Managing migraines can be tricky at the best of times. But during a period of fasting it can become even more so. Fasting comes with so many benefits for overall health and well being and many people enjoy the benefits of this during and after Ramadan.
However, migraine sufferers may feel differently during this time. Studies have shown that during Ramadan, migraine sufferers report an increase in the frequency and severity of their migraines.
Some of the most common migraine triggers are:
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Changes in eating patterns
- Caffeine withdrawal
These are all challenges faced during Ramadan.
It can be difficult to manage headaches and migraines during the month when taking oral painkillers or migraine medication isn’t an option.
1) Manage your migraines through Ramadan without breaking your fast
Non-medication based treatments such as osteopathy, chiropractic, massage and acupuncture can be very helpful in migraine management. Book yourself in for regular treatment during this time.
Hot and cold packs around the head and neck can provide relief for some sufferers. Headache balms can temporarily ease some symptoms of a migraine and be applied to your head and neck.
Looking at the types of foods you eat, migraines are often triggered by spikes or drops in your blood glucose. Carbs and sugary foods are the main culprits for this. Eating foods that release energy slowly will be helpful, especially in your pre-dawn meal.
Fats and proteins break down slower than carbs, so these types of foods should be a major component in your last meal before fasting. Nuts, eggs, fish, meat, beans and pulses.
Make sure you drink plenty of fluids between sunset and sunrise and avoid sugary drinks that aren’t as hydrating. Eating foods with a high water content, vegetables, fruits and soups can be good for this. It is also good to avoid salt, which can be dehydrating.
2) Sleep easy
Ensure you are getting enough sleep. A migraine sufferer, on average, needs 8+ hours of sleep. Naps are not usually recommended for migraine sufferers. However, during this time, it is important that you do get an optimum level of sleep.
Limiting screen use is also advised. Put blue light filters on your devices and check your posture while working at computers. Spending a lot of time looking down can aggravate the upper part of your neck, which is linked with headaches.
Spend time in the fresh air, go for gentle walks, but don’t over exert yourself.
3) It's always best to be prepared
If you know you suffer with migraines very frequently, talk to your Dr in the months running up to Ramadan about the possibility of taking preventative medications. These tend to be taken daily, so in this period you may be able to take the medication during sunset and sunrise.
There are supplements that you can take. It is best if you can start this 2-3 months before Ramadan. There is some evidence to suggest Magnesium, Riboflavin and Co-enzyme Q10 are useful in decreasing migraine attacks if they are taken consistently.
Getting your body used to the change. You are more susceptible to migraines when your triggers are suddenly pushed out of their comfort zones.
These triggers include:
- A gradual shift in your body clock is better than a sudden change.
- Wean yourself off caffeine over the weeks leading up to Ramadan so you aren’t contending with caffeine withdrawal headaches too.
- Practice fasting in the run up to help your metabolism adjust. 8:16 fasting, where you limit your eating to 8 hours in the day, can be helpful. You can start at 10:14 and shift to a smaller window gradually.