July 21, 2012 ·3 Comments
Dangerous diet… Hana Hajeh, a diabetic, shops for sugar-free sweets in preparation for Ramadan. She is served by Allen Sayed from Abu Adam Sweets in Lakemba. Photo: Kate Geraghty/SMH
SYDNEY — ”SOME people inherit houses. I inherited diabetes,” said Hajeh Hana of Lakemba. For most of Australia’s 496,000 Muslims, the start of Ramadan today is a holy month of fasting by day and feasting by night. But for the estimated 22,000 Australian Muslims with diabetes, it can be a time of fluctuations in blood sugar levels that can be dangerous, even deadly.
”I’ve seen people die one or two minutes before the fast is ending,” said a visiting endocrinologist from Saudi Arabia, Dr Al Saeed. ”They developed hypoglycemia but refused to break their fast. They became unconscious and died.”
The Koran specifically exempts those who are sick or suffer from a chronic condition such as diabetes from fasting. Yet 43 per cent of people with type 1 diabetes and 79 per cent of patients with type 2 diabetes fasted through Ramadan, reported the Diabetes Journal.
During Ramadan last year, Ms Hana broke her fast once when she started to feel dizzy. Before fasting, she sought medical advice on how to manage her diabetes. But her parents, who live in Tripoli, Lebanon, insisted on fasting every year, even though it made their diabetes worse.
For 32-year-old Adel Helal of Auburn, who has type 1 diabetes, the decision to follow doctors’ orders by not fasting was heartbreaking.
”When they told me I had a chronic illness, it was devastating for me,” he said. ”But there was nothing more gut-wrenching than realising I could never fast again. That was the thing that brought tears to my eyes.
”Lots of people think it is great. They say, ‘You’re lucky that you don’t have to fast’. But now I feel like I don’t fit in with how you celebrate Ramadan.”
Mr Helal gives $300 to charity during Ramadan (the value of food he eats, as suggested by the Koran).
The control of diabetes during Ramadan was a major issue, said Associate Professor Margaret McGill, the manager of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital diabetes centre.
”Fasting during Ramadan is so important that many people want to do it,” she said.
Some people with diabetes can fast by inverting their daily schedule of food and medication intake in consultation with their doctors.
”If they’re on medications that do not cause hypoglycemia, that is low blood sugar, they’re OK,” Professor McGill said. ”But if they’re on medications that do cause it, and they may be taking insulin, it can be problem. These people need education and should consult their doctor about the changes required.”
An equally big issue was the huge increases in blood sugar when people broke their fast.
People with diabetes should eat complex carbohydrates when they break their fast and avoid fatty, rich foods, Professor McGill said.
However, judging from the busy sweet shops at Lakemba yesterday, that may prove difficult.
Sydney Morning Herald
July 21, 2012Follow @somalilandpress