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Ramadan 2023: 5 ways you can enjoy Iftar if you have diabetes

Dr. Dwarakanath

Dr. Dwarakanath

Imagine the smell of freshly baked bread, the sizzle of spiced meats on the grill, and the sight of vibrant colors and flavors bursting from every dish. That is what Iftar is all about. However, the festival of Ramadan is more than just food. With Ramadan quickly approaching and ‘iftari’ preparations on the mind, it becomes important to consider how to best help people with diabetes and their caregivers to celebrate the festival to its fullest. Navigating one’s fast can be tricky – it involves a drastic change in routine and lifestyle, which can make it difficult for people to keep their glucose levels in range throughout the day.

Checking your glucose levels more frequently is a must, and there are more ways to do this in the comfort of your own home. Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) wearable devices, like FreeStyle Libre, provide a simple option for people with diabetes to access real-time glucose readings and trends, such as while you were fasting or at the time of Iftar. This is all while avoiding the pain of pinpricks that come with traditional glucose testing options.

Dr. Dwarakanath C.S., DM Endocrinologist at AIIMS, HOD Endocrinologist from Apollo Hospital, Bangalore said, “For people with controlled diabetes, there are steps they can take to manage their sugar levels, especially while fasting for long periods during Ramadan. There are several healthy eating habits people should follow for the periods between ‘sehri’ and ‘iftar’. Don’t forget to monitor your blood sugar during your fast; you can do this effortlessly while on the go as there are now Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) device options available in addition to conventional blood glucose meters that require finger pricking. Taking one’s doctor’s advice is also important to understand any changes required with their medication.”

During your fast, employing metrics like time in range through the CGM device can be extremely helpful when it comes to managing diabetes. Time in the range is the percentage of time one’s glucose levels are within a specified range (typically 70 – 180 mg/dl). Checking your blood sugar readings more often is associated with a greater time in range, which can improve your glucose control and reduce the risk of long-term health complications. One should aim to be in range for about 17 out of 24 hours each day. Besides this, there are a few key things people with diabetes should keep in mind while celebrating Ramadan.

Here are a few tips to manage your diabetes while you observe Ramadan this year:

  1. Have an energy-boosting Sehri (pre-dawn) meal: Include more fiber-rich starchy foods that release energy slowly, from oats and multigrain bread to brown or basmati rice, along with vegetables, lentils (dal), and more. You can also have proteins like fish, tofu, and nuts for energy. Drink plenty of fluids, but avoid sugary or highly caffeinated drinks like coffee, soft drinks, and more.
  2. Properly replenish during Iftar (breaking of fast): The fast is traditionally broken with dates and milk, which you can follow with complex carbohydrates. Make sure to hydrate yourself as well. Consume sweet and fried or oily foods in moderation, as these can affect your health. Fruit before bedtime can also help maintain sugar levels until early morning.
  3. Follow a gentle exercise routine: Keep up physical activity but reduce the intensity to avoid extra exertion. You can try simple workouts, walking, or yoga. Resistance training can also help you avoid muscle loss and build strength at this time.
  4. Sleep well: Adequate hours of sleep – of good quality – are key to good health and wellness. Especially during Ramadan when your pre-dawn meal is key to sustaining your energy, getting enough sleep is key. This also helps avoid sleep deprivation, which can impact your hunger. This can also support metabolism and help regulate blood glucose levels, which is critical when managing diabetes.

In addition to these tips, people with diabetes should remain alert to any concerning trends of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia and take care of these immediately. For this, creating a plan of what you can do if your blood sugar is too high or low – during, before, or after fasting – is key. Additionally, it is important to take your doctor’s advice on how you can aim to be in the target glucose range for at least 75% of the day, even during your fast.

So, while some people with diabetes choose to fast during Ramadan, having a ready plan can help you manage your health at this time.

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