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         Volume 11 |Issue 34| August 31, 2012 |


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Post Ramadan Effect

Tamanna Khan

A Jakarta daily reports how Indonesians 'eat with a vengeance' throughout the Eid holidays; almost 3,700 km away, their well-to-do Bangladeshi Muslim cousins perform equally well in the 'eating competition'. Take the Eid routine of a peer-certified food lover, living on the edge of obesity. Starting from the late breakfast that includes four different types of sweets, fruit custard and chotpoti (a spicy mix of lentils and potato), the food lover begins a roller coaster ride after relaxing his metabolic system for one whole month.

But the food lover has relatives to visit and he pleases them by trying all the dishes at their houses. So another round of food which would have, on a normal day, been consumed only in the afternoon with tea, finds it way into the system before lunch. Before the memory of this gluttony becomes obscure, arrives the all important lunch hour. Eid day in a Bengali Muslim household is mostly bereft of fish and vegetable dishes. The table is full of ghee-drenched meat dishes, declaring their rich protein and fat content; an occasional salad promising the only relief for the stomach.

After lunch, guests arrive and eating the home-made goodies with the guest is part and parcel of being a good host. So in goes another round of sweets and chotpoti in the already full stomach. Then comes evening tea, which under no circumstance be taken without a snack, according to the food lover's Bible. Finally, the late night dinner, where both pilau and rice is served, considering the torture the stomach has endured throughout the day. But for the food lover a little pilau should not hurt.

All is well, till a gnawing pain starts poking in the abdomen, or a burning feeling travels up the stomach. Some run to the loo, while others spend hours there without any relief. The gluttony of the day finally issues punishment in the form of transient health problems.

Dr Mohammad Nurul Alam, Medical Officer, Cardiology, at the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, explains that our body becomes habituated to a certain food habit during Ramadan. When that habit is suddenly disrupted on Eid day through over-eating, we experience a direct mechanical and a bio-chemical effect.

The mechanical effect happens because of overindulgence, as in the case of the food lover, when somebody consumes more than the body requires. He says that although our food canal is quite flexible, there is a limit to the amount of food that we can intake. As a result, incomplete digestion can take place at point of the digestive process. This may lead to diarrhoea, constipation, nausea etc.

The biochemical change occurs because of the sudden change in the meal routine. Dr Alam says that the digestive juice secreted in the stomach is made up of enzymes, which depend on factors such as food, food intake and even the thought of food. Since the teachings of Ramadan, forbids us to take food and drink and to even think about them during the day, the enzymes are mostly secreted in the night when we have iftar, dinner and sehri, he says.

However, from Eid day we go back to our previous routine of taking food both during day and night and also not refraining from the thought of food. As a result, more digestive juice called gastric juice is secreted. Even the acid secretion, which in regular time helps digestion, may increase and try burning the fragile tissue layers of the stomach. This causes the burning sensation that we often experience from over-eating or eating fatty and oily food.

Other than these transient digestive disorders, Dr Alam, opines that an imbalanced diet for one or two days during the Eid holidays, when we indulge in protein and fatty food, does not have a long-term effect for a healthy person. Yet his advice to the food lover is to keep the day's routine in mind and refrain from overindulgence. “Since we already know that we have to visit friends and family and eat food at their houses on Eid day, we should try to keep the quantity we eat to a minimum. Just because a dish is tasty, we should not overindulge ourselves,” he suggests.


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