Ramadan and Diabetes: A simple guide for safe fasting

Ramadan and Diabetes: A simple guide for safe fasting
Photo by Rauf Alvi / Unsplash

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. The holy month of Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, improvement, community, and fasting from sunrise to sunset. Some people can be exempt from fasting for example, this may be due to health issues such as diabetes, women on their menstrual cycle, pregnancy, people who are travelling on long journeys, the elderly, and so on. However, some people living with diabetes may still choose to fast.

Fasting with diabetes may increase your risk of low (hypoglycaemia) or high (hyperglycaemia) blood glucose, dehydration and diabetic ketoacidosis. Therefore, it is important to know your risk and have access to the right information as this can help you observe Ramadan safely.

Speak to a healthcare professional

The first and most important step before Ramadan begins is to talk to your doctor or a healthcare professional. This conversation can happen 3 to 6 months before Ramadan to help you plan, and can help with assessing your health condition and whether it’s safe for you to fast. Your medication might be adjusted accordingly, or you may have an appointment with a dietician who can suggest or revise your dietary plan during Ramadan.

Monitoring Blood Sugar Levels

Regularly check your blood sugar levels throughout the day to avoid any dangerous highs (hyperglycemia) or lows (hypoglycemia). This is especially important during fasting when you're not consuming food or drinks that could help regulate your blood sugar.

Balanced Sahur (Pre-dawn Meal)

Your Sahur meal just before dawn should be balanced and nutritious to help maintain steady blood sugar levels throughout the day. There is a great Eatwell guide provided by the NHS which shows the quantities of foods that are needed for a balanced, nutritious diet. Focus on foods that are slowly digested, like:

  • Whole grains (oats, whole wheat bread)
  • Protein sources (eggs, yogurt, beans)
  • Healthy fats (avocado, nuts)
  • Plenty of vegetables
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Photo by Epicurrence / Unsplash

Avoid sugary, fried foods and refined carbohydrates as they can cause your blood sugar to spike and then drop quickly. Consider what meals you choose to break your fast with. A healthy option would be to break with few dates as they give a burst of energy, and water. Fried food such as samosas and pakoras, whilst they are a treat, they are not healthy but if you must have them, consider preparing them in a healthier way, such as baking or using an air fryer, rather than deep frying in heated oil.

Hydrate Well

Drink plenty of water between Iftar (evening meal) and Sahur to stay well-hydrated during the fasting hours. Dehydration can be a risk during fasting, especially for those with diabetes, so make sure to consume adequate fluids.

Mindful Iftar

Breaking your fast should also be a careful affair. Start with a few dates and water, following the Sunnah, and then move on to a balanced meal. Avoid overindulging in heavy, fatty, or sugary foods that can spike your blood sugar levels. Whole foods such as Dates, millet, and fresh fruits are great healthy options for breaking your fast.

Stay Active, But Gently

While heavy exercise might not be advisable during fasting hours, light physical activity such as walking or stretching can be beneficial. It’s best to engage in such activities after you've broken your fast and are well-hydrated.

shallow focus photography of person walking on road between grass
Photo by Arek Adeoye / Unsplash

Recognise Warning Signs

Be aware of the symptoms of high and low blood sugar, and know when to break your fast. Symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Feeling shaky, dizzy, or confused (low blood sugar)
  • Excessive thirst, frequent urination, or fatigue (high blood sugar)

If you experience any of these, it’s important to break your fast and address your blood sugar level immediately.

Useful Resources

There are useful resources to access on Ramadan and diabetes

International Diabetes Federation Practical Guidelines for Ramadan

British Nutrition Foundation

The Association of UK Dietitians


Enjoy Ramadan Safely.

Fasting during Ramadan is a deeply personal and spiritual practice. By taking steps to manage your diabetes, you can partake in this time of reflection and community safely. Remember, your health is paramount, and it’s okay to not fast if it risks your well-being. Wishing you a blessed and healthy Ramadan.

This guide is meant to provide general advice. Always follow the specific recommendations given by your healthcare provider tailored to your personal health needs.

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