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Diabetes and Ramadan: learning from others

Mar 24, 2020

Estimates suggest that there are over 150 million Muslims with diabetes worldwide. Despite the possibility of exemption for medical reasons, many of them participate in fasting during Ramadan with a strong sense of faith and community. It is therefore very important to ensure that Muslims living with diabetes and fasting receive optimal care and are in complete safety while doing so.

Next to the fundamental medical consultations with healthcare professionals and endocrinologists, peer support and sharing personal experiences and advice becomes a very important element, especially in the months preceding Ramadan.  

Some advice by Mohammed Seyam, member of the IDF Young Leaders in Diabetes (YLD) program:

"We know that fasting in Ramadan is one of the five pillars in Islam and it starts on the 24th of April this year, as it varies according to the lunar calendar.

10 years ago, when I didn’t know I had diabetes yet, I always failed to fast even for a few hours. After my diagnosis, diabetes turned into a battle I wanted to win. Over the past 3 years, I have been fasting every single day of Ramadan. I believe I made a truce with diabetes and also with my body.

As people with diabetes, we all know how hard it is to fast while managing our lives with diabetes, and it is a big deal when it comes to not eating nor drinking anything for most of the day, especially due to several potential risks such as hypoglycemia, hypoglycemia and dehydration. It is hard to handle every aspect of fasting, staying and aware of risks, but we also have several options that help us make the decision whether to fast during Ramadan or not.

The most important one is to receive your doctor's advice, discuss your plan for Ramadan, your insulin and medication doses adjustment.

It might be good and helpful also to fast a couple of days during the month before Ramadan to see if you’re able to fast without any complications.

An important take-away message is that you should test your glucose levels regularly and avoid any complications during the fasting period.

Another important thing is to choose your food wisely, open your fast with slow releasing food like beans and nuts and avoid high saturated fat like ghee.

Try to stay healthy as much as possible, exercise but not rigorously.

And remember, always carry your glucose tablets and hypo treats in case you had a hypoglycemic attack. 

Video-testimonials from some members of the Blue Circle Voices (BCV):

Cyrine (Lebanon) explaining why she does not fast, Ehab (Bahrain) sharing how he learnt to manage Ramadan, Kawter (Lybia) experiencing diabetes both as a healthcare professional and a fasting Muslim and Shakir (Pakistan) focusing on his food choices during Ramadan.


In this discussion, members are asked to share their experiences and opinions:
  1. How many times do you recommend checking your blood glucose level during fasting?
  2. Do you turn to your doctor's guidance before Ramadan and how often?
  3. Do you know an example of people exemptions from fasting?
  4. What other advises or resources would you share?
Additional readings:

Mohammed Seyam is a young medical student from Gaza, Palestine. He is 21 year old and has been living with type 1 diabetes since February 2011. Diabetes changed his life a lot. It inspired him to help others and made him more passionate to be a future leader. His ambition brought him to become a diabetes advocate and join the Young Leaders in Diabetes (YLD) program of the IDF for the 2019-2021 term and to be a member of DPA since 2018.