Abu Dhabi hospitals report rise in overeating cases this Ramadan
Emergency departments are reporting an influx of people with stomach pains and nausea after overeating at iftar – with the number of patients at some hospitals having doubled since the start of the holy month.
Dr Magdi Mohamed, a consultant in emergency medicine at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said there were between 160 and 180 patients visiting its A&E department on a daily basis.
During Ramadan, about a quarter of these are suffering with gastrointestinal problems because of overeating at iftar, putting a strain on hospital resources.
“At least 40 a day are complaining about symptoms related to this,” he said. “The first is gastritis – an acute inflammation of the stomach – and the second is gastroenteritis, an infection of the stomach and intestines together, resulting in vomiting or diarrhoea.”
Other stomach cramps and pains are often down to contaminated food or food not being prepared properly, he said.
Many patients needed medication to ease stomach cramps, intravenous fluid to rehydrate and a short stay in the hospital to recuperate.
Dr Mohamed said about half a dozen patients a day were also found to have kidney stones, which is commonly associated with dehydration.
Dr Indira Gouthaman, of the department of family medicine at LLH Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said the number of patients presenting with stomach problems had doubled since the start of Ramadan because of overeating at iftar.
“We get about 12 a day, which is almost double the number of cases compared with the rest of the year,” she said.
“Abdominal pain – mainly upper abdominal pain – is the most common symptom.
“Patients also come with vomiting and nausea and sometimes loose stools. Gaseous distension and bloating of the abdomen are also seen.”
The number of patients with stomach problems also soared at Medeor 24×7 Hospital in the capital because of people breaking the fast too quickly, with too much food, according to Dr Marigold Hofilena Daclan, a general practitioner at the emergency department.
“On average, more than 50 per cent of emergency room visits during Ramadan are gastrointestinal complaints, ranging from abdominal pain and diarrhoea to dyspepsia,” she said. “These visits are frequently after iftar, starting at about 9pm onwards, which is conclusive to being the result of binge eating after prolonged fasting.”
Dr Daclan said the best way to resume food intake after fasting was to “eat easy-to-digest food first before devouring meaty foods”, which will “give your stomach time to adjust”.
Lamis Akkad, a nutritionist at Abu Dhabi’s NMC Royal Hospital, said the most common problems were abdominal pains and digestion issues.
“This can lead to vomiting and diarrhoea,” she said. “In the worst cases they have to be hospitalised and be on IV fluids until everything is resolved.”