While it is a personal choice for diabetics to fast during Ramadan, experts feel that there are ways that diabetics can go about fasting by practicing caution.
During Ramadan, the gap between meals ranges from 12 to 15 hours, which can be a problem since diabetics are advised to have regular and timely meals. Dr Roshani Sanghani, consultant Endocronologists at Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai explains, "This year Ramadan has arrived in the month of June and will go on till July. Owing to the daylight hours, the fasting period has gone up. So the first step for a diabetic planning to fast should be to consult his or her doctor and buy a blood sugar meter. The doctor will be able to guide you properly, if it is safe for you to fast."
Fasting results in metabolic changes and hence it is important to adjust the diabetes management plan; Explains Dr. A. K. Jhingan, Diabetologist, Primis Hospital and Chairman, Delhi Diabetes Research Center, "Diabetics must monitor their blood sugar levels multiple times in a day and consult their doctor at the slightest doubt." Patients with Type 1 diabetes who have a history of recurrent hypoglycemia are at a higher risk if they fast. Hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia may also occur in patients with Type 2 diabetes but less frequently and with less severe consequences as compared to patients with Type 1 diabetes.
Here are some food tips that diabetics should follow during Ramadan:
- Frequent monitoring of blood sugar level is key to safe fasting for diabetics. It is critical for patients to monitor their blood sugar level multiple times through the day.
- Do not overeat. One of the main reasons behind Ramadan fasting is to learn to curb your desires and tune in to Allah and pay attention to body signals and understand hunger. Quran says, "Muslims should divide their stomach into three parts: one third for food, one third for drink and one third for air. Eating full leads to heaviness; drifting one away from acts of worship."
- At Iftar, break your fast with sugar-free and decaffeinated drinks to rehydrate your body and avoid dehydration.
- Limit the consumption of sweets during Ramadan.
- Include fruits, vegetables, pulses and curd in your diet.
- Do not sleep soon after your dinner; allow an interval of 2 hours. Avoid complex carbs right before bedtime.
- Ensure right nutrient intake at the time of Sehri. Suggested items include whole grain bread, whole grain low sugar cereals, beans and lentils.
- Avoid deep fried foods such as parantha, puri, samosa, chwera and pakoras. Starch containing items such as rice and wheat chapatti can be consumed. But time them right.
Here are some signs you need to watch out for:
- Sudden fall in blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia), causing seizures and unconsciousness.
- An inordinate increase in blood sugar levels (hyperglycaemia) causing blurry vision, headache, increased fatigue and thirst.
- Diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially life-threatening complication causing vomiting, dehydration and coma.
- Thrombosis which leads to formation of a blood clot inside blood vessels, potentially a precursor to organ damage and even death.