With the holy month of Ramadan underway, the devout fast the entire day, not eating or drinking anything from sunrise till sunset. Those observing the fast can break it as a part of the iftar ritual after sunset. Fasting for 30 continuous days that are long and hot, without food or water is challenging. People with diabetes therefore need to take extra care and follow a proper diet routine to control their blood sugar levels.
Diabetes management while fasting is walking a tightrope, given the nature of the fast and the food items allowed during this period.
Dr. Jothydev Kesavadev, Chairman and Managing Director, Jothydev’s Diabetes Research Centre, says, “Diabetes is a condition that requires regular monitoring and ensuring that your blood glucose levels are in the normal range and minimizing fluctuations as much as possible. During Ramadan, people with diabetes need to be constantly monitored as they are fasting for more than 10-12 hours.”
Today, there are continuous glucose monitoring devices that help people with diabetes understand their 24-hour glucose profile. One can use continuous glucose monitoring systems that help you avoid the pain of pricking multiple times and is much faster and accurate. There are convenient wearables such as FreeStyle Libre that provide real-time glucose readings, thus showcasing the glucose trend during Iftar and at the time of Sehri.
Having a balanced diet and following a healthy lifestyle during the fasting period is equally important. Here are some tips:
- Meal inclusions during iftar and sehri – Start the Iftar meal with food, which is rich in simple carbohydrates and can be absorbed quickly by the body such as 1-2 dates or milk, followed by complex carbohydrates like brown rice and chapatis. During Sehri, one can consume whole grain cereal, vegetables and take it as late as possible. Alternatively, one can opt for lean proteins like fish, tofu and nuts as they provide energy. Finally, a glass of milk or fruit before bedtime will help maintain sugar levels till early morning.
- Exercise routine: Aim to keep up with your exercise routine but reduce the intensity of workouts while fasting. If training is too difficult, one can focus on walks or gentle exercises like yoga. Resistance training can help prevent muscle loss when in a calorie deficit, during Ramadan.
- Sleep Patterns: It’s important to get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can impact hunger hormones, which makes it harder to resist large volumes of high-calorie foods during the eating window. Sleep is also important for the metabolic process, which has been shown to facilitate blood glucose regulation that is essential for diabetes management.
While it’s a personal choice for people with diabetes to fast during Ramadan, if one observes fasting, it’s equally important to plan and prepare yourself in advance to enjoy a safe and successful festival. And should your blood sugar drop, it is advisable to consult your doctor for appropriate treatment.