Ramadan and Type 2 Diabetes: 5 Things to Know

Fasting doesn't have to be a struggle during Ramadan. If you have Type 2 diabetes and celebrate Ramadan you'll need to know these 5 things.

April, 2021


Fasting is a struggle for everyone during Ramadan. It’s especially a problem for people with diabetes.

Over 150 million Muslims live with diabetes all over the world. They celebrate Ramadan just as people without diabetes do, however, they should plan ahead. Fasting can easily cause complications that can cause issues with treatment plans. Having all the facts can help you create a safe and successful Ramadan.

Here is your quick guide to Type 2 diabetes and Ramadan.

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a disorder that impacts how the body regulates glucose levels. It occurs when there is too much sugar in the bloodstream.

The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which regulates the movement of sugar into blood cells. The pancreas can stop producing insulin, and cells can stop taking in sugar. Sugar builds up in the bloodstream, and longer-term this can cause complications.

Common symptoms include excessive thirstiness, hunger, and urination. A person may lose weight without trying. They may suffer from blurry vision and numbness in their hands and feet.

Type 1 diabetes is a similar but different condition. People with Type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin at all. People with Type 2 diabetes may continue to produce insulin, but blood cells do not respond to it.

While there is no cure for Type 2 diabetes, through weight loss and a calorie controlled diet, it is possible to put it into remission.

Whilst weight loss is the best way to control symptoms, you may also be prescribed medications by your healthcare team. These will be to decrease your blood sugar levels. One such medication is Metformin, this increases the sensitivity of your cells and allows them to absorb sugar.

Diabetes is a progressive disease. If it is not managed, you can suffer from a wide range of complications. If uncontrolled, these can lead to heart attacks, nerve damage, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The Dangers of Fasting

Even for a healthy person, fasting can be dangerous. You can experience dizziness or headaches, especially if you are fasting in a hot environment. Feelings of hunger can distract you at work and keep you up at night.

Fasting can cause problems for people living with Type 2 diabetes. It can cause blood sugar rates to plummet. Low blood sugar levels are just as harmful as high ones. They cause confusion, fatigue, and irritability.

Exercising brings blood sugar levels down. If you are exercising whilst fasting there is a danger you could pass out, this could lead to potentially serious accidents, including hitting your head.

How to Celebrate Ramadan With Diabetes

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.

Can people living with Type 2 diabetes fast during Ramadan? The Quran does make exceptions for people whose health would be endangered.

This includes those who are living with Type 2 diabetes. You do not have to fast if your blood sugar will plummet to levels which could cause a hypo.

If you do want to fast, make sure you are prepared in advance. Go to your healthcare team and get their advice. If they tell you to eat, then eat during Ramadan.

Monitor your blood glucose multiple times a day. If you are at high risk for complications, check your glucose levels at least three times.

Injecting yourself with insulin or taking medication does not break the fast. Take the medications you need to take at the times you have been told to take them by your healthcare team.

Always talk to your healthcare team before your fast to agree on your treatment dose and the type of insulin you may need. It may be that your insulin dosing may need to be adjusted or changed. For example, pre-mixed insulin is not recommended during fasting.

You can observe all of the other customs of Ramadan, attend mosque services and perform prayers.

What to Eat

Divide your calories evenly between your two meals. You can add a snack during the day. Your meals should be well-balanced. Eat several servings of fruits and vegetables, preferably green and orange ones. Salads let you combine your favourite vegetables together.

Eat whole and slow-acting carbohydrates like basmati rice and lentils. You should avoid eating white flour and high amounts of sugar.

You should also minimise how much saturated fat you eat. Avoid deep-fried foods, dairy products, and desserts.

Eat proteins that do not come from animals. Beans, lentils, and whole grains can offer just as much protein as meat. When you do eat meat, pick low-fat options like chicken.

Drink water and non-sweetened beverages like tea. You can have fruit juice if your blood sugar is low.

Check your blood sugar levels before you eat. If they’re low, you can add more carbohydrates. If they’re high, focus on eating vegetables and lean protein.

It’s OK to indulge every now and again, but you should not make a habit of it every day. Try and limit yourself too but remember to keep your portion sizes small.

Managing Type 2 Diabetes and Ramadan

Ramadan is a special time for Muslims all over the world. Diabetes may be an ongoing issue but you can manage both diabetes and Ramadan.

You do not have to fast if you have diabetes. If you do choose to fast, eat balanced meals when you can and drink plenty of water to avoid getting dehydrated.

Keep yourself informed about diabetes. Better Living provides informative health guides. You may also want to read our guide on Ramadan during the COVID-19 pandemic.