Fasting for Diabetics: What You Need to Know

Image(s): Creativeapril | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Image(s): Creativeapril | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

There are two main reasons that people choose to fast. For some, fasting is practiced for health reasons, while others do it to fulfill a spiritual mandate or obligation such as what is practiced by millions of Muslims who observe Ramadhan every year. During Ramadhan, Muslims are required to abstain not only from eating and drinking, but also from consuming oral medications and intravenous nutritional fluids. However, there are exceptions. Those with diabetes do not have to fast if it is considered unsafe for them based on advice from a medical professional.


The decision on whether it is safe to fast depends on whether your diabetes is diet-controlled (NIDDM) or medication-controlled (IDDM). You would be better suited to fast if your diabetes is being controlled strictly by dieting and you do not rely on medications. Body weight is also taken into account before a diabetic is given the green light to fast, as is the absence of infection or medical conditions that are unstable such as severe high blood pressure, COPD, kidney stones, CAD or emphysema.

As a diabetic who is fasting, you will find these guidelines very essential and useful:

  1. Always have meals in moderation
    Diabetics should avoid excessive gorging or compensatory eating of carbohydrate and fatty food which can contribute to hyperglycemia and weight gain. Choose highly nutritious food and limit the intake of high-calorie as well as highly-refined food.

  2. Indulge in light to moderate regular exercise
    Such exercise intensity is harmless to NIDDM patients. Studies have shown that fasting does not interfere with tolerance to exercise. It is necessary for diabetics to continue their usual physical activity as tolerated during non-fasting periods.

  3. Follow the drug regimens and blood glucose monitoring as advised
    Some physicians allow IDDM patients to fast with proper self-monitoring and close professional supervision. It is fundamental to adjust the insulin regimen for good control during fasting. Home blood glucose monitoring must be performed before the sunset meal, three hours afterwards as well as before the pre-dawn meal to adjust insulin dose and prevent any hypoglycemia or post-prandial hyperglycemia caused by over-eating. Reports have indicated that there are no major problems encountered with NIDDM overweight patients who fast.

In addition to the guidelines given above, patients may need to measure daily weight to monitor for reduction or increment of more than 2kgs, look out for the warning symptoms of dehydration, hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. Patients are advised to break their fast and seek immediate medical help as soon as any complication or new harmful condition occurs.