21st June 2016
Ramadan, fasting and migraine
Fasting with migraine is a common subject of enquiry to The Migraine Trust during Ramadan
A frequently asked question at The Migraine Trust during the start of Ramadan is about fasting if you have migraine. During the month of Ramadan Muslims fast from dawn until sunset – that means eating nothing while it is daylight. Children, pregnant women, the sick, the elderly and travellers don’t have to fast.
This summer Muslims in the UK are facing the “longest” Ramadan in 33 years, as the holy month coincides with the summer solstice, meaning long days of fasting.
In general, for those who have migraine, skipping meals, hunger and thirst may be trigger factors for migraine attacks, and at this time of year daylight can last about 16 to 19 hours, depending on your UK location.
For many people Ramadan in the summer months has become extremely difficult due to lack of sleep, fatigue and the usual ‘9 – 5’ working pattern. However all Ramadan timetables are based on opinions of scholars so that people have a range of options to choose from, whichever best suits their circumstances.
In modern times there are two main approaches. The first suggests fasting at another time of the year, if the long fasts will affect one’s health, work, and general well being. The second view recommends that the duration of the fast is linked to Makkah.
We asked Dr Fayyaz Ahmed, consultant neurologist and Trustee of The Migraine Trust, about people with migraine fasting during Ramadan:
“Fasting is mandatory for Muslims during the month of Ramadan. However, people with illnesses are exempted from fasting if they feel that fasting would cause health related problems.
There is evidence to suggest that fasting for up to 14 hours intermittently is good for health. However those with migraine particularly if the attacks are precipitated by dehydration or low glucose should avoid fasting.
Fasting is supposed to be observed provided it does not upset normal routine daily activities. Fasting that causes loss of productivity, hence resulting in needing to sleep or being ill all day, negates the purpose.
This year and for a few more years to come in the UK, fasting will be up to 19 hours in duration which is certainly not recommended for patients with migraine. Patients who still feel guilty could repay the fasting days in the winter months or may follow the timing of Makkah i.e. fast for 14 hours matching the sunrise and sunset time of Makkah. These are suggestions endorsed by the European Council.”
Disclaimer – This is intended to provide general information only. The Migraine Trust does not advise individuals to take any particular course of action. We appreciate there will be differing opinions regarding this subject, and we can only support the NHS recommendation for people to seek advice from their GP on managing their migraine (or another health issue).
The NHS Choices website has information for Ramadan regarding fasting and your health – see Healthy Ramadan >