysis.
- Elderly patients suffering from various diseases and require medication.
Ramadan is a time for prayer and worship. Take care to break your fast mindfully and enjoy plenty of water and healthier foods so that you can make the most of this holy month.