Muslim people with diabetes helped to 'fast safely' during Ramadan

A new project aims to help Muslim people with diabetes who want to take part in fasting.

A University of Dundee spinout company specialising in diabetes care is helping diabetic Muslims to fast safely during Ramadan.

Diabetes and Ramadan was produced by MyWay Digital Health in response to the increased risk of serious health complications faced by Muslim people with diabetes who wish to fast.

Many of these complications, which include low blood sugar, diabetic ketoacidosis and dehydration, can be mitigated by good self-management, awareness of the risks around fasting and diet, and adjusting medication.

However, many people lack understanding of these issues and healthcare professionals can fail to appreciate how Ramadan impacts people with diabetes. 

Six years ago, Bilal Aksi from Glasgow was diagnosed with type one diabetes just weeks away from Ramadan.

He was determined still to take part in fasting, despite advice from doctors persuading him otherwise. 

He said: “I was told at the time not to fast, but I couldn’t fathom that. As a Muslim, Ramadan brings me closer to my faith. It’s something physical to get me involved. So I felt I was left out the loop and I wanted to get back into that loop.”

Mr Aksi found over time he was able to manage his diabetes while fasting during Ramadan, and while he sometimes was forced to break his fast during the day for his own health, he felt better knowing he was still taking part in the religious practice. 

“The first couple of days were challenging as my blood sugar levels were dropping and increasing,” he told STV News. 

“But as soon as it started to stabilise over a couple of days, I was happy to be able to control my diabetes.”

Mr Aksi shared his story in the hopes he can encourage other diabetic Muslims to take part in Ramadan amid the launch of the MyWay project. 

MyWay ran a pilot of the project prior to Ramadan in 2022, with both patients and healthcare professionals reporting benefits.

The company grew out of the My Diabetes My Way (MDMW) app developed by Dr Scott Cunningham and Dr Debbie Wake at the University of Dundee to enable diabetes patients to manage their condition.

Dr Salman Waqar, president of the British Islamic Medical Association, said: “The holy month of Ramadan is extremely important to Muslims around the world.

“It is a month of much benefit but for some people, such as those with diabetes, there are obstacles to navigate.

“It is not only patients who may not know how to best adapt. Doctors, nurses, and other health professionals may not understand all the issues around Ramadan, especially in a country like the UK where Muslims form a minority, and professionals may not have been taught this in their training.

“Put all together, this can lead to inequalities in how Muslims with diabetes experience healthcare.”

The scientists believe that most of the knowledge surrounding diabetes has been accumulated from studying white populations with Western European ancestry, despite diabetes in Europeans being very different to how the disease presents itself in other racial groups.

Two free online courses – one aimed at Muslims with diabetes and their families and carers observing Ramadan, and the other for healthcare professionals – will take place on March 7 and 8, and can be accessed here.

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