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Healthy fasting advice for Muslims with diabetes during Ramadan

Healthy fasting advice for Muslims with diabetes during Ramadan

Doctors in Bradford and Craven offer tips for fasting safely during Ramadan.

Published: May 15, 2019
Category: Looking after yourself
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Observing good self-management of diabetes can be a challenge for people with diabetes who are fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Most people with diabetes can fast without any issue as long as they follow a few key pieces of advice and GPs at NHS Bradford District and Craven CCGs (clinical commissioning groups) have made some recommendations for people with diabetes to fast safely.

Ramadan began on 6th May and is observed for 29-30 days, based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon, and concludes with the feast Eid al-Fitr that marks the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the next lunar month.

During Ramadan many Muslims observe a fast between sunrise to sunset – which can mean they will not eat or drink for up to 17 hours.

Fasting for this length of time can pose a risk to the health of people with diabetes and other long-term health conditions.

The following recommendations for people with diabetes who plan to fast during Ramadan are from GPs in Bradford:

  • Ensure you are aware of the differences this will mean if you are taking insulin. People with diabetes using insulin who wish to fast will need less insulin on a morning before the start of their fast
  • Eat more slowly absorbed food such as basmati rice, dhal and fruit and vegetables in your meal before beginning your fast (Suhoor or Sehri)
  • Try to eat just before sunrise, at the start of the next day’s fast
  • Make sure to only have small quantities of food when breaking fast and avoid eating sweet or fatty foods
  • Check blood glucose levels more often than when not fasting
  • Make sure to drink plenty of sugar-free and decaffeinated fluids at the end of your fast to avoid becoming dehydrated
Watch Dr Junaid Azam offer advice for people with diabetes who are fasting during Ramadan 2019:

Dr Junaid Azam, a Bradford GP and clinical lead for diabetes at the CCGs said: “As long as people with diabetes take care of themselves and know the warning signs if their health begins to suffer, most can fast without a problem during Ramadan.

“However, if you have diabetes and use insulin, or you have additional long-term health conditions, you should seek advice from your GP or practice nurse before you begin your fast.”

Dr Waqas Tahir, a Bradford GP and clinical lead for the National Diabetes Prevention Programme in Bradford added: “As the nights are getting shorter and the days longer, people with diabetes can be at a higher risk of hypoglycaemia (known as hypos for short), which is when your blood sugars can drop too low. If people eat large meals before fasting at Suhoor (Sehri) and after fasting at Iftar, they can run the risk of having very high glucose levels called hyperglycaemia.

“Hypos, high glucose levels and dehydration, especially as the weather hopefully gets warmer, can pose serious health risks to people with diabetes. However, this does not mean that a person with diabetes cannot fast, just that it is worth understanding the risks, knowing your body and its warning signs and ensuring you stay safe while observing Ramadan.

“If you have diabetes and feel like you are having a hypo during your fast please seek urgent medical attention.”

Dr Azam added: “Islam forbids us from fasting if it will harm our body and this could include people with more severe diabetes. However, most people with diabetes should be able to fast successfully if they take care of themselves throughout Ramadan.

“If you have diabetes and are planning on fasting for Ramadan, speak to your local GP or practice nurse for help and support managing your condition. Your Imam should also be able to provide guidance if you’re concerned or if you will be unable to fast due to a medical condition.”

Category: Looking after yourself
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