After this entire month exemplified by self-control, now comes another big test of our will-power in the form of Eid Al Fitr. Image Credit: Niño Jose Heredia/Gulf News

As is true with any event that you have waited long and hard for, Ramadan has ended even before you know it. This year too Ramadan has gone by in a flash. Hopefully, all of us have made the best use of the month of fasting, both on the physical and spiritual levels. The social interaction over iftars and suhours was an added opportunity.

It is certainly not easy to refrain from doing the things we are accustomed to during Ramadan. Believers ranging from the young to the very old observed the month of fasting with religious fervour. Although many of us were sheltered from the elements, those who had to refrain from drinking fluids while working outdoors in this weather are certainly a testament to the power of faith.

As promised by the Almighty, the rewards are certainly endless.

After this entire month exemplified by self-control, now comes another big test of our will-power in the form of Eid Al Fitr. It is probably the most popular among all our religious festivals. At the same time it is an event unparalleled throughout the year in terms of excessive food intake. We descend on food with such an intensity that truly reminds us of the old adage: ‘Feast following famine’. The spread that is put out in our households on this auspicious occasion is truly a sight to behold and tempts us to indulge with abandon.

There is a need to exercise a great deal of caution in the midst of this abundance both for the healthy as well as those who have various ailments, including diabetes. One has to remember that the body has tuned itself to the timetable of Ramadan. Suddenly overloading it with a deluge of food is going to cause a major problem. Since sweets and sugar containing foods are central to this celebration, significant elevation in blood sugar levels is seen quite often. A healthy body may handle that with some effort but if there is some ailment in the background, a visit to the emergency room may be the result.

By and large, gastric issues such as nausea, vomiting and indigestion are the most common reasons bringing in people to their health care providers. In case of people with diabetes, medical emergencies due to very high blood sugar levels are quite frequent in the days following Eid.

Some of them may even show up in a comatose state. Such is the result of putting your body, especially the pancreas, into overdrive. Nothing in terms of an excessive dietary intake justifies such a grave risk. This is much higher in terms of people with type 1 diabetes and they do need to exercise abundant caution.

It is therefore highly advisable to control both the quantity as well as timing of the food. As we know, the festival lasts three days so there is no reason to get into a feeding frenzy right after the Eid prayers. It would be advisable to eat in small portions more frequently during the day as you go around meeting your friends and relatives.

Keep a close eye on the sugar content of the items you choose to eat particularly if one is a diabetic. In case of people having high blood pressure, do avoid too much salt intake. Fried foods as well as other dietary items containing fats should be kept to a minimum.

As we resume our usual routine, the timing and dosage of medications also need to revert back to the pre-Ramadan schedule. A visit or any other form of contact, such as a phone call or e-mail to your doctor may be necessary to ensure that this is done properly. It would not be wise to adjust medications yourself. It would be better if the blood sugar levels are monitored more often than usual in this phase of transition. Also, if there has been a considerable change in weight, which is unusual, getting in touch with doctor becomes even more important.

Similarly, the dietary patterns need to be normalised in a gradual manner. From refraining to eat during daylight hours to having a majority of our meals during the same time once again is a significant change. It would be sensible to make this transition as gradual as possible, particularly if there are any associated health related issues. Making the right choices in terms of food and trying to keep these choices as simple as possible go a long way in making this transition smooth and successful.

In reality, Eid is the perfect occasion to reflect on the month that has passed. It is a time to carry forward the crucial lesson that Ramadan has taught us, namely self control. If we lose this self-control the day that Ramadan ends, we have learnt nothing from this month.

Dr M. Hamed Farooqi is the Director of the Dubai Diabetes Centre at the Dubai Health Authority. He is US Board Certified in Internal Medicine as well as Endocrinology and is a Fellow of both the American College of Physicians and Endocrinologists. This article is the last in a five-part weekly series.