Over the past few decades, it would seem that some of our lifestyle choices have enabled the swift progression of a condition now well-known to the general population; diabetes. In Canada, Type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases and there is a growing concern that a higher and higher percentage of our children are acquiring this condition at a younger age.
However, as the disease progresses, so does our understanding of how to live well despite a diagnosis of diabetes. Education, leading to self-management, allows us to take control of diabetes and live a happy, healthy life. Education also allows partners living with diabetics to better support and encourage their loved ones.
Today, there are teams of individuals at the ready to support you as you learn to live with diabetes. We invite you to visit Nutter’s Diabetes Living Information Pages to learn more about topics such as questions for your doctor, exercise, nutrition, food exchanges and so much more.
This article will take a look at how a diagnosis of diabetes for one can influence the choices of a whole family (for the better!), some of the myths surrounding diabetes, the definition of the glycemic index, a condition called pre-diabetes and the connection between stress and diabetes. And, in the process of reading through this information, you’ll begin to understand how living a healthy life, getting the support you need, and managing diabetes is totally within your control.
An Explanation of Diabetes
Glucose is the universal cellular fuel and one of the major players in diabetes. Glucose is a “simple sugar that is the major energy source in the blood. Ingested from certain foods, especially fruits, and produced by the breakdown of other carbohydrates, glucose is absorbed into the blood from the intestines…” 1
The body has specific ways of dealing with glucose levels in the body. It is very important that steady blood glucose levels be maintained.
If there are excessively high levels of glucose in the blood (hyperglycemia), some of the excess is stored in body cells (particularly liver and muscle cells) as glycogen. If blood glucose levels are still too high, excesses are converted to fat. 2
Once in the blood, glucose is assisted by the other major player; insulin. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas. The pancreas releases insulin into the blood where it helps the glucose get into your cells. Insulin acts on just about all body cells and increases their ability to transport glucose across their membranes.
If your body doesn’t make enough insulin, or if the insulin doesn’t work the way it should, glucose can’t get into your cells. It stays in your blood instead. Your blood glucose level then gets too high (hyperglycemia), and this can lead to pre-diabetes or diabetes.
TYPE 1 DIABETES is insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.
TYPE 2 DIABETES is non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.
GESTATIONAL DIABETES is a form of the condition that develops during pregnancy. Most often, this condition disappears after delivery.
What Is Pre-Diabetes?
Pre-diabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. People with pre-diabetes are at increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes and for heart disease and stroke. The good news is, if you have pre-diabetes, you can reduce your risk of getting diabetes with modest weight loss and moderate physical activity and even return your blood glucose levels to normal.
Myths Surrounding Diabetes
MYTH: People with diabetes can’t eat sweets or chocolate.
FACT: If eaten as part of a healthy meal plan, or combined with exercise, sweets can be eaten by people with diabetes. Sweets are no more “off limits” to people with diabetes than they are to people without diabetes.
MYTH: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.
FACT: No. Diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. If you have a history of diabetes in your family, follow a healthy eating plan, get regular exercise and make sure to manage your weight.
MYTH: People with diabetes should eat special foods.
FACT: A healthy meal plan for people with diabetes is the same as that for everyone – low in fat, salt and sugar, with meals based on whole grains, vegetables and fruit. However, choosing foods labeled as “diabetic” or that state they are specifically designed for diabetics can help you maintain a healthy blood glucose level without trying too hard. Nutter’s has a large variety of diabetic sections in our stores. Come in and have a look!
What Is The Glycemic Index
Wondering how to pronounce it? Glycemic is pronounced “gl-eye-see-mic”.
The Glycemic Index is a measurement of the type or quality of carbohydrates in a particular food and how fast 50 grams of this carb raises blood glucose levels. (Remember, carbs break down into glucose in your blood.) For instance, there are so few digestible carbs in avocados that they have no noticeable effect on blood glucose levels. This is why you seldom see them listed on a glycemic index.
While certain foods score high on the glycemic index, other foods can actually assist in keeping blood sugar levels on an even keel.
OATMEAL, while being a carbohydrate, is also rich in fibre. This means your stomach processes it in a much slower manner, releasing glucose into your blood at a steadier, more appropriate pace.
FRENCH BEANS are a great choice to help lower blood glucose levels. While these too are a source of carbs, they are also high in fibre and protein.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS, combined with french beans, have been considered as a “natural medication” for diabetes because they stimulate the growth of insulin.
LETTUCE has a low cholesterol level (which helps avoid cardiovascular risks) and only contains 3% carbohydrates; ideal for diabetics to reduce blood sugar levels.
CINNAMON has been found to work like insulin in the body to digest glucose.
Stress and Diabetes
Our stress comes from two main places: external sources, such as demanding jobs, problematic relationships and financial problems; and internal sources: how we perceive and respond to these and other events. Let’s take a closer look at both and see how these affect your ability to manage diabetes.
