Global research indicates, although not obligatory, diabetes patients can choose to fast during Ramadan provided that strict precautionary measures are taken.
Almost 18 percent of the population in Kuwait suffer from diabetes, according to the International Diabetes Foundation, with over 7 percent of cases undiagnosed. During the Holy Month of Ramadan, millions of diabetes patients around the world choose to participate in the Islamic ritual of fasting from sunrise to sunset.
While fasting may be safely accomplished by diabetes patients, Islamic scholars around the world unanimously agree that fasting is not obligatory if it will cause severe harm for individuals. The American Diabetes Association indicates that type 2 diabetes patients are more than seven times more likely to be admitted to hospital while fasting, making it crucial for patients to take further precautions when considering fasting.
“Although it is possible for diabetes patients to fast safely, there is a high risk of causing severe long-term or short-term harm if appropriate measures are not taken,” said Dr. El Hakim, Senior Advisor to Cinfa, a European drugs maker with a history of leadership in providing accessible care for diabetic patients.
“It is important for diabetes patients to recognize that each medical case is unique to an individual, and that individual requirements will vary from patient to patient. Diabetes patients who choose to fast, therefore, must consult with their doctor beforehand, pay close attention to their blood sugar levels throughout the day, ensure they are taking appropriate medication, and maintain a healthy diet amid the drastic changes in eating schedules.”
Medical experts advise ceasing the fasting ritual immediately when blood glucose levels reach less than 70 mg/dl within the first few hours of fasting, and over 300 mg/dl anytime throughout the day. It is also important to seek professional advice from a trusted medical practitioner pertaining to the medication required by diabetes patients, as these may vary when fasting.
“Meticulous care must be taken with regards to the medications required while fasting as the timings and dosages may need alteration. Patients prescribed with metformin, for example, may be advised to modify their medicine schedule to ensure the majority of the daily dosage is administered immediately before the Iftar meal, and the remaining before the last meal of the day,” said Dr. El Hakim.
Rather than overindulging during Iftar, it is recommended that diabetes patients break their meals into smaller portions, and spread them throughout the evening, accompanied by as much water as possible. Just before sunrise, when fasting Muslims may have their last meal, experts recommend foods rich in complex carbohydrates that will slowly release glucose throughout the day.