Known as the “pissing evil” in the 17th century, Diabetes has been around ever since causing untold grief for millions of people all over the world for the last 3,500 years. In the US alone diabetes is said to affect 23.6 million adults and children, with many more unaware that they have the incurable condition.
Incurable? Yes. But manageable? Certainly...if you take power over your diet. The key to controlling diabetes – and that is the only way one can tackle this disease, by control – all hinges on maintaining a steady blood sugar/glucose balance in the body. Glucose comes from food, and is turned into energy by our bodies. Foods such as potatoes, pasta, and bread, as well as sweets, and cakes, will all have glucose in them, which becomes processed by the body once digested. Normally, the hormone insulin (which is made by the pancreas) regulates the glucose in the blood without any problems.
However, for some people, problems do arise when, for some reason, their body is unable to create any insulin at all, or is not making enough, resulting in the condition known as Diabetes. Uncontrolled, diabetes can lead to heart disease, strokes, kidney disease, impotence, nerve damage, and blindness. Research has also indicated that people with diabetes are 15% more likely to have an amputation than those without the condition. When diabetes goes completely unchecked, people with the disease can become comatose, eventually resulting in their death. It has been estimated that there are 1 million new diabetes patients’ diagnosed each year in the US, with 200,000 deaths attributed to diabetes annually.
But it’s not all doom, and gloom for people with diabetes, because once the condition has been diagnosed, there are many ways to combat it, control it, and live happily with it. In fact, for many Americans, life with diabetes is not a problem and they can lead perfectly active lives like anyone else. They just need to be careful, and keep balanced, which after all is what we should all be doing.
Diabetes comes in three main varieties – Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational.
Type 1 Diabetes
This is an ‘autoimmune’ disease whereby your immune system starts attacking the cells in the pancreas that creates the much-needed insulin. As a result, little or no insulin is formed, and consequently glucose begins to build up in the blood. It is believed that between 5-10% of Americans has Type 1 diabetes. Symptoms include fatigue, thirst, persistent hunger, sudden weight loss, increased urination, and blurred vision. These symptoms usually occur during childhood, or young adulthood.
Type 2 Diabetes
This affects 90-95% of Americans with diabetes and occurs when the body uses its insulin ineffectively. This is known as ‘insulin resistance,’ and results in excess glucose in the blood. Not surprisingly, perhaps Type 2 diabetes is more commonly found in people who are obese and don’t exercise as much as they should, as well as older people. Symptoms include wound healing deficiency, weight loss, fatigue, thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision, and regular yeast infections.
This form of diabetes is found mainly with pregnant women, at usually around 28 weeks of the pregnancy. It has been estimated that between 6-8% of American women experience gestational diabetes during this time. If left unchecked, it can lead to problems with the new-born baby, including high birth weight and breathing problems. The worrying aspect is that women with gestational diabetes during pregnancy have a 40-60% likely to develop Type 2 diabetes once they have given birth. But once diagnosed during pregnancy, gestational diabetes is easily controlled via a properly planned diet and exercise regime.
There is a fourth element to the diabetes chain, and that is Prediabetes. This occurs with virtually everyone who has Type 2 diabetes, and is a precursor to this stage of diabetes. This is where the blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough for the person to be classified as having Type 2. Some 57 million Americans are thought to have pre-diabetes and research has shown that long-term damage to the heart and circulatory system occurs during pre-diabetes.
All four of these types of diabetes are treatable via diet plans, exercise, and in some cases medical use of injected insulin, or insulin in pill form.
Diabetes Facts (courtesy of American Diabetic Association)
Of 72,507 death certificates in the US in 2006, diabetes was indicated as the underlying cause of fatality. This makes diabetes the 7th leading cause of death in the US. In 2005 (the latest year for such statistics) there were 233,619 deaths where diabetes was the contributing cause.
Heart disease was noted on 68% of diabetes-related death certificates among the 65 and over age group in 2004, whereas stroke was noted on 16% of diabetes-related death certificates. Death rates are 2-4 times higher among adults who suffered heart disease and diabetes, than those adults without diabetes. The risk of stroke is also 2-4 higher among adults with diabetes than those without.
Of all new cases of blindness among adults aged 20-74, diabetes is the leading cause. There are 12,000-24,000 new cases of blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy each year.
Of 44% new cases of kidney failure in 2005, diabetes was the leading cause. A total of 178,689 people with diabetes in the US and Puerto Rico were living on chronic dialysis or with a kidney transplant suffering with ‘end-stage’ kidney disease.
Nervous System Disease
60-70% of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of Neuropathy (nervous system disease).
Over 60% of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations occur in people with diabetes. In 2004, there were around 71,000 non-traumatic lower-limb amputations performed on people with diabetes.
As you can see from the above information and facts, diabetes is a serious condition whichever way it strikes and it is only by careful monitoring from healthcare professionals, expert nutritionists and healthy exercise practitioners that diabetes can be properly managed, controlled, and regulated to ensure diabetics can get on in life and live their lives to the fullest without succumbing to the ‘pissing evil.’
Controlling Diabetes With Diet Plans
It is the food that we eat that plays a vital role in containing and controlling diabetes because as we have seen, it is the glucose derived from the foods we eat that affects the insulin production or non-production, which in turn affects the blood glucose levels.
If we can manage the foods we eat to the best of our ability, then diabetes can be thwarted from day-to-day.
