In Ramadan, diabetics are faced with the grueling challenge of coordinating their diet without endangering their health or disrupting their calculated daily routine.
The Egyptian Society for Child Care Assistance to Young Diabetics (AYD) – in association with the international Pharmaceuticals Corporation Roche, the Diabetes International Advisory Board (Diab) and the French organization AJD – organized a forum last week at the Greater Cairo Library of Zamalek to discuss the methods of handling diabetes during Ramadan.
An estimated five million people have diabetes in Egypt. The United Nations have recently declared it one of the main global problems affecting every country in the world.
Physician Zakaria El Baz opened the forum by warning both diabetics and non-diabetics to watch their weight carefully and avoid the typical excessive eating that is always connected with the holy month.
Studies have indicated that an average of 3.5 kg is usually gained during Ramdan, El Baz said. Serious problems could ensue unless a controlled diet is planned.
Islamic scholar Nasser Abdel Razek stressed that children, and young adolescents, aren t obliged by Sharia (Islamic religious law) to fast.
Parents are required to train their children to fast, pray and perform the Islamic rituals, he said. They re absolutely not accountable to any rules at such a young age though.
Abdel Razek added that some kids, and their mothers, feel the need to fast in order not to appear inferior to their peers or family members.
Several participating parents hinted that the chief reasons their children insist on fasting are traditions, peer pressure and fear of misperception from others.
We re still living in an age where traditions and heritage dominate the way we live, Abdel Razek said.
The solution, according to Abdel Razek, is for the parents to find alternatives methods that suppress this inferiority like helping the poor or praying at the mosque after iftar.
As for diabetic adults, Abdel Razek stated that physicians have the final word in deciding whether a certain patient should fast or not.
Hurting yourself is a bigger sin than not fasting, Abdel Razek said. Treating your neighbors with compassion, being good to others and committing to carrying out good deeds is even worthier than fasting.
Dr. Isis Ghaly, on the other hand, asserted strongly that diabetics of all ages must not fast. Ghaly said that it s almost impossible to maintain the necessary insulin balance in the patients blood with Ramadan s food regimen.
Ghaly also advised the young diabetics parents against denying the children particular heavy Ramadan desserts like Basbosa or Konafa. A little sport would quickly undo any mischief these dishes might inflict, she said. Mothers should treat their diabetic children normally and avoid regarding them as patients.
Psychologist Fatma El Soghayar agrees with Ghaly and adds that parents should stop being paranoid about their children and never overlook the fact that they re kids with little understanding of the concepts of responsibility and duty.
Nutritionist Mohamed El Hofy said that if diabetic patients eventually choose to fast; they must condense the amount of food they consume on ordinary days into three primary, separate meals in Ramadan.
El Hofy cautioned strongly against exerting vigorous, energy-draining activities before breakfast. He said that patients should immediately break their fasting the moment they feel any sort of exhaustion.
El Hofy also advised diabetics to use the low glycemic indexed sugar fructose when baking the Ramadan desserts. Fruits and juices are highly important as well but dried fruits, with large concentrated amount of sugar, should be avoided.
In addition, El Baz warned against using vitamin pills since, according to the latest American studies, they ve proved to cause severe damage to the body. Dr. El Hofy disagreed though, stating that the food currently available in the market contains few vitamins.
Packed milk is heated at a very high temperature that causes milk to lose a high percentage of its calcium and vitamins, he said. Vitamins, with calculated, adequate quantities, should not instigate any harmful effect.
The only way to treat diabetes is through education, education and education, El Baz commented.
Laila El Sioufi, AYD president concurs. We should teach people how to eat, how to live, how to be psychologically alert in order to cope with a disease, she told Daily News Egypt.
El Sioufi believes that communicators are required to convey their messages to the public via a subtle, perceptive and informative manner especially since the repercussions of chronic diseases are not instantaneous and people should learn how to prevent them.
AYD’s recent activities include a magazine and a hotline to be launched in about a month that will offer free consultations with a variety of physicians.