Ramadan runs from around 23 April for 29 or 30 days. This page provides information for people living with diabetes who are thinking about fasting. It gives tips on reducing the risks of becoming ill if you decide to fast and and when it's advisable not to fast. We also have factsheets in different languages.
Fasting during 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. If you’re showing any symptom of COVID-19, it would be advisable not to fast.
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.
If you’re not able to get hold of your GP or diabetes team, it would be advisable not to fast especially if you’re not sure of what to do with your diabetes medications. And if you require urgent medical help you can use the NHS 111 online service.
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.
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 basmati rice 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 the break of dawn, 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.
Download our factsheets about fasting and managing your diabetes during Ramadan, developed in partnership with the Muslim Council of Britain’s Diabetes Advisory Group:
If you are an Imam and would like more information on advising people with diabetes during Ramadan, download our short guidance document (PDF, 65KB).
Abdul, who has type 2 diabetes, explains why he chooses not to fast during Ramadan and suggests alternatives.
For further advice, you can call the Diabetes UK Helpline on 0345 123 2399. If you wish to speak in another language, this can easily be arranged.