Ramadan, the period when Muslims fast every day from sunrise to sunset, has begun. This year the Islamic holy month falls upon the same week as the summer solstice, the longest day of the year – meaning Ramadan will have the longest average fasting hours in its 33-year lunar-based cycle. Fasting directly influences the control of diabetes because of the month-long changes in meal times, types of foods and use of medication.
It is estimated around 50 million Muslims worldwide are living with diabetes and three quarters of them continue to fast every year during Ramadan, despite the health risks. Furthermore, a study in Diabetes Care found that 43 percent have type 1 diabetes and 79 percent are living with type 2 diabetes from 13 Islamic countries fasting during Ramadan.
People who are ill or have medical conditions do not have to fast, this includes people with diabetes. Speaking to your diabetes healthcare team as early as possible before Ramadan is key, your diabetes team will be able to advise you on whether it is safe for you to fast. If you are fasting, Wendy Norton from Totally Health offers information on how to keep yourself safe during Ramadan:
- Drink lots of water! If you become dehydrated, your blood sugar levels can get very high and you can become very ill
- At Suhoor you should eat starchy carbohydrates which release energy slowly, such as multigrain bread, basmati rice and vegetables
- Check your blood sugar levels if you are taking medication to treat diabetes – blood glucose testing will not break your fast
- Avoid sweets, fried snacks or food that has high sugar contact, instead take natural sugar from fruits
- If hypoglycaemia (usually defined as a blood glucose level less than 70 mg/dl) occurs, it’s important to break the fast and treat with food or drink that contains carbohydrates
If you have a long term condition Health Coaching offers one-to-one support and can help you proactively manage your diagnosis.