Make smart choices to speed up digestion, prevent acidity and stay hydrated this Ramadan
27 May 2019| Last updated on 27 May 2019
After a long day of fasting during Ramadan, eating a large meal at iftar and splurging on sweets could cause acidity, heartburn and indigestion.
Other triggers include obesity, eating before sleeping, emotional or binge eating, highly processed foods and stress.
To digest a large meal all at once, the stomach needs to produce a large amount of hydrochloric acid, putting pressure on the lower oesophageal sphincter that connects the stomach to the oesophagus. This causes the sphincter to open and allows acid to enter the oesophagus, sometimes along with undigested food, causing heartburn.
During fasting hours, the lack of food means your stomach acid has no food to break down and so can aggravate your stomach wall, causing irritation and acidity and can event lead to stomach ulcers.
If you feel a burning sensation in your chest and oesophageal area, you may need to change the types of food you are eating and practice portion control.
Avoid acidic foods that can aggravate heartburn such as:
- Fatty or fried foods
- Spicy food
- Tomato paste
- High quantities of fruit juice – whole fruits with fibre are better since it slows down the release of sugar and makes the body less acidic
- Citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons
- Beverages that increase acidity such as coffee, fizzy drinks and orange juice
- Chronic stress, which overworks the adrenal glands and causes them to produce cortisol making the body more acidic
- Do not swallow food quickly without fully chewing. Larger chunks of food mean the stomach needs to produce more acid to break them down
- Although it is often very tempting, make sure you don’t lie down or sleep straight after eating
Instead, replace them with food such as:
- Fruits such as watermelon and apples. Have fruits before large meals, rather than in the middle or end
- Fresh mint
- Green vegetables that are alkaline and counter acidity
- De-caffeinated green tea
- Pro-biotics such as yogurt or butter milk
- Drink lots of water to buffer acidity
To reduce acid reflux and heartburn, it is also important to control your portion sizes and consume small frequent meals from iftar to suhoor. Consider diving your iftar meal into two meals, and have a snack in between before suhoor.
It is important to see your doctor if you experience any adverse side effects when fasting, so they can give you personal and tailored advice. Neglecting and not treating heartburn and acidity could lead to more serious chronic conditions in the long-run.
Dr. Abtan Al Talafih
Medcare Hospital Sharjah