How to deal with a headache ‘fast’
People suffering from headaches or migraine before Ramadan are at greater risk of having headache while fasting but it can happen to anyone.
Fasting during Ramadan can sometimes trigger headaches and while they, most often, occur during the first few days of Ramadan, for some, the pain continues throughout the month. One study — on fasting patients — reported 41 per cent suffered from headaches and the frequency of the headaches increased with the duration of the fast. The type of headache is very similar to the headache you get when you get stressed or take tension. It is a non-pulsating pain of mild or moderate intensity. People suffering from headaches or migraine before Ramadan are at greater risk but it can happen to anyone.
What can trigger headaches
As of today, researchers are still trying to pinpoint exactly what causes headaches during fasting, however, there are most probably multiple factors involved including Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), Caffeine withdrawal (caffeine has a well-known analgesic effect in headaches), dehydration, changes in daily habits (fasting and Ramadan routine in a highly productive and competitive work environment like Dubai can lead to additional stress) and lack of sleep.
According to Dr. med Derk Krieger, neurologist at German Neuroscience Centre in Dubai, the best therapeutic approach is always to remove the underlying cause of the disorder. However, as this is not possible during Ramadan the following is advised:
> After breaking the fast, complex carbohydrates (i.e. whole grains) with a low glycemic index will boost blood glucose levels and provide the longest-lasting energy. By avoiding simple carbohydrates like pure sugar, you avoid a rapid rise in blood sugar levels followed by a fast drop that may trigger a headache.
> A cup of strong coffee before the start of the fast will reduce the risk of caffeine withdrawal.
> Dehydration during the fast should be prevented by sufficient fluid intake during the meals.
> Keep a steady Ramadan routine, avoid going to bed too late and lack of sleep.
> In case you cannot control the headaches with preventative measures, medication may be indicated and certain types have shown to be particularly effective e.g. non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) taken in the morning before starting the fast. If the headaches get uncontrollable or reach a severe intensity, it is advisable to seek specialist medical advice to exclude other causes. People suffering from migraine may also require other treatment during Ramadan.