Not so fast: Speak to a doctor before feasting and fasting
Abstaining from food, drink and oral medications from dawn to dusk is a potential health risk for diabetics
The holy month of Ramadan started on Sunday, marking the beginning of the fasting period for practising Muslims. But for the estimated 116 million diabetic Muslims, abstaining from food, drink and oral medications from dawn to dusk is a potential health risk.
Dr Aneesa Sheik says the lack of food and beverages during the day, along with the two heavy meals eaten (one before dawn and one after sunset), can cause serious problems for people with diabetes, such as low or high blood sugar levels.
“A blood sugar level that is too low and left untreated can cause confusion, clumsiness or fainting and, in the case of severe low blood sugar, can lead to seizures, coma and even death,” says Sheik. “A high blood sugar level can damage blood vessels and, over a long period of time, can result in serious complications, including irreversible organ damage.”
While the Koran exempts people with a medical condition from fasting, global healthcare group Lilly says many choose to fast despite the risks. If you choose this path, it recommends you plan your fast with a health professional four to six weeks before you start.
Sheik agrees: “Fasting presents significant challenges for people living with diabetes in terms of managing blood sugar levels, which is why it’s essential for them to consult with their doctor well in advance of the holy month of Ramadan to find out if they can fast and, if so, plan a way to do it safely.”
Even if you are not a high-risk patient, Sheik advises you to consult your doctor during Ramadan.
“Your doctor will want to ensure that your blood sugar is regularly monitored to prevent any health risks and may even need to adjust medication doses according to your food intake and activity.”