Those who are on regular medication for indigestion, such as antacids (eg Gaviscon), antihistamines (eg Zantac) or proton pump inhibitors (eg Losec, Zoton or Nexium) are advised to continue taking them, at the pre-dawn meal for instance. The control of heartburn or belching can be aided by eating in moderation and avoiding oily, deep-fried or very spicy food. Reducing your caffeine intake and/or stopping smoking can also be of beneﬁt, if relevant. Sleeping with your head raised on a few pillows and long-term weight loss may also help prevent heartburn.
This is a common problem and has many causes. Headaches during a fast could commonly be due to dehydration or hunger, inadequate rest, or the absence of addictive substances such as caffeine or nicotine. A moderate and balanced diet, especially not missing the pre-dawn meal, consuming adequate quantities of ﬂuid and if necessary taking a dose of painkillers such as paracetamol, may all go a long way towards either preventing or reducing the risk of developing a disabling headache.
Prevention is always better than cure. However, if you do not adequately rehydrate before a fast, your risk of dehydration is increased. This risk is higher in the elderly and in those taking tablets such as diuretics. Depending on the severity of the dehydration, you may experience a general feeling of being unwell, lethargy, muscle cramps, dizziness, disorientation and even collapse or fainting
Constipation could be a very irritating problem for someone undertaking a fast. Maintaining good hydration outside the fast, eating healthly, with lots of fruit and vegetables in your diet, increasing the ﬁbre content of your food using bran, and being active all help to keep your bowel motions as regular as would otherwise be expected. If the problem persists, a short course of bulk laxatives may help.
Poor control of diabetes
Those injecting insulin are advised not to fast, as the potential risk to health, both in the short and long term, of not taking insulin is too great. People who have their diabetes under control using tablets should ensure that they visit their GP prior to Ramadan, in order to discuss any possible changes to their drug regime which would facilitate a safe fast. If not, such patients are at risk of poor control of their diabetes during and outside the fasting times. Regular self-monitoring of your blood glucose is strongly advised. Low blood sugar levels (a ‘hypo’) are dangerous, and if untreated may lead to fainting or ﬁts, and hence must be strictly avoided. Feeling dizzy, sweaty and disorientated may all suggest a hypo. If this is suspected, you should immediately have a sugary drink.