Wednesday January 19, 2022

Fasting People may suffer headaches, weakness and fatigue

June 18, 2017

Islamabad: Both the public and private sector healthcare facilities have been receiving significant number of patients with headaches, weakness and fatigue since the beginning of the fasting month of Ramazan.

According to health experts, people while fasting suffer from headaches and like problems because they do not understand the phenomenon and by simple modifications in dietary habits, the problems can be avoided or controlled.

It is commonly observed that many people who fast during Ramazan suffer mild to moderate and in some cases severe headaches as a result of hypoglycaemia (lowering of blood sugar), change in sleep patterns, the stress of fasting or reduction in blood supply to the brain.

Various studies reveal that fasting during Ramazan is a significant precipitating factor for headache and the onset of headache often occurs in the afternoon or evening before ‘Iftar’. It is also witnessed that chronic patients of headache are more prone to have severe headache during fasting but some patients who experience headaches during fasting do not have any history of headaches or migraines.

Health experts believe that one can manage headaches during fasting with the help of proper diet at the time of ‘Sehar’, ‘Iftar’ and after ‘Iftar’.

Majority of people while fasting may experience some form of headache though for many it is not significant while others complain of severe headache that disturbs their routine activities. The main reasons in simple words are that during long hours of fasting, protein breakdown starts and ammonia and other nitrogenous chemicals are released that enter brain and cause headache, drowsiness and lethargy.

Intensive Care Unit Medical Specialist at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences Dr. Muhammad Haroon expressed this while talking to ‘The News’.

Another reason, he said is that when empty stomach is filled rapidly at the time of ‘Iftar’, 60 to 70 per cent of the blood supply is directed towards gastrointestinal system for digestion of the food consumed causing reduction in blood supply to the brain that results in persistent headache.

Talking of the remedies, he said people should not eat too much at the time of ‘Iftar’ and avoid stomach distention. Healthy people particularly those who experience headache while fasting should take plenty of fluids between ‘Iftar’ and ‘Sehar’ and at the time of ‘Sehar’, they should take diet with high fat so that massive protein breakdown can be prevented after long hours of fast, he said. He added that people who are fasting should try to take two-hour bed rest daily after 3:00 pm.

Studies reveal that hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) can also trigger headaches in many people. If a meal with high sugar content is taken at the time of ‘Sehar’, it can cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels followed by a fast drop that may trigger a headache. Eating a meal with low sugar content at the time of ‘Sehar’ may prevent the onset of a headache during the day.

Dr. Haroon said dehydration is another common trigger and adequate intake of fluid between ‘Iftar’ and ‘Sehar’ and at the time of ‘Sehar’ can prevent headaches.

Studies reveal that the human brain is more than 75 per cent water, and it is very sensitive to the amount of water available to it. When the brain detects that the water supply is too low, it begins to produce histamines. This is essentially a process of water rationing and conservation, in order to safeguard the brain in case the water shortage continues for a long period of time. The histamines directly cause pain and fatigue, in other words a headache and the low energy that usually accompanies it.

Experts say that the headache sufferers should also, as far as possible, try to avoid exposure to other triggers such as fluid retention, stress, fatigue and lack of sleep during Ramazan.

Heat exhaustion increases water losses by sweating. Also there is loss of salts from body causing fatigue, muscle cramps and weakness. It is best to avoid working outside as much as possible and stay indoors during the hottest hours of the day, said Dr. Haroon.

He added that strenuous exercise is not recommended in Ramazan as it may cause heat exhaustion. He suggested that light aerobic exercises like rope skipping etc can be done but the best exercise is brisk walking for 30 minutes on alternate days in Ramazan. “Taking one packet of ORS every second or third day replenishes body’s glucose and salt balance in Ramazan.”

It is observed that headache among healthy persons is most commonly reported after ‘Iftar’ that is generally experienced from 30 minutes to two hours after ‘Iftar’.