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Preventing Headaches & Migraines during Ramadaan


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Q. I am a keen follower Jamiatul Ulama group from the UK. Alhamdulillah, what an inspiration. Can I please ask for any tips to prevent headaches/migraines during fasting? It would be extremely helpful.
Response of Dr Farouk Haffejee (Durban)
Headaches during Ramadaan are caused by a few factors:
1. Caffeine Withdrawal Headache - Caused by not having tea or coffee during the day on the first day of Ramadaan.  Lasts for up to a week into Ramadaan. It is a sharp, pounding headache.  Drinking tea, coffee and caffeine-containing drinks during the day as a habit makes us addicted to caffeine.  Suddenly, on the first day of Ramadaan, there is no more caffeine during the day.  It causes a headache, starting around 2 to 3pm and intensifying as the afternoon goes on, worse between Asr and Maghrib, sometimes accompanied by vomiting in people who have a lot of caffeine during their normal day.
Solution: Start weaning yourself from caffeine drinks slowly, starting as soon as possible, until you are having no caffeine drinks during the day, for 2 or 3 days before Ramadaan starts.  You can have tea or coffee in the morning and in the evening but stop drinking them during the day.  Insha’Allah, the headaches won't come.
2. Hunger - Hunger can also cause headaches which appear towards the end of the day, worse between Asr and Maghrib.
Solution: We must feel hunger during the fasting day.  That is part of Ramadaan. But we can minimise it by eating correctly at Suhur.  We must select foods that take a long time to digest.  We must have a balanced meal with about half carbohydrates which must be complex carbohydrates.  Refined carbohydrates digest very fast (sugar and sugar-containing foods especially cereals, white flour containing foods, white rice, pasta). 
Replace these with complex carbohydrates (Brown flour, brown bread roti made with brown flour, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, etc.) 
We then require proteins about 30% consisting of either animal protein (meat, chicken, fish, dairy products including eggs, etc.) or plant protein (beans, lentils, mushrooms, etc). 
The rest should be fats and oils which are helpful to us like olive oil, olives, avocado or some butter.
3. Dehydration - Headaches can be caused by dehydration.  Again, these headaches appear towards the end of the day.
Solution: Avoid working in hot environments and in the sun.  Make sure that you are well hydrated at the beginning of the fast as our bodies cannot store water.  We need to be 100% full when starting the fast. Judge by the colour of your urine.  If it is dark when you wake up for Suhur, you are under hydrated.  You need to drink more. If your urine is light in colour, you are well hydrated.  To hydrate, we need water, juice, milk, soup, etc.
4. Inadequate sleep - This can cause headaches as well.  
Solution: Because of the shortened hours of sleep, it will help greatly to have a nap around Zuhr time (Qaylullah) which is a sunnah of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wasallam. That "power sleep", made with the intention of seeing you through Taraweeh salaah, will go a long way to keep discomfort from lack of sleep away.
5. Stress - Fasting accompanied by stress, may cause headaches.  These headaches are usually throughout the day - dull, like a vice grip on the head.  
Solution:  To take advantage of the month of Ramadaan and its rich blessings, we should re-organise our work schedule to minimise work and stressful situations and concentrate on pleasing Allah Ta'ala.

Jamiatul Ulama (KZN)
Council of Muslim Theologians

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