We tend to associate management of diabetes with either insulin injections or the need for tablets but that’s not the whole story.
The biggest component to managing diabetes, and in this we are talking about the Type 2 or non-insulin dependent diabetes, is actually the things you do every day in terms of lifestyle management. This doesn’t get a lot of airplay but it is very important. So what are the most important things you can do if you’ve found out you have diabetes or even if you’ve got established diabetes and you’re thinking “what can I do to help myself?” There are two main things and they are old chestnuts but that doesn’t make them any less important or any less valuable.
Eating sensibly and doing some regular exercise make a significant difference. You don’t hear a lot about it because, dare I say it, there isn’t a lot of money to be made out of exercise or eating sensibly but it does make a difference and I can tell you for a fact that I have seen people in my own surgery who, by following this path, have been able to improve their diabetic markers significantly going from quite bad numbers to really, really good numbers.
So what are we talking about? Regular exercise means doing some walking, running, cycling, swimming, whatever form of cardio-type exercise you like and doing that hopefully three, maybe four times a week. There has been some separate work done looking at resistance training, so a little bit weights work with diabetes and that’s useful as well. It does not mean you have to pump iron or turn yourself into a body builder but doing something with some barbells or dumbbells, maybe even some work at the gym is going to helpful for your sugar control. The most important thing is to be doing some exercise on a regular basis and it makes a big difference. People are surprised, maybe they shouldn’t be, but often people are surprised with the difference it makes.
The other obvious one is healthy eating and the key to this is to keep it simple. Eat foods that basically your ancestors would have eaten, so foods that grow on trees or in the ground and foods that are moving around or swimming somewhere. So we are talking about meat, fish, chicken – not in huge quantities – fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Obviously if you have allergies avoid the things you’re allergic to but the W-H-O-L-E foods are important. Why are they so important? The reason they are so critical is we because want foods to be absorbed slowly into the body so we don’t get spikes in blood sugar and the less processed any food is the more slowly it will be absorbed, giving your body more time to deal with it. So people who go on to what we call a “low sugar diet” and that means cutting out a lot of sweet foods but also a lot of processed foods. Snack foods, biscuits, cereals and other foods that come in boxes and packages that might not even be sweet can have a really high sugar content. So when you’re buying foods in boxes always read the labels, and better still try and eat more food that doesn’t come from boxes but that comes from trees.
Ok, let’s sum up –you have heard all this before, it’s not new, but that doesn’t make it any less important or worth your while. So for any of you out there that are newly diagnosed diabetics or those who have known about their diabetes for a while and are wanting to bring about some improvement take a dispassionate look at what you’re doing each week. It’s not about right or wrong; it’s about whether you can do things that are going to help yourself and doing some regular exercise and getting on to a good low sugar-type diet is going to do you the world of good.