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12 Things You Should Know About Caffeine Withdrawal, According To Muslim Dietitians

For one, it's not too late to start cutting out caffeine for Ramadan.

Millions around the world are celebrating Ramadan this month, which is marked by refraining, during daylight hours, from eating and drinking (yes, even water).

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It's a holy month intended to help Muslims focus on growing spiritually, but it also becomes a time for celebrations and spending time with family — even for those who aren't very religious.

One challenging aspect about Ramadan is abstaining from substances like caffeine — quitting coffee cold turkey can bring about symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and mood swings.

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For those fasting during daylight hours, it oftentimes means refraining from that morning coffee — and for some, cutting it out entirely to allow for restful sleep. As any big coffee drinker knows, hitting pause on drinking coffee can cause a slew of withdrawal symptoms.*

*On the other hand, for some people, quitting coffee might not bring about any changes at all! It all depends on how you and your body are wired to metabolize caffeine, and how much you're used to drinking.

We spoke to Muslim dietitians Nazima Qureshi and Nour Zibdeh to get their thoughts on how to control caffeine intake for the month of Ramadan.

Nazima Qureshi, Nour Zibdeh

Qureshi is a registered dietitian based in Toronto while Zibdeh is a registered dietitian and digestive health specialist based in the Virginia/DC area.

1. First of all, if you haven't already, it's not too late to completely wean yourself off caffeine for the month of Ramadan (or indefinitely).

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In an ideal world, if you want to completely stop drinking coffee, you should start weaning yourself off of caffeine anywhere from a week to two weeks before the start of Ramadan. But it's not too late to start now. If you're currently drinking 2–3 cups a day, you can wean yourself off by substituting 1–2 of those cups this week with either decaf or an herbal tea. This should "help you keep the habit of drinking something warm," says Qureshi, while guiding you on your way to replacing all the caffeine with herbal tea or water.

2. If you do want to keep drinking caffeine, though, drink it as early in your iftar as possible.

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"I try and get my cup of coffee right after I break my fast around 8 p.m.," says Zibdeh. This strategy works for Zibdeh, who usually doesn't head to bed until she's done with her meal, prayer, and any socializing, after midnight.

3. But keep in mind that caffeine of any quantity could affect your quality of sleep.

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And since you're sleeping in small increments, the quality of sleep is pretty important. So be mindful of how it affects you and experiment drinking it early in your iftar or even during suhoor.

4. Your caffeine intake shouldn't be dehydrating you. And if you feel like it is, it's probably because you're not drinking enough water at suhoor or iftar, not because of your cup of joe.

As long as you drink enough water, a cup or two of coffee won’t significantly affect your hydration levels, says Qureshi.

To help you hydrate, you can get a nifty tumbler with colorful bands that help you keep track of your water intake. Get it from Amazon for $13.15+.

5. If you're getting headaches, remember that it could very well be a result of sleep deprivation in general...


The reality is that between getting up early for suhoor and staying up late for iftar, your sleep schedule will take some getting used to and might result in you getting a couple fewer hours of z's in the first week or so, says Zibdeh. To help your extra sensitivity, try squeezing in a quick nap in the afternoon, or go to a quiet room for some deep breathing and meditation or prayer.

6. ...or it could be a result of dehydration.

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In addition to your eight cups of water per day, try and incorporate more hydrating fruits and vegetables, like watermelon, cucumber, and strawberries, says Zibdeh.

Qureshi and Zibdeh also have a few general notes on maintaining good energy levels without the help of caffeine:

7. Try and eat a balanced amount of food at suhoor and iftar.

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Low energy levels are often a result of "overeating at night time and undereating at suhoor," says Qureshi. So try and pace your eating, and don't overindulge during either window of eating.

8. For suhoor, aim for a plate filled with whole grain carbs, a source of protein, and healthy fats to help you feel full and provide energy for longer.

Qureshi recommends overnight oats made with rolled oats, fruit, Greek yogurt, milk, nuts and seeds, and dark chocolate chips. Get the recipe on her site.

9. Drink at least eight cups of water, aiming for four glasses at suhoor and four more at iftar.

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Or even more!

10. And be mindful of what you eat for iftar, making sure half your plate is filled with vegetables (cooked or in salad form), a quarter with protein (like chicken, lentils, or chickpeas), and the last quarter with full-grain carbs.

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If you do want to indulge in white carbs or fried foods, you can use that last quarter of your plate to get a taste of what your friends or family have prepared, says Qureshi.

11. Go easy on the sugar.

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Avoid high-sugar foods and be mindful of how much fruit juice, desserts, and dates you're consuming. "Dates are a prophetic food," says Zibdeh, "but too much of them, coupled with dessert, could result in excessive sugar intake and a roller coaster of energy levels."

12. And remember that one of the smallest ways you can help your energy levels is to chew your food.


Digestion starts in the mouth, says Zibdeh, and you should be chewing your food thoroughly and letting your teeth begin mechanically breaking down your meals. "It's harder for your stomach enzymes to work when the food is chunky and clumpy," says Zibdeh. "I encourage people to start small when opening their fast, starting with a date or two, go pray, and THEN finish their meal."

Happy Ramadan!