How can you manage diabetes while fasting during Ramadan?

Through April and May 2021, Muslims around the world have been fasting as part of Islam’s most sacred month: Ramadan. We spoke to Brighter’s UAE-based family medicine specialist Rasha Husam about managing diabetes during this time.

Diet is such an important part of managing blood glucose – do Muslims with diabetes also fast during Ramadan?

As a general rule, Ramadan fasting is for people in good health who can tolerate it. People with complications from conditions like diabetes are not expected to fast and are usually advised against it by their healthcare providers. It depends on the individual though. Some people with diabetes may choose to fast if they are healthy and are managing their condition well.

The local health authorities here in Dubai place a lot of importance on monitoring the health of people with diabetes during Ramadan. Before starting this season of fasting, people with diabetes should check their general health at a clinic and do any laboratory tests that will help healthcare providers to assess their ability to fast or not.

Is there any official advice for people fasting during Ramadan?

Yes. The International Diabetes Federation has provided insights and advice in Diabetes and Ramadan Practical Guidelines 2021. The document includes updated risk criteria, information on the impact of fasting, guidance for managing both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and information on changes in the risk to comorbidities.

Do the Dubai healthcare authorities make any specific provisions or recommendations for people with diabetes at this time?

Yes, there is an excellent paper from the Dubai Health Authority about diet during Ramadan. It’s specifically aimed at people with diabetes, and has recommendations on the quality and quantity of food that will maintain good health during Ramadan.

In Dubai, healthcare providers advise against fasting if blood glucose is below 70 mg/dl or above 300 mg/dl. Fasting outside of these levels can lead to hyper- or hypo-glycaemia, and associated complications.

“People with medical conditions who are not able to fast can still observe the spiritual significance of our holy month through prayer and family time.”

How has the Covid-19 pandemic made Ramadan different this year?

The pandemic affects all aspects of our daily lives. People with Covid-19 are encouraged to avoid fasting and observe proper medical treatment, especially if they have diabetes or another chronic condition.

Please tell us something about other ways Muslims observe Ramadan, besides fasting.

People with medical conditions who are not able to fast can still observe the spiritual significance of our holy month through prayer and family time. Many countries with predominantly Muslim populations reduce working hours during this month so that people can practice living in a healthy and mindful manner.

All statements and claims are aligned with IDF and Dubai Health Authority recommendations related to Ramadan and diabetes.

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