“Diabetes” a word we hear around us very often. In medical terms, diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disease marked by low or no insulin production or low insulin receptivity. In layman terms, it is also called as high blood sugar. As described by WHO a person having fasting blood glucose <126 mg/dl, 2-hour plasma glucose and random plasma glucose <200 mg/dl is considered to be diabetic.
There are 3 main types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes: Also known as insulin dependent diabetes mellitus which is an autoimmune disorder where the insulin-producing beta pancreatic cells start destroying themselves, the only way to manage this is through external dosage. 10% of diabetes cases are of type 1 diabetes and it is usually found in children.
- Type 2 diabetes: It is the most common type of diabetes also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, it is caused due to the low receptivity of the insulin receptive cells. It can be managed through medicines and lifestyle modifications.
- Gestational diabetes: It occurs during the second trimester of pregnancy and ends with the delivery of the baby, it is usually caused due to hormonal imbalances during pregnancy.
Diabetes is also known as the ‘silent killer’ as it has long-term effects on the body. It is closely linked to chronic heart diseases like high blood pressure, diabetic retinopathy where the excess blood sugar starts accumulating over the retina of the eye thus blurring the vision of the eye, diabetic nephropathy where the kidneys are affected, gangrene leading to leg amputation and overall reduced immunity.
Following are a few early signs and symptoms:
- Increased hunger
- Increased urination
- Increased thirst
- Blurred vision
- Frequent yeast infections
- Slow healing of wounds
One of the common and unexplained causes of diabetes is the inheritance of diabetes, backed by low physical activity, irregular eating habits and a diet very high in carbohydrates and fats. As per a WHO report, first degree relatives of those having diabetes mellitus are at 3 times more risk of developing diabetes as compared to those who do not have a family history of diabetes.
In case you have a family history of diabetes the tips given below can be followed to prevent diabetes:
- Keep the weight in check: Obesity increases the risk of diabetes. Therefore it is best to control the body weight if you are already overweight start by losing 5-7% of your body weight in a month.
- Healthy lifestyle: It is best advised to not just stick to fad diets but adopt an overall healthy lifestyle.
- Fresh foods over packaged foods: It is always better to eat fresh, seasonal and preservative free foods over packaged and processed foods as fresh foods have better digestibility and acceptance in the body.
- Balanced meals: It is very important to understand that all nutrients are important therefore each meal should contain 40% healthy cereals like bran, whole wheat, daliya, oats, 20-30% proteins like panner, lentils, beans, chicken, fish, 10% healthy fats from nuts like coconuts. Almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds etc and a big portion of salads and leafy vegetables to keep the fibre intake in check.
- Choose the right carbohydrates: Those who are prone to diabetes should carefully monitor their carbohydrate intake and type, carbohydrates that are complex and slower digesting e.g. brown rice, wheat/oat bran, quinoa, daliya helps in regulating sugar levels while a large amount of simple carbohydrates like high starch white rice, potato, maida, cornflour spikes the sugar levels quickly.
- Eat the fat: Fat is a very important nutrient other than having protective functions it helps in regulating the hormones, in fact, hormones are made up of fat, good fats such as almonds, walnuts, peanuts, sunflower and their oils along with avocados, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds not only provide satiety in diet but also slows down the release of insulin. Although highly saturated fats like margarine, butter, refined oils should be avoided.
- Stay hydrated: It is very important to stay hydrated as the body often confuses dehydration with hunger thus leading to hunger pangs and sugar cravings, a minimum of 3 litres of water in advanced also having 2 glasses of water 30 minutes before the meals keep the appetite controlled.
- Fibre is your new best friend: Fiber helps in the normal regulation of the body and slows the release of insulin thus preventing insulin hikes.
- Time your meals: Irregular eating habits and long meal gaps is a major cause of diabetes thus it is very important to have fixed meal timings having small meals at a time to keep the insulin levels in check.
- Exercise: Physical activity regardless of being light or heavy is very important to regulate and keep the blood sugar level in check for a minimum of 30 minutes of brisk walking or yoga is important.
- Keep the stress levels in control: Stress is a major contributor to diabetes, stress increases the cortisol levels which interferes with the normal secretion of insulin.
- Quit the bad habits: Alcohol and smoking are called bad habits for a reason, alcohol provides empty calories, leading to increased body weight and unstable sugar levels while smoking increases the risk of having type 2 diabetes.
- Keep the sugar jar away: When it comes to diabetes sugar is not your best friend, it is another source of empty calories. A large amount of sugar consumption in the form of sweets, ice creams, and other desserts creates a havoc in the insulin balance system and often lead to obesity.
- Identify hidden sugars: All the packaged and processed foods that say they are low fat, fat-free, sugar-free is something to be away from as these foods are loaded with other forms of sugars like high fructose corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, potato starch, rice starch which increases the blood sugar levels.
- Avoid aerated drinks: They are a direct source of sugar thus again empty calories
- Whole fruits over fruit juices: Fruit juices weather fresh or packed are devoid of any fibre also while the processing the fructose present in fruits turns to sucrose i.e. sugar also since there is no fibre in juices there is a sudden hike in blood sugar levels.
- Keep the artificial sweeteners at bay: Sugar-free foods like diet coke, no sugar biscuits etc. contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose etc which have proven side effects on the body like weight gain, cancer etc. it is also known to spike sugar levels and increase hunger prangs.
Always remember prevention is better than cure….so follow these tips and keep diabetes at bay.
For Personalised Diabetes Management Plans, you can always call Dr Shikha’s NutriHealth at 011-46666000. You can also chat with our experts here.