Healthy Changes for Type 2 Diabetes

What is Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a condition where our body does react normally to insulin, a hormone that regulates the sugar levels in the blood. Normally, after we eat a meal, the pancreas release insulin which then delivers glucose to the cells of the body, so it can be used as fuel for energy. When there is resistance to insulin, the glucose stays in the blood and cannot be utilized by the body. Having a high blood sugar level can cause symptoms such as excess thirst, fatigue, weight loss, excess urination, or even light headedness and blurry vision. It is extremely important to manage high blood sugar levels because it can cause serious health consequences, such as blindness, kidney failure, neuropathy, etc. In this article, we look at some of the lifestyle changes that are beneficial to patients that have a high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes or patients that are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

 

Misconception

A common misconception I hear in practice is that only sweet foods can spike blood sugar levels. Yes, foods that contain sugar spike our blood glucose but there are other foods, containing simple carbohydrates, that also do the same thing. These foods do not necessarily have to be “sweet.” The term used to describe foods which spike blood sugar levels is called – high or medium glycemic index (GI) foods.

 

Choose foods with low glycemic index

Diabetics should aim to eat more foods with low glycemic index (GI).

 

Glycemic index
> 70 High
56-69 Medium
<55 Low

 

Replacing high glycemic index foods with low glycemic index foods for 2 weeks to 6 months will ensure significant improvements with blood glucose levels.

Foods that have a high glycemic index and should be avoided:

Potatoes, pasta, white bread, short grain rice, cornflakes, processed foods and of course SUGAR!

The rule of thumb to avoid high glycemic index foods is to eat foods that are high in fibre and avoid processed foods.

Here is a list of the glycemic index for 60+ foods by Harvard Health

 

Increase soluble fibre

 

Soluble fibres are helpful in blood sugar management because they slow down digestion. By slowing down digestion there is no insulin “spike” but rather a gradual rise in insulin. As a result, this is a better way to regulate blood sugar. Bonus – they also help with cholesterol management.

Foods that contain soluble fibres and can be added to the diet:

Ground flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, oats, barley, beans, lentils and vegetables.

 

“Exercise can be as powerful as glucose-lowering medications”

 

Why is exercise important?

These days, low physical fitness is equated to smoking several packs of cigarettes a day, and therefore movement is an integral lifestyle change for everyone.

For people with Type 2 diabetes or high risk for acquiring Type 2 diabetes being physically active allows the muscles to become more sensitive to insulin thus making it easier for cells to take up glucose. Furthermore, when we consume excess sugar, our liver converts it to fats for energy storage.

Being physically active releases lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme which helps reduce these fats in the blood and indirectly helping sugar regulation.

Exercise can be as powerful as glucose-lowering medications. Physical activity is very important for regulating blood sugar levels, not just for Type 2 diabetics but also for those at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Keep in mind that although being active is great to help blood sugar regulation, it does not mean we should increase our sugar intake just because we exercise.

 

 

Sources:

  • Harvard Health
  • Canadian Diabetes Association/Diabetes Canada
  • Victoria State Government – Better health
  • Integrative therapeutics – Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine

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