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ramadan lighters
Ramadan is the holy month of fasting, prayer and reflections for Muslims, during which they are expected to fast every day from dawn to sunset.  This year Ramadan began on April 12 and is currently expected to end on May 11.

Ramadan has a major impact on the management of diabetes in the Muslim population.  During Ramadan, nothing can enter the body (food, drink, or medicine) from dawn to sunset (daylight hours).  For people with diabetes, the impact of fasting during Ramadan requires discipline, preparation, and willingness to break the fast if necessary. The question asked by many is: Can I fast during Ramadan if I have diabetes?

Fasting is obligatory for all healthy adult Muslims.  Meals are only taken between sunset and dawn.  One exception to fasting is for people who are ill or have medical conditions.  Even so, many people with diabetes insist on fasting during Ramadan.

Ramadan Fasting for People with Diabetes

It is critical that healthcare providers, pharmacists, and people with diabetes are aware of potential risks associated with fasting.  Fasting with diabetes requires strategies to mitigate risk.  People with diabetes who are willing to fast should have a pre-Ramadan session with the provider to discuss:

  • Their individual risk
  • Medication schedule
  • Blood glucose testing schedule
  • Ketone testing (for Type 1)
  • Awareness of symptoms such as dehydration, hypoglycemia
  • Seeking help if there is a problem.

The greatest potential risks are hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, dehydration and stroke.

Self-Monitoring of blood glucose is allowed during Ramadan and in fact, improves safety and blood glucose management.  People are encouraged to test more often during fasting.

One other caution for people with diabetes to be aware of is that typically Ramadan meals are heavy in calores and may contain high sugar and high fat foods.  They should speak with their health care provider about adjusting their medicinal doses accordingly.

For more information IDF DAR (Diabetes and Ramadan) International Alliance is working globally to provide awareness to health care providers with guidelines about safe fasting.