Home Living with type 2 diabetes How to Manage Diabetes During Ramadan (4 Essential Tips)

How to Manage Diabetes During Ramadan (4 Essential Tips)

written by Vidya Sury March 6, 2024
How to manage diabetes during Ramadan

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Many people with diabetes are able to fast safely and enjoy the full spiritual, physical and mental health benefits of Ramadan, as long as they are medically cleared and take some necessary precautions. How to manage diabetes during Ramadan?

Alongside spiritual practices, charitable endeavors, and spending time with loved ones, people with diabetes can focus on improving their health during Ramadan. Lifestyle factors such as a poor diet, carrying excess weight, smoking and lack of exercise can all have a negative impact on blood sugar and insulin levels, making diabetes more difficult to manage.

Ramadan provides an ideal opportunity to focus on adopting a healthier lifestyle that reduces or eliminates these diabetes risk factors, while also reducing cholesterol levels and improving cardiovascular health.

If you have diabetes, ideally, you should visit your diabetes management team well in advance of Ramadan to ensure you are medically fit to fast. During this consultation, your care team can advise you on medication adjustments needed while fasting, how to make healthier food choices, how to monitor blood sugar levels, and in which circumstances you may need to break your fast.

Fasting not only alters the timing of meals; it can also affect sleeping patterns, circadian rhythms, dietary habits, physical activity, and many other things. So plan ahead using the following four strategies for optimal health and to manage diabetes during Ramadan.

4 tips to manage diabetes during Ramadan

4 tips to manage diabetes during Ramadan

1. Monitor blood sugar vigilantly

While fasting, people with diabetes are at greater risk for the dangers of very high or low blood sugar levels, and dehydration. Another serious complication is diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body does not have enough insulin to use sugar for energy, so it breaks down fat instead, releasing ketones that build up and cause the blood to turn acidic.

To reduce these risks and manage diabetes during Ramadan, it is important to monitor blood sugar regularly. If you want to minimize the need for finger pricking, a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device can be used. This small, temporary and wearable device has a sensor under the skin that measures glucose levels 24 hours a day and is typically replaced by the wearer every 10-14 days, or as needed.

2. Recognize warning signs

You need to know the warning signs of high or low blood sugar, and when you need to break your fast in a medical emergency. Signs of low blood sugar include shakiness, sweating, nausea, fatigue, a headache, and an irregular or quickened heartbeat, among others. Symptoms of high blood sugar include blurred vision, frequent urination, a headache and increased thirst and/or hunger.

If any of these symptoms appear, your should immediately test your blood sugar. The fast will need to be broken if blood glucose is lower than 3.9 mmol/l (70 mg/dl) or higher than 16.7 mmol/l (300 mg/dl), although some people may need to break their fast at different blood glucose levels depending on their age and overall health, so this should be discussed with your diabetes management team.

Diet tips to manage diabetes during Ramadan

3. Eat wisely

Some people can gain weight during Ramadan due to various factors including being less active, indulging in carbohydrate-rich foods at iftar, or snacking throughout the non-fasting hours. When breaking their fast, people often eat quickly, which can lead to overeating as it takes 15 to 30 minutes for the satiety signal to reach the brain.

It is advisable to work with a nutritionist who is experienced in diabetes to determine your daily calorie needs for weight loss or maintenance, as the case may be. On this basis, they can create a sustainable meal plan or strategy that ensures that you are getting the correct balance of macronutrients – proteins, fats and carbohydrates – at suhoor and iftar.

Generally, people with diabetes should consume around 40% to 50% of their daily calorie intake at iftar; around 30% to 40% at suhoor; and the remainder as a snack at night.

Drinking adequate amounts of water during non-fasting hours and limiting intake of caffeine-based or sugary drinks are also important. This is particularly true if you live in an area where the climate is hot or there are long daylight hours, where the risk of dehydration and diabetic ketoacidosis is greater.

4. Get moderate exercise

Among the many benefits of exercise are that it helps to regulate blood sugar, control weight, and support cardiovascular health. Discuss your exercise plan with your healthcare team. During Ramadan, exercise should be undertaken carefully, particularly if you take insulin, as that puts you at higher risk of having low blood sugar when you exercise. Walking is a safe way to exercise, preferably after iftar.

Ramadan is the perfect time to transition to healthy habits that someone with diabetes can build on once the fasting period is finished, to enjoy long-term benefits.

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