When you are under stress, your body works overtime to help you cope. One of the ways it does this is to release hormones, such as epinephrine and adrenaline, both which give you added energy and concentration. But, in addition to the hormones, your body also releases glucose (sugar) from your liver, muscles and stored fat reserves. This bodily response to stress is called the “fight or flight” response.
For example, if you needed to fight off or run away from a snarling dog, these hormones and extra glucose would give you an enhanced ability to do so. In the process of running or fighting the dog you would use up the hormones and glucose and your body would quickly regain an internal balance.
But short, acute situations like the dog scenario are not our main source of stress. The stress that plagues most of us is chronic stress; the kind that goes on for days and weeks. The same “fight or flight” stress response occurs with chronic stress as in acute stress. The difference is that we keep it turned on perpetually for long periods of time because we feel an ongoing anxiety about our finances, jobs, health and people we love. Chronic stress is not healthy for anyone but it is especially troublesome for people with diabetes because you do not need the additional glucose being continually released into your bloodstream. This glucose is in addition to what you take in from food.
It’s not realistic to think you can avoid stress completely. There are some things over which you don’t have complete control: roofs occasionally leak, jobs can be a hassle, relationships can end and investments sometimes go down in value. Worrying about things you have no or limited control over is not your best strategy for your overall health or for managing your diabetes. Instead, focus on managing your response to these kinds of events. You have the ability to control your attitude, help calm your bodily reactions to stress and make sound choices. The goal is to mobilize the available resources to help you cope with stress in a healthy manner. 3
Diabetes and The Family
Children Diagnosed with Diabetes
Any time a parent hears that their young child is unwell, it is correct to assume that they will react in expected and understandable ways. However, diabetes, in most cases, is a manageable condition and so it’s important for you to realize this as soon as possible and maintain a “we can really do this!” attitude for all concerned.
Predictably, a diagnosis for one is going to change the way the whole family eats, exercises and interacts. Learning together, as a family, minimizes any feelings of “being different” for the child with the diagnosis.
Structure learning time as a family and make subjects like nutrition a game. Brainstorm about new meal plans together and let everyone have a say in which nutritious foods will be on next week’s plan. Make trips to the library fun and informative for all ages concerned and get as much information as possible so that no one is left feeling unsure about this new situation.
Encourage your children to continue with normal activities and stress the similarities rather than the differences between the situation as it stands now, and the situation before the diagnosis.
Adults Diagnosed with Diabetes
A diagnosis for a young adult or a partner will obviously have a different outcome. Studies have shown that adults with diabetes can function significantly better if they have a support system of family and friends who understand the basic facts about the disease and what the person living with it might be going through.
Exercise and Diabetes
Exercise can help control your weight and lower your blood sugar level. It also lowers your risk of heart disease, a condition tht is common in people who have diabetes. Exercise can also help you feel better about yourself and improve your overall health.
Talk to your doctor about what kind of exercise is right for you. The type of exercise you can do will mainly depend on whether you have any other health problems. Most doctors recommend aerobic exercise, which makes you breathe more deeply and makes your heart work harder. Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, aerobic dance or bicycling. If you have problems with the nerves in your feet or legs, your doctor may want you to do a type of exercise that won’t put too much stress on your feet. These exercises include swimming, bicycling, rowing or chair exercises.
Exercise changes the way your body reacts to insulin. Regular exercise makes your body more sensitive to insulin, and your blood sugar level may get too low (called hypoglycemia) after exercising. You may need to check your blood sugar level before and after exercising. Your doctor can tell you what your blood sugar level should be before and after exercise.
If your blood sugar level is too low or too high right before you plan to exercise, it’s better to wait until the level improves. It is especially important to watch your blood sugar level if you exercise in really hot or cold conditions, because the temperature changes how your body absorbs insulin. 4
Nutter’s Can Suggest…
Chromium helps balance blood sugar and insulin levels. Vanadium is a trace mineral known to help with blood sugar control and is especially important for diabetics. It assists in reducing food intake, body fat, body weight, plasma insulin levels, and glucose levels. Vanadium can mimic the function of insulin.
VITAMIN B COMPLEX- plus extra biotin and inositol (50mg each) – can improve the metabolism of glucose.
GARLIC – decreases and stabilizes blood sugar levels.
CHROMIUM PICOLINATE – improves insulin’s efficiency.
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.
Further Suggested Reading:
1. Diabetes and its Effect on the Family
2. Diabetes, Your Child and You
1. Barron’s Medical Guides, Dictionary of Medical Terms, Fourth Edition
2. Essentials of Human Anatomy & Physiology, Seventh Edition
3. Stress and Diabetes – How Stress Affects Blood Sugar
The Hidden Effects of Stress on Diabetes
Gary Gilles, August 05, 2009
4. Diabetes and Exercise, American Academy of Family Physicians
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Governmenthttp://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/type1and2/what.htm