If you have diabetes and are taking part in Ramadan, it’s important to be aware of the risks.
As Ramadan in 2016 is occurring through June and into the start of July, this means that the fasting period is over a long period of the day.
The fasting period will be over 16 hours in the UK and up to 18 hours in northern parts of the UK such as Scotland.
Could fasting put you at risk?
If fasting could put your health in danger, it’s advisable not to continue fasting.
People with diabetes who are likely to be at particular risk include:
- People taking insulin
- People on sulphonylureas or glinides
- Elderly people
- People with diabetes complications
- People with a number of other health conditions
People in such a position can offer to provide help to charities or offer food to the poor as an alternative to fasting.
What are the dangers of fasting?
Some people with diabetes may be able to fast safely but, in any case, it’s valuable to know what the possible risks are. These include:
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) during the fasting period
- Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) following breaking of the fast
- Weight gain
Low blood sugar may occur if you are on certain diabetes medications. If you are in any doubt whether you may be at risk of hypoglycemia, speak to your doctor.
High blood sugar may happen if you have a large meal at Iftar, or keep snacking afterwards. High blood sugar levels are also likely to occur if you have high-calorie or high-carbohydrate foods as part of Iftar.
Some people lose weight during Ramadan, whereas some gain weight and others stay the same weight.
However, as weight gain can sometimes happen, it is worth flagging this up as a possible outcome.
Avoiding high-calorie foods, such as pastries and sweet foods, should help to reduce the risk of gaining weight through Ramadan.
Healthy eating during Ramadan
If you have diabetes, it is particularly important that you eat well during Ramadan.
Good general advice for healthy eating during Ramadan is to ensure you consume plenty of vegetables, healthy fats and pick low-GI foods.
How you eat will likely depend on which, if any, medication you are on. If you have not spoken with your diabetes team about how best to eat during Ramadan, now is the time to arrange an appointment with them.
If you need more information on managing diabetes through Ramadan, the IDF has produced an extensive guide entitled: Diabetes and Ramadan Practical Guidelines