Your gameplan against headaches during Ramadan

Ingy Deif, Sunday 7 Jul 2013

For those who struggle with headaches around the year, fasting hours in Ramadan can pose a challenge; experts give advice ahead of the Holy month

photo: Reuters

Although the statistics are unclear on how many Egyptians are afflicted by headaches, the percentage is probably similar to those estimated by WHO for the Mediterranean countries and Europe, which are at 12 - 15 percent; while in the USA 17 - 20.

For those crippled by the problem, headaches are a major obstacle. In 2001 the WHO ranked migraines and headaches among one of the 20 ailments that deprive a person most from leading a healthy life.

Needless to say this Ramadan, coupled with rocky political circumstances, headaches and migraines are expected to soar, making fasting agonising for many.

Ramadan-related bouts

Neurology Consultant Dr Ahmed Samaha explains that the brain is in constant need of oxygen and glucose; the lack of which trigger headaches during fasting hours and the intensity of this kind of headaches mounts as the hours of the day goes by.

As for the headaches that occur immediately after eating, these are usually caused by blood focusing on the digestive system, thus decreasing the blood that goes to the brain cells, which also results in headaches.

Other factors include disturbances in sleeping patterns and a reduction of the caffeine intake that the person is used to.

To plan ahead of the holy month, nutritionist and health coach Dr Dina Sakr suggests:

·         Start a gradual decrease in the intake of caffeine before Ramadan to ensure a smooth transition. This is crucial for heavy caffeine drinkers.

·         During fasting, keep hydrated until the last possible moment; drink water abundantly.

·         Choose to eat a lot of veggies, which secrete moisture and water as they get digested.

·         A very late sohour (the last meal before sunrise) is very important.

·         Don't binge when you have iftar (break the fast). Instead, start with one meal that is just enough to quench your thirst and hunger, then go for a second, larger meal later.

·         Maintain a constant sleep schedule that starts before Ramadan and lasts until the end.

·         Avoid noise and try relaxation methods: praying, meditation, yoga, etc.

Professor of Nutrition at the National Research Centre, Dr Fawzi El-Shobaki adds to that advice to include foods rich in calcium and magnesium to your iftar meal, while avoiding headache trigger-foods, such as:

·         Old cheese

·         Processed meat

·         Monosodium glutamate (MSG) in canned broths and Chinese food

·         Aspartame

·         Chocolate

·         Peanuts

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