For those who experience bloating, constipation or fatigue after breaking fasts, here are some tips to help improve your post-iftar issues.
Sitting-down for the traditional iftar meal with family and friends is a major part of the holy month of Ramadan in Qatar and around the world. However, eating tasty food that tend to be rich in oils and fats after hours of fasting usually mean the emergence of abdominal issues and fatigue.
After breaking their fasts, many suffer from gastrointestinal problems such as bloating, reflux, constipation, fatigue and discomfort.
Doha News spoke to a clinical dietician at Lite N Appetite, Yasmine Marouche, to learn more about gastrointestinal problems during Ramadan and ways to prevent them.
Despite the initial excitement to start eating after hours of abstaining, it’s important to take a few minutes to plan your food intake before sitting at the table.
“Many of the above problems can be avoided by wiser dietary choices,” the dietician said, noting both the iftar and suhoor meals should consist of healthy and nutritious ingredients with normal portion sizes.
“When you have a big amount of food at one time, the pressure in your stomach will be high, which will increase the gastric acid levels leading to heartburn,” Marouche explained.
Also, and due to limited amounts of digestive enzymes, a large meal will lead to a slow and low digestion, which makes the stomach take longer time to empty itself from excessive amounts of food.
“The fullness of the stomach then will cause pain and discomfort and lethargy,” the dietician warned.
Abdominal problems can also be avoided by chewing meals slowly and enjoying the taste.
“Because your brain doesn’t immediately recognise that your stomach is full, you may be at risk of eating more than your body needs and getting too full if you are prone to eating quickly,” she added.
This can be avoided by eating slowly and enjoying every bite during iftar, especially after several hours of abstaining.
Limit high fat, high salt & spicy food
Foods that are high in fat can sometimes cause bloating because they’re slow to digest. So instead of eating a fatty, greasy meal like fried chicken or fried cheese rolls, try a low-fat option like grilled chicken and salad.
“When you eat foods that are high in salt, your body holds onto fluids you eat and drink. That can make you feel bloated,” the dietician noted.
People observing the fast this month should try low salted dairy products and avoid pickles, olives and smoked food products altogether.
“Spicy food such as hot pepper, chili powder and tabasco causes the stomach to release more acid, which causes irritation, bloating and gastric discomfort.”
It’s important to avoid spices during iftar to prevent painful abdominal problems like heartburn.
Drinking less and eating more
Always keep track of your water intake and try not to fill yourself up with food.
Some people find themselves suffering from constipation during Ramadan for various reasons. Constipation occurs mainly when your bowel movements are slow.
“The main reason for facing constipation during Ramadan is the disruption of a regular diet routine by fasting for long hours,” the dietician elaborated.
Additional reason for constipation during the holy month might be lower activity and movement levels during fasting hours, insufficient fluid intake and inadequate fibre intake.
To avoid this common problem, Marouche advises those fasting to consume at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables after breaking their fast. This could be anything from apples, bananas, oranges and strawberries to broccoli and artichokes.
In fact, the clinical dietician said a pro tip would be to focus on eating the peels whenever edible. “That’s where the most fibre is!”
While this comes without saying, it is crucial to keep track of fluids consumption, most importantly water, vegetable juice, low fat or nonfat milk and fat free soups with meals and snacks.
“Liquids that contain caffeine, such as coffee and soft drinks have a dehydrating effect and need to be avoided when constipated,” Marouche pointed out.
Another way to get rid of constipation is through choosing whole-wheat bread (rather than white) and fibre containing cereals (rather than refined).
“Also, consider adding legumes daily to your food: lentil, beans, quinoa and oats,” the dietician advised.
Most importantly, a health tip to always keep in mind is to stay active. Physical activity is vital as it maintains a healthy body and prevents various diseases.
A recent study showed that those who are are physically inactive are at an alarmingly high risk of hospitalisation, ICU admission and death if they contract Covid-19.
Researchers involved in the study reported by the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that “consistently meeting physical activity guidelines was strongly associated with a reduced risk for severe Covid-19 outcomes among infected adults.”
This means staying active is extremely important not just for weight or aid digestion, but also to prevent diseases during a pandemic.
In a recent interview with Doha News, professional fitness coach, Maryam Sulaiman Alharoon said exercising is crucial especially during Ramadan to maximise benefits that come from fasting.
Working out is beneficial at all times of the day even when fasting, and the right time to exercise in Ramadan should be determined by the person’s physical ability and preference.
“Refrain from sitting for long hours watching tv or having long naps, especially after breaking your fast. Consider 30 mins walks 4 to 5 times per week,” the dietician added.