Please understand that this article is focusing on Type 2 diabetes resulting from middle aged obesity. Type 1 and juvenile diabetes are genetic and not to be treated the same way as lifestyle-caused Type 2 diabetes.
If your family doctor has diagnosed you with Type 2 diabetes as a consequence of being middle aged, sedentary and have a high sugar diet, this article is for you. Follow your medical doctor’s advice regarding medication. Until you are able to implement dietary and exercise strategies for a prolonged period of time, it is wise to be on medication. However, I highly recommend commencing lifestyle changes immediately to minimize the amount of time your body is medication dependent.
Run any and all advice in this article by your family doctor before implementing it. It is crucial that your doctor be a team member in every decision you make in this regard.
The main problem with diabetes Type 2 is when someone has one of the following issues:
1. The pancreas stops producing insulin
2. The pancreas produces too little insulin
3. The body develops a resistance to its own insulin
One theory regarding the link between obesity and diabetes is that the fatty tissue developing around the pancreas interferes with its normal functioning. Therefore obesity can alter proper insulin production. Another theory states that eating a diet rich in high sugar foods causes the pancreas to trigger far too many insulin “injections” into the blood stream and the body eventually reacts by developing a resistance to its own insulin. Unfortunately, because insulin allows the body to absorb blood sugars (removing them from the blood stream and storing them in muscles, fat and organs), being non-responsive to it prevents the body from clearing sugar out of the bloodstream. Too much blood sugar causes serious health side effects. Hence the need to store blood sugar in body tissues and therefore the dangers of becoming resistant to your own insulin.
Here is a basic approach to necessary lifestyle changes if you have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes:
1. Stop smoking: As if we needed anymore reason to quit smoking! However, because of the artery-hardening effects of smoking, the diabetic cannot smoke. Heightened blood sugar also increases arterial hardening and this is a deadly combo.
2. Start exercising: One of my favorite go-to prescriptions for Type 2 diabetics is swimming. Because many of these patients are over-weight, swimming prevents body mass from causing joint injury. Treading water, deep fit aqua fit classes or just plain swimming 4 to 5 times per week for at least 30 minutes. This is perhaps the most important aspect of a diabetic lifestyle. It seems to truly help regulate blood sugars.
3. Clean up your diet: Heavily restricting foods that have high glycemic indexes (e.g.: potatoes, processed sugars, etc) is the number one dietary “law” of diabetes recovery. Replacing these with lean proteins and high fiber foods (e.g.: fruits and vegetables) is a sure-fire way to help alleviate diabetic strain on the body. There is a more aggressive way to tackle the dietary challenges of Type 2 diabetes and this involves a short term use of the Atkins diet. One of the few scenarios in which I approve of the Atkins Diet is in the case of Type 2 diabetes. The “low to no carb” rule of Atkins can be great if done for a 6 month period. During Atkins, the body is receiving too little carbs and must therefore generate energy by purging the body’s existing sugar stores (which is overloaded in overweight individuals) and then, when the stores of carbs are depleted, the body breaks fat down into fatty acids and ketones to substitute for carbs. This helps not only alleviate high blood sugar but decreases body fats as well. Again, please discuss any dietary or lifestyle changes in this article with your medical doctor before embarking on them.
4. Get good sleep: Although the exact link is poorly understood, poor sleep over a prolonged period of time has been linked to increased risk of many diseases including diabetes.
5. Eliminate alcohol: Alcohol has a very high sugar content and should therefore be avoided.
Once you have made the following changes to your lifestyle for 6 months or longer, you should begin to see a significant improvement. It is possible to eventually have your fasting and post meal blood sugar levels in the normal ranges simply due to lifestyle changes. At this juncture, you can begin discussing changing your medications with your medical doctor.
A healthy lifestyle is a cure to many, many chronic ills. Best of luck!