Managing diabetes during Ramadan

Managing diabetes during RamadanFasting for Ramadan

The Qur'an requires Muslims to fast during the month of Ramadan from sunrise to sunset.

However, there are exceptions to this. One of them is that people who are ill or have medical conditions do not have to fast. This includes people with diabetes. To find out more about this, you can speak to your Imam.

From 2014, for the next several years Ramadan in the UK is in the summer months and the length of fasts is very long (17 hours or more). Long fasts put you at higher risk of hypoglycaemia and dehydration, which can make you ill.

Ultimately, it is a personal choice whether or not to fast. However, if you do choose to fast, then you must consult your doctor or healthcare team before Ramadan, to make sure that you are able to look after yourself properly. Failing to do so is in itself contrary to the Qur'an, which clearly states that you must not act in a way that harms your body.

This information will help you reduce the risks of becoming ill during Ramadan if you decide to fast, as well as highlighting the dangers of fasting for people with diabetes.

If you decide to fast

If, after consulting with your doctor, you decide to fast:

  • If you are taking insulin, you will require less insulin before the start of the fast
  • The type of insulin may also need changing from your usual type
  • Pre-mixed insulin is not recommended during fasting
  • Before starting the fast, you should include more slowly absorbed food (low GI), such as rice, pitta bread and dhal, in your meal, along with fruit and vegetables
  • Check your blood glucose levels more often than you normally would
  • When you break the fast, have only small quantities food, and avoid only eating sweet or fatty foods
  • Try to eat just before sunrise, when you commence the next day's fast
  • At the end of fasting you should drink plenty of sugar-free and decaffeinated fluids to avoid being dehydrated.

Fasting during Ramadan factsheet

Download our factsheet about fasting and managing your diabetes during Ramadan, developed in partnership with the Muslim Council of Britain’s Diabetes Advisory Group:

Risks of fasting

  • If you have complications associated with diabetes, such as poor vision or heart or kidney disease, the risk of aggravating these is very high and you should seriously consider not fasting
  • For people with diabetes taking certain tablets and/or insulin, fasting carries the risk of hypoglycaemia. If you feel that you are having a hypo, you must break your fast and take some sugary fluids followed by starchy food, in accordance with scripture, as otherwise you will harm your body and may need medical attention
  • You may develop high blood glucose levels during a fast if you do not take prescribed medication or if you are less physically active than normal, which could lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) – a serious condition requiring hospital treatment.

Managing diabetes during Ramadan presentation

A 2010 study published in the British Medical Journal* found that the change in eating patterns during Ramadan increased the risk of severe hyperglycaemia significantly.

We have developed this screencast which gives advice on fasting safely during Ramadan, and refers to passages from the holy text of the Qur'an which support a healthy lifestyle.

The screencast and advice is also available in three additional languages:

Meet Sahra, Yasir and Abdul

Take a look at our three video case studies and find out how other people manage their diabetes during Ramadan.

Further advice

For further advice, you can call the Diabetes UK Careline on 0345 123 2399. If you wish to speak in another language, this can easily be arranged.

For more information from the Muslim Council of Britain, go to www.mcb.org.uk.

Watch a panel discussion organised by Diabetes UK in partnership with Optimal Clinical, bringing together the medical and religious perspectives on Ramadan and diabetes, debunking some myths in the process.

For Imams

If you are an Imam and would like more information on advising people with diabetes during Ramadan, download our short guidance document (PDF, 31KB).

* Hui et al, Management of people with Diabetes wanting to fast during Ramadan, 2010, BMJ