With over 4 million people diagnosed in the UK, most people have heard of or know someone with diabetes. Diabetes UK’s theme for their June awareness week was ‘Setting the Record Straight’, which aimed to bust some of the myths and misconceptions around the condition. The charity cites lack of education as one of the biggest issues, with only a very small percentage of diabetics being provided with adequate information.
If you have diabetes it means that the amount of glucose in your blood is too high because your body is unable to use it properly. This happens because your pancreas is not producing any (or enough) insulin to help glucose enter your body’s cells, or insulin is produced but doesn’t work properly which is known as insulin resistance.
Type 1 diabetes develops when your body is unable to produce insulin and is usually treated with daily insulin injections. A healthy diet and regular physical activity are also recommended. About 10% of diabetics have Type 1 diabetes. This type of diabetes can develop at any age but is more common in people under the age of 40 and is the most common form of diabetes in childhood.
Type 2 Diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and means that your body is not producing enough insulin (or that the insulin produced isn’t working properly). Over 3 million people in the UK are diagnosed with the condition. It usually affects people over the age of 40 although for South Asian and Chinese people (who are at greater risk) it often appears from the age of 25. Recommendations for treatment are a healthy diet and increased physical activity - sometimes medication and insulin are prescribed too. There are also side-effects of anti-diabetic medication which are often under-reported and overlooked in terms of education at the point of prescription.
What is really worrying is that the number of people being diagnosed with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is skyrocketing globally and at increasingly younger ages. This is particularly prevalent in the developing world - an enormous contributing factor is the adoption of the western dietary preference for high sugar and processed food and drink.
There are a number of other types of diabetes as well including gestational diabetes, and it is all too common for people with these conditions to be misdiagnosed, resulting in delays in getting appropriate treatment. You can find out more on the Diabetes UK website.
What we need to remember is that whilst the genes we inherit may influence our propensity to develop Type 2 diabetes, it is a largely preventable condition. The majority of cases could be avoided by taking simple steps such as keeping weight under control, exercising more, eating a healthy diet and not smoking.
We think that more emphasis needs to be placed on the effects that lifestyle improvements can have, specifically significant improvements and commitment to better quality nutrition, increased physical activity and better stress management.
In recent years there has been an increasing amount of evidence that in some cases the severity of diabetes can be put into remission and even reversed through adoption of and continued commitment to significant lifestyle changes.
Some amazing research by the marvellous complementary health practitioner Nadia Brydon indicated incredible effects on blood sugar balance just by adding one green smoothie a day to a normal diet.
Her belief is that incorporating green living and raw food into the daily diet not only adds enzymes, vitamins and minerals absent in much cooked food, but also adds oxygen and chlorophyll. Eating and drinking fresh raw chlorophyll helps the blood to stabilise its alkaline environment which is important given our typically acidic modern day diet.
Also remember that the stress hormone cortisol interferes with insulin activity - it floods the body with glucose and can inhibit insulin production in an attempt to prevent glucose from being stored, favouring its immediate use as a way of preparing the body for a fight-or-flight response.
Here are some top nutritional tips to help you reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes as well as heart disease and some cancers.
- Choose whole grains over highly processed carbohydrates.
- Avoid sugary drinks, drink water, coffee or tea instead.
- Choose good fats (liquid vegetable and cold pressed oils, nuts & seeds) instead of bad fats (trans fats in margarine, many restaurant fried foods & ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil’)
- Limit your intake of red meat, particularly processed red meat - choose alternative protein sources like nuts, legumes, beans, pulses, poultry and fish.
- Eat more fruit & green leafy vegetables (aim for fruit and veg making up half your plate at each meal and try to eat more raw whenever you can).
- Smoking - try to quit. And keep on trying!
- Alcohol - if you do drink then remember that alcohol is sugar and moderation is key.
Better sleep and stress reduction techniques are also really important factors when trying to reduce diabetic symptoms as well as overall health and wellbeing.
So be mindful of taking simple steps every day to take care of yourself and your family’s health and remember we are here to help you!
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