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Pliro
Written by Pliro
May 30, 2019 Last updated: May 31, 2019
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Each year, during Ramadan, doctors and nurses report a considerable increase in the number of cases of gastroenteritis (~30%). In this health article we’ll discuss what is this condition, the link between Ramadan and gastroenteritis and best methods for prevention and treatment.

When the inner lining of the stomach and/or intestines is irritated and inflamed an individual is diagnosed with gastroenteritis. This is a very common condition usually caused by:

  • Virus (like Norovirus)
  • Bacteria or parasites present in food or water
  • Toxins
  • Some adverse reaction to new food (common in lactating infants)
  • Side effects from medications

Almost all new cases are caused by infectious agent (virus, bacteria or parasites), however, antibiotic medication is only required when certain bacteria are present.

Common Symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomit
  • Cramping
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Headaches

Gastroenteritis & Fasting

As we mentioned above, cases of gastroenteritis rise during Ramadan. This doesn’t mean fasting causes gastroenteritis, is important to clarify that. Instead, the strong urges to eat during Suhoor or Iftar cause people to develop bad habits which makes them more vulnerable to this condition.

  1. Overeating: Doctors consider this the main cause of fasting-related gastroenteritis. People endure their hunger during the day, but eat excessive amounts of food as soon as they have the chance. This makes more likely ingesting infected or spoiled food.
  2. High-fat foods: These foods are hard to digest and after a period of fasting, can represent a source of stress for your gastrointestinal system which might lead to inflammation.
  3. Eating outside + Unsanitary food handling practices: Eating at restaurants or similar venues during Ramadan is not uncommon. Some vendors choose to prepare meals in big bulks as soon as night falls, which often cause food to be under cooked. Under such conditions, food contamination is very likely.    

Precautions to Avoid Gastroenteritis

  • Your meals at Iftar should be light and accompanied with water. Anything high in fat should be avoided.
  • Avoid contact with people experiencing gastroenteritis for at least 48h after their symptoms disappear.
  • If you are planning to eat a considerable amount at the beginning of the day, try dividing it into several small meals instead of a big one. This would require you to wake up earlier.
  • Wash your hands frequently. Alcohol hand gels are useful but not infallible.
  • Clean surfaces with bleach.
  • Don’t share any kind of clothing, towels or utensils with people infected.
  • During Iftar, cold and/or carbonated beverages should be avoided.
  • If possible, high-fiber foods should be consumed. They are easy to digest and help at preventing stomach issues.
  • Mild exercise is beneficial at facilitating proper digestion.
  • Avoid food with high sugar content.

Treatment

Gastroenteritis is uncomfortable but most people recover approximately after a week if they take proper care of themselves. There isn’t a specific treatment for us to recommend, but the following are a few things you can do to get some relief from your symptoms:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. You’ll need to replace all the water lost because of the diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Fever and pain can be treated with paracetamol.
  • Rest, avoid crowded places.
  • Try to only eat soup, rice, pasta or bread.
  • Take medication to treat vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Eat slowly
  • Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen should be used with moderation. In large quantities they can promote digestive problems.

If symptoms become too intense or frequent, we recommend you to see a doctor.

You can avoid gastroenteritis during Ramadan by following just a few recommendations and staying away from potential sources of infection. In extreme cases,  it is always good to visit a gastroenterologist.

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