Should people with diabetes observe Navratri fasting? Dos and don'ts to follow | Health - Hindustan Times

Should people with diabetes observe Navratri fasting? Dos and don'ts to follow

By, New Delhi
Oct 14, 2023 12:00 PM IST

People with diabetes are at risk of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia during Navratri fasting. Here are important precautions to follow.

The nine-days of Shardiya Navratri festival is almost here and the auspicious time is much awaited by Maa Durga devotees as they observe fasting to seek blessings of Devi. Experts confirm that Navratri fasting has loads of benefits and it not only helps improve mindfulness and emotional stability but also detox the body to improve digestive function. But when it comes to fasting with diabetes, experts recommend caution as without following a balanced diet and monitoring blood sugar levels, it can cause life threatening complications. However, eating nutritious foods like complex carbs, staying hydrated, adding protein, monitoring blood sugar levels regularly and resting well, can help during Navratri fasting. (Also read: Navratri fasting rules 2023: Dos and don'ts to follow during nine days of fasting)

Fasting helps detoxify the body by flushing out excess toxins. However, keeping fast can be problematic for diabetic patients.(Freepik)
Fasting helps detoxify the body by flushing out excess toxins. However, keeping fast can be problematic for diabetic patients.(Freepik)

"Fasting helps detoxify the body by flushing out excess toxins. However, keeping fast can be problematic for diabetic patients. They are likely to suffer from certain health issues such as hypoglycemia (a condition in which your blood sugar level is lower than the normal range), hyperglycemia (too much sugar in the blood as the body lacks enough insulin or insulin is unable to act.) and dehydration while fasting. Hence, they are often advised not to fast during navratri. If they still want to fast, then they must first seek advice from their doctor regarding insulin dosage and medication adjustments," says Dr Bir Singh Sehrawat, Director and HOD-Gastroenterology, Marengo Asia Hospitals, Faridabad.

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"Fasting during Navratri typically involves abstaining from certain foods, not necessarily going without food entirely. It's more about eating mindfully, and less about skipping meals. And guess what? Eating mindfully is precisely what doctors recommend for people with diabetes. So far so good, right? Now let's consider the flip side. Fasting could potentially lead to fluctuations in your blood sugar. Highs and lows are something you definitely want to avoid. The key here is balance. So, should you fast during Navratri 2023 if you have diabetes? Well, the answer is not a simple 'yes' or 'no'. It's more of a 'maybe, if...' If you maintain a balanced diet, if you keep an eye on your blood sugar levels, and if you are mindful of how your body feels, fasting can be a part of your Navratri celebrations. But remember, it's always best to consult with your healthcare provider before making any significant changes to your diet or routine. Here's another thing to remember: Navratri is not just about fasting. It's about devotion, celebration, and community. Whether you choose to fast or not, you're still a part of the festivities. So, go ahead and enjoy the festival in its full spirit, all while taking good care of your health," says Fitness expert Mukul Nagpaul, Founder of Pmftraining and Fit India Movement Ambassador.

Dr Sehrawat says people with diabetes must follow precautions while Navratri fasting and meals prior to it should comprise complex and non-digestive carbohydrates with low glycemic index, proteins, and moderate amount of fats.

"It should be a balanced diet consisting of cereals, pulses and lentils, vegetables, fruits, limited oil, and nuts to retain energy availability for a longer period. People with diabetes should take 2-3 litres of water, buttermilk with no salt, coconut water, lemon water, and homemade veg soup. Adequate water and fluids intake help hydrate the body and prevent dehydration. They should opt for food with low glycemic index (GI) for lunch and dinner as these are high on fibre and have low GI. Patients with diabetes are advised to eat a cheela or roti with any green leafy vegetable or salad instead of puris. They can also go for a handful of makhana, walnuts, almonds as these dry fruits not only give satiety but also help meet the protein requirements. Refrain from consuming dates and raisins as that may increase their sugar levels," says Dr Sehrawat.

Dr. Apoorva Garg, Associate Director of Operations – BeatO shares dos and don'ts for people with diabetes observing fasting this Navratri.

Dos for people with diabetes during Navratri

1. Choose complex carbohydrates: When you do eat, focus on complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, brown rice, and oats. These foods have a lower glycemic index and can help regulate blood sugar levels.

2. Portion control: Even during fasting, it's important to manage portion sizes. Don't overeat when you break your fast, as this can lead to blood sugar spikes.

3. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, as dehydration can affect blood sugar levels.

4. Include protein: Include sources of protein like low-fat dairy, nuts, and seeds in your meals to help stabilize blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full.

5. Monitor blood sugar levels: Regularly check your blood sugar levels to ensure they are within the target range. Make adjustments to your fasting plan if needed.

Don'ts for people with diabetes during Navratri

1. Avoid sugary foods: It's crucial to avoid or minimize sugary foods and drinks during fasting. This includes sweets, sugary beverages, and excessive fruit consumption.

2. Limit deep-fried items: Fried foods, such as pakoras and samosas, can be high in unhealthy fats and can lead to blood sugar spikes.

3. Reduce salt intake: High salt intake can lead to fluid retention and increased blood pressure, which can be problematic for people with diabetes.

4. Don't skip medications: If you are taking medication for diabetes, it's important to continue taking them as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Fasting should not lead to medication adjustments without professional guidance.

Vrat-friendly snacks for diabetics

"During Navratri, avoid consuming potatoes. Diabetic patients should opt for roasted phool makhana, roasted peanuts, pumpkin or kheera raita, water chestnuts and paneer. Diabetic patients who are on insulin may have to adjust the dose of their insulin as the requirement of insulin may lower upto 4%. A Navratri meal should include all the food groups with a distribution of carbohydrates throughout the day. Complex carbohydrates and low caloric fluids and beverages should be preferred. Being hungry for a long time and being careless about eating habits can derange the sugars. Health of a person can worsen. Hence diabetic people are advised to have healthy snacks like buttermilk, curd or a handful of almonds, walnuts and makhana," says Dr Sehrawat.

"Avoid sweets or fatty foods. Monitoring your blood sugar levels a few times during the day is also crucial when you have diabetes especially if you are taking insulin. If your sugar levels fluctuate too much, experience signs like vomiting, dark urine, a headache, and nausea during fasting, immediately consult your doctor," concludes Dr Sehrawat.

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