What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is becoming increasingly prevalent and more and more American"s are being diagnosed as "pre-diabetic" each year. Diabetes occurs when your cells become less responsive to insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas when you eat. It helps the cells of your body take up the sugar and carbohydrates from your food and utilize them as energy. If your cells are less responsive to insulin your pancreas has to make more insulin in order to get the same response. Eventually your pancreas can become exhausted and be unable to produce enough insulin to get the sugar out of your blood and into your cells, resulting in high blood sugar. If you or a family member has problems with blood sugar regulation there are many vitamins, supplements, lifestyle changes, and medications that can help manage your condition.
What Can I Do?
Lifestyle modification is the foundation of good diabetes management and can help reduce the need for medication or decrease the dosage needed to maintain optimal blood sugar levels. There are four main components to address in lifestyle: sleep, stress management, food, and movement. Sleep deprivation has been shown to cause decreased insulin sensitivity and increases appetite for carbohydrates and sweets1. So getting a good nights sleep of 8 hours is important for maintaining a healthy blood sugar level. Stress causes an increase in our stress hormones called adrenaline and cortisol. Higher levels of cortisol and adrenaline cause our blood sugar to be higher, preparing our bodies to "fight or flight". However, if you have chronically high levels of stress and your stress hormones are always high, your blood sugar stays high. While yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises are popular and effective ways to reduce stress, any activity that brings you joy and helps you relax can count as stress reduction. Food is another important factor in diabetes and blood sugar management. The glycemic index is a great tool that ranks foods based on how much work they require from your pancreas and insulin response. Shifting a larger portion of your foods to be lower glycemic can help decrease the load on your pancreas. However, no food is inherently "bad" and the way you pair foods and moderation in all things is more sustainable than a restrictive diet where your favorite foods are eliminated. When consuming carbohydrates and sweets, pairing them with fats, protein, and fiber can decrease the speed at which the sugars are absorbed and make the load on your pancreas more evenly spread while you still get to enjoy your favorites.
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