Many individuals who fast during the holy month of Ramadan suffer from headaches as one of the primary symptoms they can experience while fasting, especially during the first few days of the Ramadan. These headaches are normally resulted by several changes that occur during Ramadan, including the rapid change in dietary habits, reduced fluid intake, and the changes in sleeping patterns by staying up late and not getting enough sleep at night.
Dr. Yousef Al Tayeb, Senior Consultant of Emergency Medicine at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) said: “Some individuals may have a headache before the Iftar meal, while others can get a headache after having their Iftar meal. There are two types of these headaches, namely primary headaches and secondary headaches. Headaches often occur before Iftar due to the decreased blood glucose levels. Glucose is an important source of energy for the human body and food is its main source. Once the individual eats, the body turns the food consumed to simple sugar, known as glucose, through the digestion and metabolism process. Glucose is then carried through bloodstream to the body’s cells to provide energy for performing vital processes.”
However, some individuals can have headaches after eating their Iftar meal, which often occurs due to overeating and indigestion. Excessive eating and drinking during Iftar until the stomach is full can apply pressure on the diaphragm and affect the breathing mechanism, which can lead the fasting individual to feel symptoms of shortness of breath, fatigue, and headache.
Dr. Al Tayeb provided the following health tips for those who fast during Ramadan to avoid having headaches:
- Delay the Suhoor meal and choose healthy, slow-digesting foods for Suhoor such as grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits to ensure the body has enough energy during the fasting period.
- Avoid staying up late at night and try to have regular sleeping patterns and take a nap during daytime hours.
- Make sure you drink plenty of water and fluids (up to three litres) during the hours between Iftar and Suhoor.
- Keep your blood glucose levels within the normal range by eating in moderation during Iftar and Suhoor meals.
It is important to eat healthy, balanced Iftar meals to ensure the body is getting enough nutrients and vitamins. It’s also recommended to eat in moderation during Iftar to avoid indigestion and stomach upset. Fasting individuals are also recommended to limit their intake of caffeinated drinks and to stay in cool places during the hot hours of the day and avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight or hot environments as much as possible to prevent excessive sweating, dehydration and headaches.
Patients who take medication, especially those with chronic conditions and patients with hypertension are recommended to consult with their doctor before they fast Ramadan to arrange for timing and dosage modifications if needed. It’s also advised to avoid sources of stress and anxiety and to reduce exposure time to electronic screens.