Ramadan and diabetes: Charity offers advice on fasting safely

Watch James Webster's report as he accompanies one woman with diabetes as she starts stocking up for Ramadan

For thousands of people preparing for Ramadan, March will be a very busy month.

Not only will they be mentally preparing themselves for the upcoming month of fasting between sunrise and sunset, there will also be lots of food preparation too.

Many families will want to have dishes ready in advance so that they have different meals ready to break their daily fasts and they will already be making some of those and freezing them in advance.

For those with diabetes, even more preparation is needed, so they can be sure their blood sugar levels will remain in check.

Many families are already thinking about their meals for Ramadan but for those with diabetes the preparation often starts even earlier.

Diabetes UK is running webinars and sharing advice online, helping people understand how they can fast safely with some particular tips:

  • If you are unwell or have any symptoms of Covid-19 - do not fast and call 111 for further advice.

  • If you do choose to fast - before you start, include more slowly absorbed foods (low GI), such as basmati rice and dhal, in your meal along with fruit and vegetables.

  • During your fast, if you already check your blood sugar levels, do this more often than usual.

  • When you break the fast, have only small quantities of food, and avoid only eating sweet or fatty foods.

The charity's spokesperson Farhana Darwich says people are already going online searching for information ahead of Ramadan: "We know that our information online is one of the most researched for during the whole year in terms of what the traffic that comes to Diabetes UK but what we would urge people to do is go on again.

"There's always new information and advice that you can pick up and to think about what will work best for you and your family."

'We have lots of tips and advice to people'

Senior Imams are keen to remind people with diabetes that although they may want to fast, they do have a religious exemption from fasting if it could harm their health.

Qari Asim is a senior editor at Imams Online: "Fasting is a really important pillar of Islam but at the same time God Almighty gives us dispensation exemption and one of those exemptions is that if your health is going to deteriorate then you don't have to fast.

"Diabetes is one of those things where, depending on your condition, it can really have a huge impact on your health and so you can avail the opportunity granted by the Lord Almighty and you don't have to fast."

Anyone with diabetes is advised to speak to their doctor, even if they have fasted before, to check whether their health is up to it this year.

Dr Waqas Tahir is a GP who specialises in diabetes care: "A patient's risk is based on the type of diabetes, the medications, the health problems, their age, how they feel in themselves and if they been hospitalised, so it's quite mathematical, and that gives us an answer in terms of whether people are OK to fast or should avoid the fast."