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Managing Diabetes During Ramadan

Posted in Personal Health 25 Jun, 2015

Many Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during the month of Ramadan. It's not a whole month of constant starving, but controlled eating and drinking, which only happens after dark.

The Qu'ran states Muslims should fast in order to fulfil their obligations to Allah. Many choose to do so to cleanse their bodies and souls and practice self-restraint. There are exceptions though – for example, people with diabetes need to be careful because when fasting there is a higher risk of hypoglycaemia and dehydration.

In 2015 Ramadan falls during the summer, which makes the fast longer. This can lead to more problems for those with diabetes than in previous years. Even if you have fasted before, it may not be safe for you this time around.

Can I Fast If I Have Diabetes?

You should speak to your doctor about fasting to make sure you are not at risk of hypoglycaemia. Those on medication may develop high blood sugar levels, which can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis and a hospital stay. Medical advice before fasting is essential.

Pregnant women, children and those with medical conditions are not required to fast. In fact the Qur'an states that you must not harm your body, and to fast when you are aware of the dangers is contrary to this.

During UK summertime, daylight can last up to 18 hours a day. That's a long time to go without eating and drinking. This puts diabetics at risk of low blood sugar levels and dehydration. If you eat a lot at sunset (and who could blame you) you may then be at risk of high blood sugar levels.

How To Manage Diabetes During Ramadan

Speak to your doctor first, and decide whether or not it is safe for you to fast. If so, these are some of the precautions you may have to take.

  • A change in your type of insulin.
  • Different food before and after the fast, such as high GI foods that absorb slowly.
  • You must check your glucose levels more frequently.
  • Eat small quantities when breaking your fast.
  • Eat before sunrise so you are prepared for the day's fasting.
  • If you take insulin you may require less of it before the fast.

Do make sure that you receive advice from your doctor - each case of diabetes is individual and the suggestions above will not suit every diabetic during Ramadan.

What If I Can't Fast?

If you are not safely able to fast, then you are not required to. You can fulfil your obligations to Allah by undertaking charity work or offering food to the poor. Speak to your Imam about alternatives to fasting. Do not feel pressured into fasting or guilty about continuing to eat during Ramadan. You must be sensible and take care of your health.

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