Supporting Muslim Patients During Ramadan
Every year, millions of Muslims worldwide observe fasting for 29-30 days, or the holy month of Ramadan. They refrain from eating food, drinking water or any beverages, and smoking from dawn till sunset. With such drastic dietary changes, physicians must know how to support their patients, especially ones with chronic diseases, throughout their fast.
While people with certain medical conditions are exempt from the fast, many, such as those with controllable diabetes, choose to fast and change their treatment plan without consulting their physician. This can cause serious complications and during Ramadan, these patients need to be carefully educated about warning signs of hypoglycemia, told regularly to check their blood glucose levels, adjust their medication dosage, and create a nutrition plan with their physician. In addition, some patients believe that certain treatments and procedures invalidate their fast.
Many councils composed of Muslim scholars have established guidelines determining what would break their fast or not, however, there is no clear consensus. Most disagreements and questions revolve around IV treatments and medicated drops. Physiciains must work with their patients to design a treatment plan outside the fasting hours and communicate the dangers of halting medication use.
For patients to consult their physician about these medical changes, they need to feel comfortable with their physician and trust that their physician understands not only the medicine, but also the significance of Ramadan. Some physicians may suggest that patients with health conditions forgo the fast, however, this is disrespectful of individuals' faith and religion and can make patients feel like their physician does not understand them. In fact, Ramadan fasting has been shown to have many psycho-social and physical benefits and is one of the five fundemental principles of Islam. The Ramadan Initiative showed that an education intervention improved physicians' knowledge about and management of health during Ramadan, however, implementing such interventions takes time. Caralyst provides a way for Muslim patients to find a physician who not only respects their religious choices, but is able to support them through their fast.