A consultant at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is cautioning residents ahead of the upcoming Eid al-Fitr celebrations that overeating not only causes indigestion, weight gain and general discomfort but can also worsen pre-existing medical conditions.
As many people tend to overeat during celebrations and festivities, Emergency Medicine consultant Dr Biju Gafoor warned that overindulging on palatable foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat is a major cause of indigestion and other abdominal problems.
Each week throughout this Ramadan, a large number of patients complaining of indigestion, gastrointestinal/stomach flu, and other abdominal problems visited the Emergency Department at the Hamad General Hospital.
“The main purpose of fasting in the holy month of Ramadan is to exercise restraint and be prudent in the consumption of food and drink,” he noted. “Part of the benefit of fasting is to cultivate a healthier lifestyle.”
“However, many people see the occasion of Iftar and Suhoor as an opportunity to load up on what they have missed during the fasting period. This overindulgence often continues during the Eid period which follows the end of Ramadan,” Dr Gafoor pointed out.
“As a result, we see an influx of patients complaining of gastrointestinal problems visiting the Emergency Department,” he said, adding that that overindulging, particularly on foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat, can lead to harmful health consequences.
However, Dr Gafoor noted the risk of health complications is particularly high for those who have a chronic disease.
“Persons who have pre-existing chronic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, heart diseases, kidney problems, and obesity are most at risk of experiencing adverse health problems associated with overeating,” he said.
“Overeating forces the body’s digestive system, and organs, into overdrive. It can also lead to a toxic build up in the body that can cause weight gain, high blood pressure, and a host of other health complications,” Dr Gafoor explained.
He added that the short-term consequences of overeating can include abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, and lightheadedness.
“Overindulging in food or drink can cause uncontrolled blood sugar or hyperglycemia and it can also lead to weight gain,” Dr Gafoor said.
“Weight gain can tax the body and losing weight once you gain it can be very challenging. Prevention of weight gain and the often resulting health complications is the best strategy for maintaining good health,” he added.
He explained that most patients who experience the effects of overeating do not require emergency care.
“When considering if you need to go to the Emergency Department, ask yourself if your symptoms are so intense that you cannot wait for an appointment with your regular doctor,” Dr Gafoor said.
“Patients will end up having to wait while we treat others with more serious conditions so we recommend these patients to visit their primary care doctor.”
“However, patients who have experienced prolonged vomiting or diarrhea as a result of gastrointestinal disorders may become severely dehydrated and require urgent treatment with IV fluids,” Dr Gafoor noted.
To help prevent indigestion, he advises eating in moderation, avoiding excessive portions of foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat. He also recommends drinking plenty of fluids, getting sufficient rest, and engaging in regular physical exercises.
The Ministry of Public Health, HMC, and Primary Health Care Corporation have partnered again this year to re-launch the Ramadan Health website and expanded the initiative by introducing a companion smartphone and tablet app.
Introduced two years ago, the Ramadan Health website is Qatar's first online resource devoted to health and wellness during the holy month.