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Ramadan fasting requires extra caution for diabetics

The month of Ramadan is approaching for Muslims. For many, it's a month of prayer and fasting. But for those with diabetes, it can be difficult to manage religious obligations with keeping their blood sugar levels in check.

Islamic holy month begins June 7

Dr. Tyceer Abouhassan (left) and Nouhad Mokdad participate in a panel on fasting for diabetics during Ramadan. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

The month of Ramadan is approaching for Muslims. For many, it's a month of prayer and fasting. But for those with diabetes, it can be difficult to manage religious obligations with keeping their blood sugar levels in check.

Dr. Tyceer Abouhassan and dietitian Nouhad Mokdad participated in a panel Sunday offering tips on fasting during Ramadan.

Here are five they shared:

Eat proteins and carbohydrates

Mokdad says keeping your diet balanced with proteins and carbohydrates will help keep your sugar at stable levels throughout the day, so you avoid crashes that can come from drinking sugary beverages like orange juice.

Break the fast with smaller portions

Instead of eating a big meal when breaking your fast, start with something small like dates and water, then build up with salads and then proteins, Mokdad says. This helps prevent overeating and helps the body absorb the nutrients it needs.

Drink lots of water

Abouhassan suggests drinking four bottles of water each day. Water helps keep you hydrated, which helps counter many of the side effects of fasting, like headaches. Abouhassan says drinking a bottle of water at the start of each meal will give you the two litres necessary for the day.

Watch your exercise

Exercise helps regulate blood sugar, but you need to be careful during the fast, Mokdad says. Avoid excessive activity during the day when it is hot and keep checking your blood sugar throughout the day. Checking your blood sugar each time you pray is a good habit. 

Meet with a doctor before fasting

While fasting is an important part of Ramadan, both Abouhassan and Mokdad stress overall health comes first. Check with your doctor before fasting to make sure it's safe for you. This might mean adjusting your medication first, or modifying the way you fast. 

For diabetics, fasting during Ramadan can be particularly challenging. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

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