November is Diabetes Awareness Month and today we’re talking about 5 Ways to Take Control of Your Diabetes.
We’ve heard so many patients and clients say that their lives are over now that they have diabetes. But if you are one of the 30 million Americans with diabetes or 80 million with pre-diabetes, know that you have the power right at your fingertips to take control your diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition in which sugar and starch are not properly used by the body, which then causes sugar levels in the blood to rise beyond normal ranges. There are two major types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition where the body is not able to produce enough insulin (a hormone produced in the pancreas that helps to regulate our blood sugar). People with type 1 diabetes typically need to take insulin for life. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is the most common form of diabetes. This type of diabetes often happens when you develop insulin resistance — meaning, you are making insulin, but your body doesn’t use it properly.
Now that we have an overview, let’s get into the 5 ways you can take control, now!
Diabetes is usually associated with carbohydrate restriction but that shouldn’t be the case! All foods have their place in a healthy, balanced diet as long as we have an understanding of which foods impact our blood sugar.
Our top nutrition tip for diabetes is to eat regularly and consistently each day. When we eat regularly, our blood sugar remains leveled throughout the day. This in turn, helps with avoiding spikes and drops in blood sugar, especially if you’re on certain diabetes medications.
We also recommend understanding which foods contain carbohydrates, as carbohydrates raise our blood sugar levels. On average, we recommend having meals with 45-60 grams of carbohydrates and snacks with around 15-30 grams of carbohydrates. Keep in mind that these are generalized reference numbers, so you should speak with an dietitian or certified diabetes educator to calculate the numbers that are right for you. The easiest way to learn about how to build a balanced plate, is to follow the MyPlate method. Aim to balance your plate with 1/4 complex carbohydrates (think brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, etc), 1/4 as a lean or plant-based protein (fish, chicken, tofu, beans), and the other half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables (kale, spinach, collards, etc)
Other strategies include going for balanced food combinations. Pairing carbohydrates with protein, fat, and/or fiber, which therefore slows the rate of digestion and the rise in blood sugar when eating meals and snacks.
- Apple + Peanut Butter
- Whole Grain Crackers + Cheese
- Tortillas + Eggs
- Rice + Beans
Another misconception is that sugar is off-limits. It’s not! Sugary treats can be incorporated into a healthy diet so long as they fit into your total carbohydrates for the day. Enjoy these foods as treats and pair them with protein and fiber to ensure they don’t spike your blood sugar too rapidly.
Exercise is a huge component of controlling diabetes that is often overlooked. Not only does exercise improve blood sugar, but it also helps lower cholesterol levels, improves blood pressure, lowers stress and anxiety, and improves moods. Many people don’t realize that our muscles use up glucose during exercise. This means that exercising helps to regulate (and burn) some of that glucose circulating in the blood stream. Exercising can also help insulin work better. If you feel like you don’t have time to exercise, try walking during lunch breaks or doing squats while brushing your teeth. Little movements every hour add up!
Often with diabetes, you may need to take medication to help control your blood sugar levels, and that’s okay! Uncontrolled diabetes increases your risk for other health conditions, such as heart and kidney disease, so you may need to take medication to help manage those conditions as well. It is vital to diabetes management to take medications both regularly and as your doctor has prescribed. If you find that you forget to take your medications, set an alarm on your phone or take medications at the same time you do daily activities, like brushing your teeth.
4. Stress Management
Did you know that having a lot of stress can actually raise your blood sugar levels? Combine that with the added stress of trying to manage your diabetes, and things can get a little out of control. Try activities like yoga and meditation for stress relief. But also find hobbies you enjoy, support systems that lift you up. And while we’re at it, try to aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night!
If you have uncontrolled diabetes, checking your blood sugar regularly is imperative to painting a proper picture of what is really going on. When you check your blood sugar, you learn how patterns, activities, medication, and different foods impact your blood sugar. Bringing these logs to your doctor (and dietitian) will help to inform them about possible medication changes that have to be done, and most importantly, it will help to inform you about how different components of your lifestyle affect your numbers.
Diabetes can be stressful and, at times, difficult to manage. But know that you are not alone. You have the power and tools to control your diabetes everyday. With the right combination of a healthy, balanced diet, exercise, and proper medication management & monitoring, you can live a healthy and happy life with diabetes. Be sure to meet with your diabetes team (your doctor, dietitian, therapist, nurse, and/or certified diabetes educator) to ensure your nailing those goals!
Are you or someone you know living with diabetes? What tips and tricks do you all have that work for you? Let us know what you think in the comments below & happy National Diabetes Awareness month! Also, share this article with someone you know who is affected by diabetes! xo
PS Check out our 2-part podcast series on diabetes management here and here!