Religious Requirement can be Conducted Safely in Consultation with Doctors
Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Local doctors are giving the green light to Muslim patients with type 2 diabetes to fast during Ramadan, with benefits ranging from weight loss and reduced blood pressure to lowered cholesterol and healthy blood sugar levels.
Urging strict compliance with doctors' orders, diet-controlled and oral-hypoglycaemic agent-controlled diabetics can fast and take advantage of the health benefits associated with the practice, provided they adhere to their prescribed medication and ensure they do not overindulge at Iftar, or the breaking of the fast.
Type 2 diabetic individuals are those whose pancreases produce insulin – the hormone that controls blood glucose – but not in sufficient quantities, meaning they need either a restrictive diet with low carbohydrates, or medication to adequately regulate their blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetic patients' pancreases produce no insulin at all, resulting in those with this condition having to take regular insulin shots each day.
“While we urge type 1 diabetic patients to exercise extreme caution should they decide to fast, type 2 patients can take advantage of Ramadan. Type 2 diabetes is characterised by excessive weight and obesity. Weight reduction leads to improved cholesterol and blood pressure levels in these patients,” said Dr. Mahmoud Benbarka, Consultant Endocrinologist and Head of the Diabetes Clinic at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Abu Dhabi.
“It's important to stress, though, that Muslims with type 2 diabetes do not overeat upon breaking their fast. Iftar meals tend to involve heavy, fatty foods that are high in calories and have lots of refined carbohydrates, such as rice and bread and these can send blood sugar levels sky high,” he added.
According to a spokesperson for Cinfa, a Spanish pharmaceutical company that produces oral medication to treat type 2 diabetes, patients should follow the treatment regimens as prescribed by their doctors and avoid indulging in fatty foods and sweets. They should also test their blood sugar levels at least twice a day before breaking their fast, with one test taking place around 4pm. If below 70 mg/dL, they need to immediately break their fast to avoid hypoglycaemia, which is a potentially dangerous drop in blood sugar levels that can occur in diabetes.
“Patients prescribed medication for their diabetes should continue to take it as instructed,” said Khalid Amin, Regional Director of Cinfa. “Oral preparations shouldn't be stopped simply because the person prescribed them thinks they no longer need them as they are not eating in the daytime. The medication regime should continue alongside regular blood sugar monitoring to detect for signs of hypoglycaemia,” he added.
Symptoms of hypoglycaemia include nervousness, sweating, intense hunger, trembling, weakness, palpitations, and sufferers often have trouble speaking. In severe cases it can necessitate hospitalisation and can even lead to coma and death. If these symptoms are experienced, or the blood sugar reading is below 70 mg/dL, a quick snack of crackers and a glass of milk, or the equivalent, will reverse the condition almost immediately.
More than 50 million Muslim patients with type 2 diabetes choose to fast during Ramadan. The message is that for the vast majority, the practice can be healthy and fit in with religious obligations with no ill effects.
“Muslims with type 2 diabetes should consult their doctor about their intention to fast as a suitable health care professional will be able to provide valuable advice on how to undertake this important requirement,” said Dr. Benbarka. “The bottom line is that it can be achieved easily and can have positive health effects if proper care is exercised through regular blood sugar tests and not overindulging at Iftar,” he added.