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Diabetic and planning to fast during Ramadan? You should be consulting your doctor

Photo by: TATIANA BRALNINA via 123RF
Photo by: TATIANA BRALNINA via 123RF

The holy month of Ramadan starts on the evening of Monday May 6 this year, marking the beginning of the fasting period for practising Muslims.

For the estimated 116 million diabetic Muslims across the world, abstaining from food, drink and oral medications from dawn to dusk is a potential health risk.

According to Dr Aneesa Sheik, 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 Qur’an does exempt people with a medical condition from the duty of fasting, according to global healthcare group Lilly South Africa, many choose to fast despite the risks. If you choose this path, they recommend you start planning your fast with your doctor or other health professional four to six weeks before the start of Ramadan.

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.”

However, with less than a week to go before the start of Ramadan, should you still choose to fast, even if you are not a high-risk patient, Sheik advises you to consult your doctor.

“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.”

So, now would be the best time to call your doctor and make sure that while taking care of your spirituality, you are also taking care of your health, during Ramadan.

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