HMC Emergency Medicine Consultant Says Overconsumption of Foods High in Sugar, Salt, and Fat May Worsen Chronic Illnesses
Ahead of the upcoming Eid festivities, which mark the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan, Emergency Medicine Consultant Dr. Biju Gafoor is cautioning that overeating not only causes indigestion, weight gain, and general discomfort but it can also worsen pre-existing medical conditions.
Each week throughout this Ramadan, a large number of patients complaining of indigestion, gastrointestinal/stomach flu, and other abdominal problems have visited the Emergency Department at Hamad General Hospital. Dr. Gafoor says these conditions do not require emergency care, adding that misuse of the Emergency Department places it under undue stress.
Dr. Gafoor emphasized that many people have a tendency to overeat during celebrations and festivities, noting that overindulging on palatable foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat is a major cause of indigestion and other abdominal problems.
“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. 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. As a result, we see an influx of patients complaining of gastrointestinal problems visiting the Emergency Department,” he noted.
Dr. Gafoor emphasized that overindulging, particularly on foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat, can lead to harmful health consequences. However, he notes 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. 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,” said Dr. Gafoor.
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. It can also lead to weight gain. 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,” said Dr. Gafoor.
He explained that most patients who experience the effects of overeating do not require emergency care. He says 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.
“Most patients who come to the Emergency Department as a result of overeating are not in need of urgent care. They will end up having to wait while we treat patients with more serious conditions so we recommend these patients 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,” said Dr. Gafoor.
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 (PHCC) have partnered again this year to re-launch the Ramadan Health website and have 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. Visit the Ramadan Health website at www.hamad.qa/ramadanhealth, or download the app to your phone or tablet by searching for ‘Qatar Health’ (available for iOS and Android operating systems).
Hamad Medical Corporation
Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is the main provider of secondary and tertiary healthcare in Qatar and one of the leading hospital providers in the Middle East.
For more than four decades, HMC has been dedicated to delivering the safest, most effective and compassionate care to all its patients.
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