- Thousands in the Gulf region are hospitalized due to fasting-related illnesses during Ramadan
- Dieticians see an increase in diabetes cases and weight-gain
- Fatty foods and sugary drinks, have made Ramadan and weight-inducing time.
As Ramadan has drawn to a close -- and with it, mandatory daytime fasting -- Muslims can breathe a sigh of relief as their diets return to normal. Many, however, will be surprised to find their clothes a little snugger, and their health in a perilous state.
Though the month-long season is associated with deprivation, overeating is common practice once the sun goes down. In many hospitals in the Gulf states of the Middle East, the holiday means a sharp rise in inpatients.
"We see a fair increase in digestive-related complaints," admits Rabee Harb, a family doctor at Kuwait's Royale Hayat Hospital, who has noticed an uptick in cases of indigestion, gastroenteritis and peptic ulcer disease.
"It's a combination of overeating or binge eating, and reduced immunity due to dehydration and bad sleeping habits," he says.
Harb also points out the range of medical emergencies during the period that are less directly linked to food. Heat stress due to dehydration, particularly among construction workers, is a particular problem. There is also an increase in traffic accidents, which he attributes to fasting-related drowsiness.
"Fasting and poor sleep aid this. They lead to tiredness and a lack of concentration," he says.
Fasting-related illnesses have become an increasing problem in Gulf countries. In 2011, the Hamad Medical Corporation in Doha reported 7,700 cases in the first week of Ramadan alone. Dana Al Shakaa, a dietician at American Hospital in Dubai, acknowledges she treats an extra five to six patients a day during the holiday season.
"They don't always know why they're suffering," she says of her patients. "They come in with headaches, dizziness or nausea, and it will be from low blood sugar." Al Shakaa also notes that many patients are diagnosed with diabetes during this time.
"There's a surge in uncontrolled diabetes cases dur