Iftar at H Hotel Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The timespan between iftar and suhour is particularly short this Ramadan, and should be a reminder of the risks of overeating, doctors in the capital have warned.

In fact, there is at least a 50 per cent increase in cases of indigestion, bloating and heart burn, which tend to be the most common medical complaints during Ramadan apart from dehydration, they said.

“There are only about eight-and-a-half hours to eat and drink this year, and people should not think of consuming their regular amount of calories within this period,” Dr Hani Sabbour, cardiology and cardiac electrophysiology consultant at the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News.

“The change in sleeping patterns also affects people’s well-being, which is why it is especially important to eat healthy,” stressed Dr Arif Maladar, deputy chief medical officer and internal medicine specialist at Universal Hospital.

In order to stay healthy, people who are fasting should plan their meals carefully as they often cannot tell just how much they have eaten until after they are done with the meal. This is because the human stomach has an incredible capacity to distend, and people can eat a lot more than their bodies can easily digest, which then leads to abdominal discomfort and heart burn, Dr Sabbour said.

“It is best to end the fast with dates and water, accompanied by some milk, laban or soup. A 10-15 minute break at this point allows the digestive system to recalibrate. So once you restart the meal, you will eat more judiciously and be less likely to overeat,” he added.

It is also important to avoid eating too much sugary food.

“Sugary foods cause the blood sugar to spike, especially those that have a high glycaemic index and cause blood sugar to rise immediately after consumption. Once the food is digested, people are left feeling hungry during the long hours of fasting. The challenge arises because many Ramadan foods are especially sweet,” Dr Maladar said.

He recommended that people who have a sweet tooth opt for milk-based desserts that typically contain less sugar than those sweetened with sugar syrup.

People with congestive heart failure should also avoid too much salty food as this can lead to fluid build-up in the lungs, Dr Sabbour advised.

“In general, a healthy adult should aim to consume only about 60 grams of sugar per day, and only about two to three grams of salt,” he said.

In addition, those who are fasting should also stay hydrated by drinking enough water and eating fibrous, hydrating foods.

Tips for diabetics

Check with your doctor on adjusting the timings of your medication dose. Typically, it is best to take these medicines after iftar instead of delaying them till suhoor. The dosage might also be adjusted during Ramadan.

Opt for a diet that prioritises high-fibre foods with low glycaemic indexes as this will help avoid blood sugar spikes.

Make sure to drink enough water, especially as diabetics tend to have a high risk of kidney disease.

Try to fit in some exercise after iftar in order to keep your blood sugar under control.

Aim to get 6-7 hours of sleep as this will help maintain hormones at the required levels.

Tips for people with hypertension

Make sure to take your medication after ending the fast.

Avoid salty, fried foods in order to keep blood pressure under control.

Be careful about salt levels in prepared food, especially when eating out.

Schedule exercise after Maghrib in order to maintain blood pressure at healthy levels.

Tips for people with coronary heart disease

Ensure that you take your medication, and discuss with your doctor about how to adjust the timing of the dose.

Avoid eating too much salty food as this increases the amount of water in the blood. The fluid can accumulate in the lungs, leading to breathing problems.

Check with your doctor on how much water to drink in order to avoid fluid accumulation.

Make sure to get 6-7 hours of sleep, as fasting is strenuous on the body, and the heart therefore needs enough rest to keep functioning.

General tips

End your fast with dates and water, along with some soup, milk or laban. Then follow it up with a short 10-15 minute break before continuing. This helps the body adjust to food and send signals about how hungry it really is, thus reducing the risk of overeating.

Eat slowly so that digestive juices can mix with the food and get to work.

Opt for fibre-rich foods which the body takes longer to digest. This will help prevent hunger pangs early on during the fast.

If you have a sweet tooth, choose milk-based desserts like puddings as these have more nutritional value and also typically contain less sugar than dessert sweetened with sugar syrup.

Drink enough water to replace the fluid lost during the day. If you feel exhausted and fatigued, it could be a sign that you are not drinking enough water.

Avoid coffee and tea at suhoor. They have a diuretic effect which makes you feel thirsty sooner, and also irritate the gastric tract due to their acidity.

If you are taking medication regularly, make sure to consult your doctor on when to take medicines during Ramadan.