Advice for people with diabetes fasting for Ramadan

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Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar when Muslims devote themselves to their faith and fast from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan starts on Sunday 5th May lasting until Tuesday 4th June and is obligatory for almost all Muslims.

Although certain groups are exempt for health and other reasons, some people with diabetes are keen to observe the fast, although the long daylight hours in the UK at this time of the year makes it a challenging time, even for those without medical conditions.

Diabetes UK has highlighted that “long fasts of 15 hours or more” can put people at an increased risk of hypoglycaemia and dehydration, which can make you ill.

To help people to fast safely, you are encouraged to seek advice from your GP, your specialist diabetes team or your Imam before starting your fast and if after seeking advice you decide to fast you are asked to bear in mind the following:

  • Check your blood glucose levels more frequently than you normally would
  • When breaking your fast, have only small amounts of food and avoid only eating sweet or fatty foods
  • Where possible try to eat just before sunrise when you commence the next day’s fast
  • Reduce your carbohydrate content (this has the most impact on blood glucose levels)
  • Cooking methods – try baking rather than frying
  • Use healthier options where possible (balanced meals with vegetables and salad)
  • Hydration – at the end of your fast you should drink plenty of sugar-free fluids

Tricia D’Orsi, NHS Castle Point and Rochford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS Southend CCG Chief Nurse, said: “People living with diabetes who fast are at an increased risk of experiencing high and low blood glucose levels during Ramadan. People also need to be aware that there are changes to the body when fasting, so they may need to change when and how they take any medication that they rely on; so you are encouraged to speak to your community pharmacist for individual advice. Some people may be exempt from fasting but if you are not and want to fast, especially if you have diabetes, then you should seek medical advice before starting and take care when you break the fast.”

Useful links:

  1. Diabetes UK fact sheet, or call the Diabetes UK Helpline on 0345 123 2399
  2. The Muslim Council of Great Britain guidance on fasting whilst also living with diabetes
  3. Some useful guidelines can also be found here, written by Muslims for the Holy Month