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How to celebrate a diabetes-friendly Diwali

How to celebrate a diabetes-friendly Diwali

It’s the season for feasting but be mindful of what and how much you eat – and don’t forget to gear up on safety

 how to enjoy diwali if you have diabetes

Being Indian and not being surrounded by festivals year-round is just not an option, is there? Festivals are now as much about accountability as they are about the celebrations. Because when you follow health precautions and safety guidelines you show your concern and responsibility towards your loved ones, the environment and yourself. And yes, it makes the festivities more enjoyable.

Here are our cues for a delicious and safe Diwali.

Feasting on Diwali with diabetes

It’s perfectly fine to pitch headlong into celebratory mode even if you are diabetic as long as you don’t go overboard. Discretion is the better part of valour during Diwali, as Pravin Kalawar (66), a Mumbai-based HR professional discovered.

“I believe in moderation in diet and the ability to say no when showered with sweets,” he says. “Wild swings (variations) in sugar levels due to eating sweets can lead to such highs that a diabetic can land in hospital, spoiling the festive mood for oneself as well as the family. Over the years I have learnt a thing or two about discipline in festival diet and how to treat health as a priority.”

Mumbai-based consultant diabetologist Dr Ami Sanghvi says, “The fasting season is over and it’s the season for feasting. Be mindful of what and how much you eat. Any food should be eaten in moderation, and keep a check on the portion size. If you eat more carbohydrates, balance it with protein and fibre.”

Festival tips

  • Before Diwali: Remember to eat on time and do not skip meals or medications
  • During Diwali: Do not take extra medications if you have eaten sweets.

Sugar-free vs low cal

The buzz around sugar-free sweets during Diwali gets as loud as the crackers in your backyard. Educationist Smriti Prabhakar can’t seem to resist the sugar-free pedhas and plans her weekly sweet diet to tuck into them, with a jaggerybased variety thrown in for a change.

“I never thought I’d plan a Diwali sweet diet, but I’ve been doing this for over two decades,” says the 58-year-old who had gestational diabetes. “During the festival, I’ll eat half a sugar-free pedha daily, and a full one on a ‘cheat day’. If I have a rosogolla, I’ll squeeze out the sugar syrup and enjoy the entire golla. It’s a healthier choice, I guess.”

But sugar-free sweets could still be full of unhealthy fats, warns Dr Praveen Gangadhara, consultant, Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre, Bengaluru. “In order to increase the sweetness content without sugar, manufacturers could increase the fats and artificial sweeteners, making them high in calories,” he says. “Moreover, through continuous glucose monitoring data we found that there was not much difference in the GI in diabetics who ate sugar-free sweets and those who ate a few sweets with sugar.”

Dr Gangadhara also says that while date syrup, jaggery and honey are nutritious substitutes for sugar, they do not make much difference in the calorie count. “So, start early to keep your HbA1c levels (average blood sugar levels for the past two to three months) under control at seven per cent and maintain it during Diwali too,” he says. “Remember, except water nothing is calorie-free.”

Festival tips

  • Before Diwali: Stick to homemade sweets made from healthy fats and nuts, and fruits.
  • During Diwali: Step up on the physical activity. Skip the elevator and take the stairs more often.

Clear the air

Air pollution is not hype. It’s real and it can kill slowly especially if you have asthma or respiratory ailments. Make this Diwali about destroying toxins rather than your lungs, say pulmonologists.

“Diwali is a happy occasion, but not so much for those with respiratory conditions or a history of allergies,” says Dr Anita Mathew, infectious diseases specialist and general physician, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, Mumbai. “Fireworks release a large number of particulate matter and toxic gases which we call pollutants. These are known to worsen asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition that causes restricted air to the lungs. The elderly and children are particularly susceptible to it. We can reduce the effect of the pollutants by using eco-friendly alternatives to fireworks or ones with low level of smoke emission.”

Tips to manage diabetes on Diwali

  • Before Diwali: Avoid exposure to air pollutants including high emission fireworks
  • During Diwali: Take medications for COPD and asthma regularly.

Diwali, pollution, diabetes

The festive fervour is definitely in the air; so is the pollution. It certainly pays to keep your safety kit all geared up to handle any emergency.

“Every year during Diwali, we immerse ourselves so much in the spirit of the festivities that we forget our responsibility towards our health,” says Dr Deepak Namjoshi, pulmonologist and director, CritiCare Asia Multispeciality Hospital, Mumbai. “Those with asthma, bronchitis, COPD, allergic rhinitis and other respiratory issues should take extra precautions to reduce their respiratory distress as they are prone to aggravated forms of respiratory issues.

The breathe-easy kit

For those with respiratory conditions:

  • Keep the inhaler, nebuliser and emergency medicines handy
  • Stay indoors as far as possible
  • Wear an N95 mask
  • Avoid exercising outdoors
  • Use air purifiers at home
  • Eat a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables
  • Stay hydrated.

For all:

  • Instead of lighting candles and oil diyas, use sustainable LED lights
  • Avoid using fireworks with emissions
  • Consult a doctor if you are suffering from persistent cough, chest tightness or breathlessness.

Prevent accidents and burns

Diwali is the festival of lights, and celebrations aren’t complete without clay lamps and fireworks. While accidents happen unexpectedly, it pays to be cautious and prevent burns and injuries. For diabetics, it’s even more crucial to take great care.

People with diabetes are vulnerable to burns and injuries because they take a long time to heal. Even a small burn can get out of control. If someone has high or unstable blood sugar levels, it can damage the nerves and blood vessels, causing them to lose the ability to feel anything. So, they may not even know they are burned or injured.

“It’s best to avoid handling any fireworks to prevent burns,” Dr Gangadhara says. “Be as cautious as you would be with children. Burns can cause ulcers that can get infected and take a long time to heal. If you must handle fireworks, ensure you wash hands thoroughly and use a moisturiser to soften the skin. Dry skin could cause cuts that bleed. So, prepare your safety net and enjoy the festivities.”


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