But it takes commitment and determination when it comes to eating properly even among people who are generally said to be free from any serious health defects. Bad diets are the cause of many of mankind’s health problems…and yet it is so easy to rectify. It takes practice and planning for sure, but people with diabetes can easily be put on the right path with a good balance of the right foods to eat, regular exercise schedules and any prescribed medications that may need to be taken.
This is a primary diet planning method for diabetics that involves counting the carbohydrates in foods for it is mainly the foods that contain carbohydrates that cause blood glucose levels to rise. Consequently, keeping an eye on your carbohydrate intake will help keep blood glucose levels to a safe level.
As a general guideline, the American Diabetic Association suggests that about 45-60 grams of carbohydrate per meal is a level to aim for, although it must be stressed that it is only with the help of an expert nutritionist that each individual diabetic will find out the levels that best suits them. Once you have found a good level, you can start mixing and matching your foods to your taste and health requirements.
Carbohydrate foods include: bread, cereal, rice, crackers, sweets, snack foods, juice drinks, cake, cookies, candy, chips, fruit, fruit juice, milk, yogurt, dried beans (such as pinto), and soy items (veggie burgers for instance), as well as vegetables like potatoes, and corn.
Carb counting can be done by checking the labels on foods with the 40-65 gram ratio in mind (or whatever the figure is that is relevant to you). For foods that don’t have a label, some guess work will have to be factored in to your calculations. It is important to bear in mind that the two most important pieces of information you are looking for is serving size and total carbohydrate amount.
The Glycemic Index
Linked to ‘carb counting’ is the Glycemic Index (GI). This measures how a food containing carbohydrate raises blood glucose. The higher the GI in a food, the higher the outcome is likely to be that blood glucose will be increased. Needless to say, foods with a high GI are to be avoided as much as possible or, at very least, mixed with those foods that are classified as low-GI. Although in general it would be logical to assume that it would be advisable to keep most foods to the medium-GI, and low-GI categories, there are some foods that are highly nutritious but which are also high in GI (oats for example).
Again, with the help of an expert nutritionist the right balance for each individual diabetic can be figured out, as it is impossible to come up with one standard plan to fit all diabetics. The first important step is to consult a specialist and together formulate a plan based on your food preferences in tandem with the amount of carbs that you can comfortably and safely consume. A combination of ‘carb counting’ with GI fine-tuning will get you on the way.
Good Food For Diabetics
A simple way to start eating the right kinds of food if you suffer from diabetes is to follow the American Diabetes Association ‘plate division’ example. As we have already suggested here, it is carbohydrate foods that are the main concern for diabetics, but, by following this simple step, carb intake can be kept within safe limits quite easily.
All you have to do is take your dinner plate, and draw an imaginary line down the middle. Then divide one half of the plate again into two sections. The larger half of the plate is where you put the main ingredients of your meals from now on – and these are going to be non-starchy vegetables.
Non-starchy vegetables include spinach, carrots, lettuce, greens, cabbage, bok choy, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, salsa, onion, cucumber, beets, okra, mushrooms, peppers, turnip, and vegetable juice.
In one of the smaller sections on the other side of the plate you can place starchy foods such as potatoes, green peas, corn, lima beans, sweet potatoes, winter squash, whole grain, high-fiber cereal, whole grain breads, rice, pasta, dal, tortillas, oatmeal, grits, hominy, cooked pinto beans, or black-eyed peas, low-fat crackers, snack chips, pretzels, and fat-free popcorn.
In the second smaller section is where you place some protein such as chicken, beef, turkey, fish, pork, tofu, eggs, or low-fat cheese.
To finish off your meal, add a glass of non-fat or low-fat milk and/or a piece of fruit.
The principle behind this ‘plate division’ method is two-fold, because a) by focusing on non-starchy foods you are lowering the chance of raising the glucose in your blood by keeping carbohydrates to a minimum, and b) limiting the portion size of starchy foods will also help combat the carb threat.
If you’re thinking, “Hey, what about breakfast?” don’t worry, the principle is just the same. Simply halve your breakfast bowl (or plate), and reduce the amount of carbohydrate you put on it. You can divide your bowl or plate up with some fruit if that helps.
These are all the rage at the moment for the everyday dieter looking to boost their intake of the vital nutrients calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and E – but people with diabetes can also enjoy the benefits of the foods regarded for their super powers!
These foods include beans (kidney, pinto, navy, or black beans), spinach, collards, kale, grapefruit, oranges, lemons, limes, sweet potatoes, berries (blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, acai berries), tomatoes, Omega-3 fatty acid fish, whole grains, nuts, fat-free milk, and yogurt.
Get some of that down you, and you will be reaping the benefits of natural food and their rich vein of minerals, antioxidants, and many other nutritious elements.
It should be clear by now that if you have been diagnosed with diabetes, there are ways to help you live an active life that can still be enjoyed to the fullest – with some guidance and planning when it comes to choosing a suitable diet, combined with a program of regular exercise.
Our professional team of nutrition and exercise experts at www.changingshape.com can help provide that guidance, and planning to create an individual schedule for you that is styled to meet your specific personal needs, and help overcome the ‘pissing evil.
Matthew Johnson (Google+) is a certified personal trainer, nutrition expert and an on-line fitness consultant that started ChangingShape.com back in 2001.