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Doctors in Bradford and Craven encourage diabetics to fast safely during Ramadan

As Muslims across the district prepare for Ramadan, GPs at Bradford District and Craven CCGs are encouraging those with diabetes to ensure they fast safely.

Ramadan begins over the bank holiday weekend and will see Muslims fast between sunrise to sunset. As the days are getting longer people will not eat or drink for up to 17 hours, which could pose a risk to the health of those who have diabetes and other long-term health conditions.

Most people with diabetes can fast without any issue as long as they ensure they follow a few key pieces of advice. GPs in Bradford are encouraging those with diabetes who wish to fast to:

  • ensure they’re aware of the differences this will mean if they are taking insulin; those wishing to fast will need less insulin on a morning before the start of their fast
  • eat more slowly absorbed food such as basmati rice, dhal and fruit and vegetables in their meal before they begin their fast (Suhoor or Sehri)
  • try to eat just before sunrise, when they commence the next day’s fast
  • make sure to only have small quantities of food when breaking their fast and avoid eating sweet or fatty foods
  • check their blood glucose levels more often than they would when not fasting
  • ensure they drink plenty of sugar-free and decaffeinated fluids at the end of their fast to avoid becoming dehydrated
Ramadan moon - istock

Dr Junaid Azam, a Bradford GP and clinical lead for diabetes at the CCGs said: “As long as people with diabetes take care of themselves and know the warning signs if their health begins to suffer, most can fast without a problem during Ramadan.

“However, if you have diabetes and use insulin, or you have additional long-term health conditions, you should seek advice from your GP or practice nurse before you begin your fast.”

Dr Waqas Tahir, a Bradford GP and clinical lead for the National Diabetes Prevention Programme in Bradford added: “As the nights are getting shorter and the days longer, people with diabetes can be at a higher risk of hypoglycaemia (known as hypos for short), which is when your blood sugars can drop too low. If people eat large meals before fasting at Suhoor (Sehri) and after fasting at Iftar, they can run the risk of having very high glucose levels called hyperglycaemia.

“Hypos, high glucose levels and dehydration, especially as the weather hopefully gets warmer, can pose serious health risks to people with diabetes. However, this does not mean that a person with diabetes cannot fast, just that it is worth understanding the risks, knowing your body and its warning signs and ensuring you stay safe while observing Ramadan.

“If you have diabetes and feel like you are having a hypo during your fast please seek urgent medical attention.”

Dr Azam added: “Islam forbids us from fasting if it will harm our body and this could include people with more severe diabetes. However, most people with diabetes should be able to fast successfully if they take care of themselves throughout Ramadan.

“If you have diabetes and are planning on fasting for Ramadan, speak to your local GP or practice nurse for help and support managing your condition. Your Imam should also be able to provide guidance if you’re concerned or if you will be unable to fast due to a medical condition.”

A video of Dr Azam sharing advice on managing your diabetes during Ramadan is available on the CCGs’ YouTube channel

Further information and advice on fasting as a diabetic person during Ramadan is available on the CCGs’ websites or by visiting the Diabetes UK website

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