Don't let fasting-related headaches bother you
Dubai - Expert says migraine patients are most at risk
Published: Sat 11 Jun 2016, 12:00 AM
Last updated: Sun 12 Jun 2016, 2:03 AM
On June 6, Muslims began fasting to mark the holy month of Ramadan. During this period, observers abstain from eating, drinking and smoking for 29 or 30 days.
Though the practice of fasting is thought of as a spiritually cleansing experience, many people who fast also become vulnerable to headaches or migraines as a result of different health factors including hypoglycemia, caffeine withdrawal, and change in sleep patterns.
For Dr H.A. Jacobs, neurologist at the German Neuroscience Centre in Dubai, her patient list always sees an increase at this time of the year.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, she says migraine patients are "most at risk" to attacks during Ramadan because they are sensitive to changes in routine, but she regularly treats people suffering from headaches too, specifically tension headaches.
Here, she sets out a number of tips these fasting Muslims can follow in order to minimise and/or handle their headaches and migraines better.
Resume medication after fasting hours:
Many patients observing the fasting period during Ramadan stop taking their preventative medication between sunrise and sunset.
Though it is common for Muslims to do this (with the go-ahead from their doctor), some take the decision to stop their medication altogether during the Holy Month. But for those who do, it can cause severe disruptions to the brain, so Dr Jacobs advises continuity of medication after breaking fast.
Establish a good routine:
The onset of Ramadan sparks a number of changes in a person's daily routine. Varying eating times and a decrease in working hours are just among some of the changes witnessed, but Dr Jacobs says it is important to establish a regular eating and sleep pattern during the Holy Month. This ensures a regular rhythm for the brain. If this pattern varies drastically, headache and migraine patients may be more prone to attacks.
Be smart with your food:
Hypoglycemia occurs when blood glucose drops below normal levels (it is also called low blood sugar). Avoid starting your fast following the intake of food with a high sugar content. It can cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels followed by a fast drop, which may trigger a headache.
Dehydration is a big factor contributing towards headaches during Ramadan. An adequate intake of fluid before the onset of the fast can often prevent headaches. Drinking small and regular amounts of water before and after the fasting period will help combat this. And for people who drink caffeinated drinks like coffee or soda as part of their normal diet, continue taking these - in responsible amounts of course. This too helps maintain the brains rhythm as it is something it is used to having on a daily basis.
Try to avoid other triggers:
Headaches don't only happen during Ramadan. For many, they are a regular, and sometimes even a daily occurrence. Where possible, those fasting should try to avoid exposure to other triggers such as fluid retention, stress and fatigue.
Listen to your doctor:
In some instances, patients may need a transitional increase in their medication if abstaining from intake throughout the day. This is to make up for the period from sunrise to sunset when medication intake has been halted. Listen to the advice of your doctor, because risking your health is not in keeping with the spirit of Ramadan.