What is a Ramadan or fasting Headache?
A fasting or Ramadan headache is a type of headache which is very common during fasting episodes. The symptoms are similar to a tension type headache, a mild to moderate pain or constant pressure on both sides of the head. Approximately 40% of people fasting during Ramadan are complaining about headaches. Most often the headache occurs during the first days of the fast but may last during the whole episode. If someone was suffering from headaches or migraine before the risk is higher.
What is the cause?
There might be multiple factors contributing to the phenomena such as 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.
What can you do?
• 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.
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Are you suffering from headaches? You are not alone! Headache is a widespread disease and one of the most common reasons to visit a neurologist. It occurs in different types and strengths and can impair the quality of living substantially. It is possible to do something against it.