The season for renewing one’s faith through penance and fasting is upon us and this is usually the time when people with diabetes face difficulties to be true to their faith whilst trying to make the best choices in managing their disease. However, it is possible that one can still participate and respect one’s beliefs by making smart choices and sticking to a plan.
Fasting is an integral part of culture and tradition. It connotes willing abstinence from eating certain or any kind of food, drink or both. The period of fasting also varies i.e. it could be partial or prolonged for 24 hours. People of certain faiths are known to fast for weeks or months at a stretch. Another type of fasting is when only fruits are eaten and all cereals and pulses are avoided. An old tradition, which is also gaining popularity largely with millennials, is fasting purely to improve health by detoxifying the body for a period of 24 to 72 hrs. Though people may fast for varied reasons, the most prevalent are still for religious and spiritual reasons.
So, would you like to make sure you enjoy this season with no adverse effects?
To begin it may be prudent to undergo a medical assessment with your healthcare professional and follow through on it. This is especially important if you are planning to fast for more than 3 days at a stretch. This will assess your general well-being, blood sugar control and optimise your medication.
Certain anti-diabetes drugs may increase your risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) while fasting. Therefore, your treatment regimen may need to be optimised during this period.
More frequent monitoring of blood sugar levels is essential to know how your body is responding to the absence of major reduction in essential nutrient intake.
The ground rules during fasting are basically the same as during regular eating days: eat small and frequent meals (when breaking fast); avoid fatty fried food items; fruits and nuts make a healthy snack. Opt for low fat milk based sweets (like kheer etc) instead of deep fried and fat laden ones ( like halwas / puddings etc.) Even if you are fasting, stay away from juices and fizzy drinks and limit tea and coffee intake to no more than 2-3 cups/day. Keep yourself well hydrated if your fast allows you or make sure to rehydrate your body well as soon as you break.
Try to maintain your usual physical activities when fasting. Light-to-moderate exercise is safe to undertake; however, it is best to avoid rigorous exercise. So stick to your routine.
Whilst fasting, end it and seek immediate medical help, if you experience the following:
Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) – blood sugar less than 60 mg/dl (3.3 mmol/l); or blood sugar less than 70 mg/dl in the first few hours after the start of fasting
High blood sugar (hyperglycaemia) – blood sugar higher than 300 mg/dl (16.7 mmol/l)
Headache or dizziness etc.
Keep your family, friends and colleagues in the loop and inform them that you are fasting.
Take charge of your health and help yourself respect your beliefs.