From the desk of Dr Farhana Bin Lootah, Internal Medicine Specialist at Imperial College London Diabetes Centre
1. What happens to my body during fasting?
During fasting, at about eight hours after the last meal, our bodies start to use energy stores to keep our blood glucose (sugar) levels normal. For most people, this is not harmful.
However, for someone living with diabetes, especially if you take certain tablets or insulin, you are at risk of Hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels), Hyperglycaemia, (high glucose levels) and dehydration (lack of water).
2. Is there an increased risk of dehydration in hot countries, like the UAE?
Dehydration due to reduced intake of fluids may become severe in hot and humid climates like the UAE, especially among those who perform physical labour.
On top of this, Hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) can result in the loss of body fluid through excessive urination, and contribute to depletion of electrolytes in the body.
People with pre-existing nerve damage may develop symptoms of low blood pressure like dizziness or light-headedness. This can lead to loss of consciousness and falls, sometimes leading to injuries.
It is very important that fluid intake – preferably water - is maintained at a regular pace during non-fasting hours from Iftar through to Suhoor.
3. In the UAE it is very hot during Ramadan. What can people do if they wish to exercise during the Holy Month?
It is good to take some moderate exercise just before you break your fast at Iftar, and again just before going to bed, as well as right before Suhoor.
It will be quite warm during Ramadan this year and outdoor exercise might not always be the best option, so try doing some activity indoors, like climbing the stairs. Start slowly and gradually with two flights at a time and refrain from pushing yourself too hard during the first few days.
Of course, after the sun sets and just before dawn breaks a short but brisk walk for at least 10 minutes is a good practise to adopt during Ramadan.
If you decide to pop out to a mall in the evening, park farther away from the entrance, walk the extra distance, and also enjoy a brisk walk around the mall walkways before your embark on your seasonal shopping!
4. Do I need to wake up for Suhoor?
Long hours without eating increases the risk of Hypoglycaemia.
You must try to eat a meal at Suhoor just before sunrise and not only at midnight as is common practice. This will help to keep your glucose levels more balanced throughout the fast.
5. Should I stop taking insulin?
You should continue taking your insulin however it is important to speak to your doctor before you start fasting because you may need to change the dose and times of your insulin injections.