When I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes a few years ago, I was literally scared. Although I have a family history of diabetes that makes me fairly vulnerable to this lifestyle disease; still when my gynaecologist gave me indication of its onset, it left me scared, apprehensive and bemused. I was in my last trimester, my appetite had increased manifolds, my food cravings had became stronger, my baby needed nutrition, even I needed a lot of strength and energy to cope up with my nutritional demands and yet I was asked to control my diet…aah!! …how cruel? But sitting back in perplexity and self pity was no where amongst the options; I had to deal with it, and I did that wisely. And from my own experience I learnt that very simple changes in your lifestyle and food habits can help you manage your diabetes very well and lead a healthy life.
Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic and lifelong health condition, in which a person experiences high glucose levels in his blood stream, either because his pancreas don’t produce adequate amount of insulin or the cells in his body do not respond to the insulin properly. Diabetes is of three types:
- Type1- also known as insulin dependent diabetes in which no or inadequate amount of insulin is produced in the body
- Type2- also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes, where the cells of the body don’t respond to insulin properly
- Gestational diabetes- a diabetic condition that appears during pregnancy due to hormonal changes and usually disappears after the birth of the child.
All three of them required proper care and management. If left untreated, high blood sugar can damage the tiny blood vessels, which in turn affects many vital body organs, including heart, kidneys, brain and eyes.
Below are the best tips to keep diabetes in control and cure it at home.
We all know that diet control is the most crucial aspect for a diabetic patient. While most people feel that diabetes limits them to bland food for a lifetime, in reality it’s more about making healthy, smart and time bound food choices. Opting for food that is high in fibre, antioxidants, unsaturated fatty acids and essential vitamins is a plus. Fresh fruits & vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds and healthy oils like olive and fish oil are strongly recommended. The only advisable diet restriction is on your intake of unhealthy food, which I feel everyone should curb anyways. Avoid foods that are high in saturated fats, sodium, Trans fats like fried food, meat and of course sugar.
With diabetes one must ensure that his daily calorie intake comprises approximately 45-65% of carbohydrates, 25-35% fats and 12-20% of proteins.
With regular exercises you can manage your diabetes well. Exercise helps your muscle use glucose from the blood stream without using insulin, thus causing a fall in your blood sugar. Even if you are not a gym freak, regular exercises of moderate intensity like brisk walking, cycling, swimming, etc. can be very useful. Aerobics and few basic aasans of yoga are also good options. Kapalbhati, anulom vilom, pranayam, mandukasan and ardha chakrasana are few aasans that are recommended for diabetic patients. It is advisable to consult your doctor before undertaking any rigorous exercise as they can damage your blood vessels and feet. It s recommended to space out your exercises evenly over the week, instead of over stretching in one go.
- Manage stress
Stress whether mental, emotional or physical (sickness & injury) can alter your blood sugar levels. While in patients of Type 2 diabetes these levels tend to increase under stress, in the patients of Type 1 diabetes, they can either show an increase or decrease. Also, generally people become more careless about their health when they are under some kind of stress. Relaxation therapies, meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises and above all an optimistic attitude towards life, can help you in taming your stress and thus in managing your diabetes. Spending quality time with your near and dear ones is most recommended.
- Manage weight
Achieving and maintaining optimal weight should be on the top priority for all diabetic patients. Monitor your Body Mass Index (BMI) regularly and try to keep it within normal range i.e. 18.5 to 24.9. Being overweight can spike your blood sugar levels and put you at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Those of you who are already diabetic and overweight must try to lose your extra pounds on war footing. It’s not advisable to go on a crash diet, but try to aim for a healthy weight that you can sustain easily in future. If your weight gain is due to the side effects of your diabetes medication, then try to consult your doctor for a customised weight loss programme. Losing weight is a very effective way of lowering your body’s insulin resistance.
Alcohol should be avoided in diabetes. Besides leading you to weight gain and high blood pressure, it can also cause hypoglycemia. Within few minutes of consuming alcohol, the blood glucose levels goes down and remain low for upto 12 hours. People who are under medication for diabetes must be aware of the fact that alcohol interferes with diabetes medication. Further alcohol can also impair liver’s ability to convert glucose into energy. Generally people also get carried away after having alcohol and lose focus on their health.
Statistics reveal that smokers are 30-40% more susceptible to Type 2 diabetes as compared to non smokers. Not only that if you already have diabetes then smoking makes you more vulnerable to a number of unforeseen health conditions including heart and kidney diseases, eye damage, erectile dysfunction, circulation problem, ulcers , infections, nerve damage, joint pain, etc. Smoking results in dangerous fatty build up within blood cells and blood vessels, making them narrower. This in turn affects blood circulation causing an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Quitting smoking is surely not an easy task; it takes a lot of will power and counselling, but it is certainly one of the best favours you can do for your body, more so if you are a diabetic too.
- Good sleep
Sleep and blood sugar are related to each other. While high blood sugar will never let you sleep properly, as it will cause frequent urination and sleep apnea; sleep deprivation can also increase blood sugar forming a vicious cycle. A quality sleep has great influence on proper functioning of your body, especially metabolism. Not getting enough sleep can disrupt the circadian rhythm of the body, and the body becomes less responsive to insulin. Studies have established that sleep deprivation can put a non diabetic person at the risk of having diabetes. Further, loss of sleep can be a reason of your weight gain also, which in turn can worsen your diabetic condition.
- Monitor your health
Diabetes patients need to be more concerned about their overall health as they are more vulnerable to various medical complications. Following needs special and continuous attention:
- Heart– Diabetics always have a higher risk of getting heart diseases and strokes. The insulin resistance in their body can lead them to many other health conditions that pose a threat to their cardiovascular system including hypertension, poor lipid profile, and obesity. So they must keep regular check on these parameters and take due precautions to keep them within standard range.
- Kidney– If you continuously have high blood sugar then you must get a urine and blood test done to ensure proper functioning of your kidneys as continuous high glucose levels in the blood can cause kidney malfunction.
- Eyes – High blood sugar can damage the tiny blood vessels in eyes leading you to retinopathy. Further, it can also cause glaucoma and cataract. Subscribing to a healthy diet, regular monitoring of blood sugar & blood pressure and going for a complete eye check-up at least once a year can help you in protecting your vision.
- Footcare– Diabetes can damage the nerves and also cause poor blood circulation to your feet, which can lead you to serious foot problems that may result in amputation of foot or leg. So take proper care of your feet if you are a diabetic and keep them clean and safe from blisters, cuts, corns and calluses, injuries and wounds. Wear good, clean and protective footwear and undergo foot examination on frequent basis.
- Alternate Treatments
There are many safe alternate treatments available nowadays to cure diabetes mellitus, like acupuncture, acupressure, taking health supplements and other tried and tested herbal home remedies. These treatments however have varied effect on different people. You may try them out to find which one works best for you. However don’t forget to consult your doctor before initiating any such treatment.
In the end I can only say self discipline is the key for diabetes management. Your food habits and lifestyle influence your blood glucose levels in a big way. Just few smart food choices and few healthy lifestyle habits can help you in living a normal life inspite of your diabetic condition. Be a little more conscience of your overall health and your body will treat you well.
HEALTHY EATING!!! HAPPY LIVING!!!
Aafiya is a health and wellness enthusiast. She utilizes her spare time to contribute insightful articles around day to day lifestyle challenges and their remedies, that all can relate to.
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