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Shukrat's story: Managing diabetes during Ramadan

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Dr Shukrat Salisu-Olatunji

I make the intention and prepare to fast so that I can experience the month holistically but know that I have to listen to my body.

Diagnosis

No family history or risk factors

When Shukrat, now 43, was diagnosed with diabetes in 2005, she was mum to a one-year-old daughter and busy with her job as a new medical officer in Nigeria. 

Experiencing unexplained thirst, hunger, weight loss and fatigue she put the symptoms down to a busy life as a new mum but decided to go to a clinic and get tested. 

She says: “It was obvious from tests that I had diabetes. I didn’t fully believe it for a long time, as I had no family history and no risk factors that I knew of. I knew what I was being told but it didn’t feel real.” 

Shukrat was initially diagnosed, at the age of 27, with type 2 diabetes but never felt like she was able to get her condition under control despite the various treatments and lifestyle adjustments.

Rediagnosed

After almost 10 years of living with the condition and experiencing frequent hypers and hypos, she was finally diagnosed as having type 1 diabetes. 

“It felt like being diagnosed all over again. I found it hard to accept that I had type 1 because I believed then that it was only diagnosed in childhood. I couldn’t accept that I’d have to use insulin for the rest of my life.” 

After moving to the UK in 2015, over time she says she has adjusted and accepted her diagnosis. Learning and understanding more about her relationship with diabetes and how it affects her has also helped her during Ramadan. 
 

Life with diabetes

Keeping well during Ramadan

As a Muslim, Shukrat observes Ramadan and always makes the intention to fast as far as she can safely do so.

She is aware of the exemption from fasting for people living with a long-term health condition – such as diabetes – and appreciates still being able to partake in Ramadan in other ways, as is required. 

For Shukrat, fasting safely is about planning in advance, listening to her body and understanding that things won’t always go as planned.

She says: “Fasting with type 1 diabetes is a personal decision and there is a lot of work to do in advance of Ramadan to spiritually and physically prepare for the holy month. I make the intention and prepare to fast so that I can experience the month holistically but know that I have to listen to my body.” 

Making adjustments

Shukrat takes each day at a time during Ramadan. She will always make the intention to fast and have her sahoor (pre-dawn meal) but will listen to what her body is telling her as the day progresses and make the necessary decisions to keep fasting or break the fast if necessary.

She plans her meals and adjusts her insulin doses, as well as closely monitors her blood sugar levels and how she feels throughout the day. 

“If my blood glucose levels have been stable and I feel well then, I will continue with the day’s fast but if they drop too low or go high and I’m feeling unwell, then I know I need to break my fast.

"I understand that staying safe and well is the most important thing as I need to keep up with the other acts of worship in the holy month.

Shukrat, who is currently studying for a PhD in Health Sciences, is also a member of the Sheffield Diabetes UK Group. She says meeting other people living with the condition has also made a huge difference.  

“It’s invaluable to hear other people’s experiences of living with diabetes. Resources and diabetes education courses, like DAFNE, have been incredibly helpful and being supported with the skills and knowledge to manage my diabetes, helps me to fast safely.

"However, there’s also nothing like talking to someone else with lived experiences that you can relate with.  Having lived with diabetes for over 16 years, being part of the Sheffield group has been the first time I’ve been able to ask the advice of other people who know what it’s like to live with diabetes. That support has had a big impact on me.” 

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