Ramadan Fasting and Diabetes Management

by | Jun 13, 2016 | Health & Fitness

Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims in which consumption of food and drinks, medications, and smoking is forbidden between dawn and dusk. During Ramadan, millions of Muslims fast during the daylight hours. People generally consume only two meals per day during this month, one after sunset (Iftar) and the other before dawn (Suhur). However, this can lead to metabolic changes in the body and can give rise to various health complications, especially in diabetic patients. Although any person who is ill or has some medical condition like diabetes can choose not to fast, it becomes a personal decision. In casediabetic patients choose to fast, they should consult their doctors before starting fasting during Ramadan.

Diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar levels in the body due to insulin deficiency or inability of the body to use insulin properly. Long fasting and fluid restriction during the day can lead to dehydration and fluctuations in sugar levels. These patients can experience any one of the following:

  • Hypoglycemia (lowering of blood sugar levels) due to long fasting hours leading to seizures and loss of consciousness
  • Hyperglycemia (increased blood sugar levels) due to increased food/sugar intake during Iftar and abstaining the use of antidiabetic medications
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (a life-threatening situation) in patients having high blood glucose levels and taking reduced dosage of insulin during Ramadan
  • Dehydration leading to volume and electrolyte depletion and causing syncope, falls, and injuries


Managing Diabetes During Diabetes:

It is very important that patients with diabetes make a personal choice of fasting during Ramadan only after considering their health condition and proper consultation with their physicians. They should be aware of the associated risks and adhere to the doctors’ recommendations in order to have a safe fasting. Diabetic patients should monitor blood glucose levels regularly during Ramadan. If the blood glucose falls below 70 mg/dL, the fast needs to be ended. Checking blood glucose is very important and does not mean breaking the fast. Secondly, dosage of antidiabetic medications need to be modified during Ramadan. That doesn’t mean that a person has to stop taking his medications. Only the doses will be altered based on his sugar levels and current condition.

During Suhur, a diabetic patient should go for healthy breakfast including starchy carbohydrates and some proteins to slow down the digestion and maintaining the feeling of fullness. Breakfast can include: whole grain cereals, some lentils, and low-fat milk. During Iftar, one should drink plenty of fluids, but avoid caffeine and sugar containing beverages. One should not overeat during Iftar and have small meals. Fried food, sweets, and excessive sugar containing foodsshould be avoided.

With proper management plan and regular glucose monitoring, diabetic patients can experience a healthy living and maintain their religious beliefs during the month of Ramadan.



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