Dealing Effectively with Diabetes
by Darra McMullen,
Women’s Health Network Writer/Researcher
The disease, diabetes, is a scourge proliferating around the world at alarming rates. The results of diabetes bring blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, weight gain or loss, limb amputation, skin ulcers, constipation, and nausea.
In a nutshell, diabetes is a condition of long-term, chronic high blood sugar that slowly destroys the body’s tissues. There are various drugs, both oral and by injection, that can lower blood sugar and extend life. Although these drugs can be helpful, and are life extending, they are not “cures”, and many of these drugs have significant side effects.
The best way to deal with diabetes is to avoid getting it in the first place, or if already afflicted with the ailment, one should take a hands-on management style to the condition and not rely solely on prescription drugs. Do what you can to help yourself.
Diabetes comes as either type 1 or type 2. Type 1 victims are born with an inability to produce sufficient insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. Type II diabetes is a condition that comes on gradually over a long period of time and typically appears in middle aged or older adults, although recently, more youthful patients have been being diagnosed.
Type 2 diabetes is thought to develop as the body’s pancreas becomes worn out, exhausted, and/or confused and can no longer make or release insulin appropriately; to complicate matters further, throughout the body, cells become less attentive to insulin’s presence, resulting in insulin resistance. Pancreatic exhaustion and insulin resistance are thought to result largely from diets too high in sugars and carbohydrates. Not only does the pancreas become “tired” over time from having to deal with so many sugars, but the body’s cells system-wide become less responsive to the ever-present insulin to the point that they quit being able to usher sugars into the cells efficiently. When sugars don’t make it into the cells, sugar levels in the blood rise, wreaking havoc all over the body’s various parts.
So, what can be done to help prevent or treat diabetes effectively? Below are a few important suggestions:
• Eat a well balanced diet that goes light on sugars, simple carbohydrates, and sugar substitutes. For a while, about 20 to 30 years ago, diabetics were urged to use sugar substitutes to replace regular table sugar as a “healthier” option. Years of the public’s experience and more recently, scientific research, has shown most of these sweeteners to have significant drawbacks of various sorts, and some substitutes may be equally, if not more, disturbing to the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels than table sugar itself.
Stevia is a rare exception. This naturally derived sweetener will actually lower blood sugar, which can be good for diabetics. However, diabetics should monitor blood sugar levels carefully to be sure their glucose levels don’t go too low if using stevia extensively while taking prescription sugar lowering drugs.
• Exercise is also an excellent antidote to high blood glucose. Not only does the exercise itself help to burn calories and temporarily lower blood sugar levels, but exercise also assists with lowering inflammation levels throughout the body, which are thought to contribute to the development of diabetes. Exercise also helps to reduce excess body fat and emotional stress, both of which are additional contributors to the onset of diabetes.
• Stress reduction is very critical to avoiding, or successfully treating, diabetes. The human body produces a much higher rate of cortisol than normal when under chronic stress. Cortisol raises blood sugar levels; therefore, chronic unrelenting stress and its accompanying high cortisol levels will result in elevated blood sugar rates compared to those of a person in a normal, relaxed state of being.
Seek any way practical to your individual lifestyle to reduce stress; whether you choose long walks outdoors, yoga, chatting with a friend, watching a favorite T.V. show, going on vacation, or whatever you find relaxing, be sure to make time for down time. Your pancreas, heart, adrenal glands, and body in general will thank you.
• Any time you’re choosing to eat something sugary, exercise conscious portion control and pair the sugary food with something that has protein, fat, or fiber. Any of these three nutrient types will slow the body’s reaction to the presence of simple sugars and reduce glucose spikes (and dips).
• Think about adding cinnamon to your diet occasionally to lower blood sugar naturally. Cinnamon adds a pleasant little kick to many foods, and it has been scientifically shown to lower blood sugar.
If you wish to include cinnamon in your regimen regularly, look for cinnamon capsule supplements at health food stores. Large, regular doses of “table” cinnamon used for seasoning can cause a toxic overload of certain cinnamon compounds in the body. Capsule supplements that are designed for regular consumption are generally free of (or low in) these compounds and are therefore safer than taking a lot of “table” cinnamon.
• Many people, especially diabetics, benefit from taking supplemental alpha-lipoic acid, chromium picolinate, and/or magnesium to help lower and stabilize blood sugar and to help strengthen their bodies against some of the ravages of diabetes.
As always, before taking any dietary supplement(s), check with your doctor to avoid any “contra-indications” between your prescription drugs and dietary supplements. Also, a chat with your physician may help reveal any likely sensitivities, allergies, or other specific reasons pertaining to your individual health that would point toward taking or not taking a particular supplement.
In conclusion, when facing the possibility of (or certainty of) the old foe, diabetes, take a thoughtful, proactive approach; weigh your options carefully and don’t be afraid to change course if things aren’t working out as you’d hoped. There are many helpful ways to attack this nemesis. Use all the weapons in the arsenal that are right for your situation. Good luck!