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.

Whilst some individuals are exempt for health and other reasons, some people with diabetes remain keen to observe the fast, although the long daylight hours in the UK at this time of the year makes it a challenging time. 

Diabetes UK has highlighted that “long fasts of 15 hours or more” can put people at an increased risk of hypoglycaemia and dehydration, which has the potential to cause illness.

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 take into account 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

Viv Barker, Deputy Director of Nursing at NHS Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Those living with diabetes that fast are at an increased risk of experiencing high and low blood glucose levels during Ramadan. You should be aware that there are changes to the body when fasting, so you may need to change when and how you take your medication, please speak to your community pharmacist for individual advice. Some individuals 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 the fast and take care when you break the fast.”

Useful links:

Diabetes UK has produced a fact sheet which can be downloaded here.

The Muslim Council of Great Britain has also produced some useful guidance on fasting whilst also living with diabetes. Download here.

Some useful guidelines can also be found here, written by Muslims for the Holy Month.