The season for renewing one’s faith through penance and fasting is upon us and this usually is the time when people with diabetes struggle, rather unsuccessfully, to be true to their faith whilst trying to make the best choices in managing their disease. Diabetes patients in India have one of the lowest levels of psychological well-being on the World Health Organization-5 (WHO-5) Well-being Index. Patients also showed a significantly higher perception of the burden of social and personal distress associated with diabetes. This not only impacts the patient’s ability to adhere to therapy but also their psychosocial well-being.
What most people fail to understand and internalise is that one can still participate in and enjoy the festivities and respect one’s beliefs by making smart choices and sticking to a plan rather than going with the flow.
Fasting is an integral part of the Indian culture and tradition. It basically 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 prolong for 24 hours. Some people of certain faiths are known to keep a fast for weeks or months at a stretch. Another type of fasting is ‘Phalahar’ or fruit meals, when, as the names suggests, one consumes only fruits and avoids all cereals, pulses etc. 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 keep a 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 after effects?
To begin with, make an appointment 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.
The assessment will check your general well-being, measure your control of your blood sugar and discuss your medication requirements during this period.
Certain diabetes drugs may increase your risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) while fasting. Therefore, your treatment regimen may need to be modified during this period.
More frequent monitoring of blood sugar levels is essential to know how your body is responding to the absence or major reduction in essential nutrient intake.
The ground rules during fasting are basically the same at 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:
- If you experience any symptom of low or high blood sugars e.g. sweating, headache, dizziness or any other unusual symptom
- If it is low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) – blood sugar less than 70 mg/dl during the fasting
- High blood sugar (hyperglycaemia) – blood sugar higher than 300 mg/dl at any point of time
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.
Wish You a Very Happy and Healthy Festive Season.
From the Expert Desk
Ms. Pariksha Rao
She is an accomplished clinical nutritionist, diabetes and behavioural expert, nutrition and wellness consultant, eminent speaker and a passionate writer. She has over 13 years of professional experience and trained over 2000 paramedics and patient counsellors. She specializes in therapeutic nutrition, diabetes, mindfulness, health and wellness.