My last few articles have discussed the various types of diabetes, aspects of diabetes and a number of treatments for diabetes. In this article, I am going to bring this information together and explain how you can treat diabetes effectively.
Diabetes (whatever the type) is essentially caused by your body not getting enough insulin (a hormone which helps the body convert blood sugar into energy). This is usually a result of; your cells becoming resistant to insulin, your pancreas (a gland which produces a number of vital hormones) not producing enough insulin or a combination of both. This lack of insulin causes large fluctuations in your blood sugar/glucose (your body’s primary source of energy) levels which can lead to the development of further symptoms. Therefore, the key to controlling your diabetes is to control your blood sugar levels. But how do you do this? Like with most things, there is not one set answer. There are actually a number of things you need do to keep your blood sugar levels within a normal range. In the list below I have outlined the main things you can do to keep your blood sugar levels normal and keep your diabetes under control:
1) MONITOR YOUR BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS:- Keeping a check on your blood sugar levels is essential, whatever type of diabetes you may have. Regular blood sugar testing will allow you to see if your blood sugar is staying within normal levels and check how well your body is responding to your current diabetes treatments.
The frequency with which you need to check your blood sugar levels will depend entirely on you and your diabetes. Typically, type 1 diabetics will need to check their blood sugar levels more often (up to five times per day) whereas type 2 diabetics will only need to check once every few days. However, remember that this is only a general rule and you should seek the advice of your doctor to get more accurate advice.
There are a number of tests which allow you to monitor your blood sugar levels. The most convenient of these is the random blood glucose (RBG) test which can be performed using a portable blood glucose monitor. This will allow you to test your blood sugar levels whenever and wherever you want. Normal blood sugar levels are generally as follows:
– Between 70 and 130 milligrams per decilitre (mg/dL) before eating.
– Less than 180 mg/dL after eating.
– Approximately 140 mg/dL just before going to bed.
Normal blood sugar readings suggest that your diabetes is under control and your diabetes treatments are proving effective. However, blood sugar readings that are consistently above normal levels indicate that your current diabetes treatments are not working effectively. In this case you should notify your doctor immediately because your diabetes is not under control and could become hazardous to your health if not treated quickly.
2) MODIFY YOUR DIET:- Modifying your diet is probably the most effective natural treatment for diabetes. Your body gets glucose from the food you consume, so it makes sense that by choosing your food more carefully you can have greater control over your blood sugar levels. To keep your blood sugar levels within control the following dietary changes are recommended:
– Control your daily caloric intake.
– Eat a balanced diet consisting of 45%-65% carbohydrates, 15%-20% proteins and 20%-35% fats.
– Moderate your intake of sugars and simple carbohydrates.
– Increase your intake of fibre.
– Eat at least five portions of fruit and veg per day.
– Reduce your salt intake.
– Reduce your alcohol consumption.
As you can see there’s nothing too drastic here. In fact most of the changes would be made as part of normal healthy diet. However, by implementing them you can reduce your body’s resistance to insulin and keep your blood sugar levels much more stable.
3) DO MORE EXERCISE:- Exercise helps control your diabetes in a number of ways. Firstly, exercise makes you burn more glucose for energy and therefore is an effective way to keep your blood sugar levels under control. Secondly, it can improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin according to this this article. Finally, exercise helps you keep your weight under control which according to this article from DLife further improves your body’s sensitivity to insulin.
For best results you should try to exercise regularly (at least 3 or 4 times per week) and perform a combination of cardiovascular exercise (e.g. cycling, swimming, jogging) and resistance training (e.g. bodyweight training, weight lifting). However, when exercising make sure that you keep yourself hydrated, check your blood sugar levels regularly and have a quick supply of glucose and insulin to hand in case your blood sugar change rapidly.
4) USE INSULIN IF NECESSARY:- Insulin helps your body use blood sugar for energy and in doing this helps keep your blood sugar levels under control. If you have type 1 diabetes you will need to take insulin because your body can no longer produce it. 40% of type 2 diabetics require insulin, so if you have type 2 you may be able to get by without it. The best way to determine whether or not you need insulin is to consult your doctor.
There are lots of different types and brands of insulin available but they all fall under four main categories:
– Rapid Acting Insulin:- This type of insulin reaches the blood 15 minutes after injection and peaks 30 to 90 minutes later. It can last for up to 5 hours.
– Short Acting Insulin:- This type of insulin reaches the blood 30 minutes after injection and peaks 2 to 4 hours later. It can last between 4 to 8 hours.
– Intermediate Acting Insulin:- This type of insulin reaches the blood 2 to 6 hours after injection and peaks 4 to 14 hours later. It can last for 14 to 20 hours
– Long Acting Insulin:- This type of insulin reaches the blood 6 to 14 hours after injection and does not peak (or peaks very slightly 10 to 16 hours after injection). It can last for 20 to 24 hours.
Since each individual responds to insulin differently there is no set rule for the type of insulin you use or the frequency with which you administer it. You will need to consult your doctor to decide upon which insulin type is suitable and how often you will need to take it.
Injection is the most common way to administer insulin. However, research into diabetes has meant that a number of alternatives are becoming available including:
– Insulin Inhalers:- Insulin inhalers are a realistic alternative to insulin injections. However, the increased cost of insulin inhalers means (at present) they have failed to gain the popularity of insulin injections.
– Insulin Jet Injectors:- These devices send a fine spray of insulin through the skin using high pressure air.
– Insulin Pumps:- These programmable devices allow multiple insulin injections to be administered automatically in accordance with your daily regime.
– Oral Insulin:- It is difficult to administer insulin orally because the body’s digestive system breaks it down before it reaches the bloodstream. However, a number of advances have been made and according to this article oral insulin may soon be a reality.
When taking insulin you need to take a number of precautions. First, you need to make sure that it does not interact with any other medications you are taking. This article provides a list of medications that are known to interact with insulin but you are advised to also consult your GP. Secondly, you need to make sure that you do not overdose on insulin. Taking too much insulin causes hypoglycaemia (extremely low blood sugar levels) for which the symptoms range from mild (dizziness, headaches, sweating) to serious (coma, seizure).
5) ALWAYS CARRY FAST ACTING CARBOHYDRATES:- Just as insulin is necessary for lowering your blood sugar levels, fast acting carbohydrates may be needed to raise your blood sugar levels if they get too low. Apart from overdosing on insulin your blood sugar levels also become low if you eat too little, consume too much alcohol and sometimes following exercise.
Fast acting carbohydrates are simply carbohydrates which enter your bloodstream quickly. Sources include; sugar, fruit and glucose tablets. You should always carry some with you so that you are prepared should your blood sugar levels drop.
6) TRY ALTERNATIVE NATURAL REMEDIES:- Natural remedies are not a substitute for diet, exercise and possible insulin injections. However, they can be an effective supplement to your existing diabetes treatment. There are lots of natural remedies for diabetes that have been suggested. For example, fish oils are believed to improve the body’s response to insulin and massage can improve circulation which relieves a number of diabetic complications.
For the majority of people, treating diabetes will mean that lifestyle changes are necessary. However, that does not mean diabetes has to control your life. You will have to do some exercise, you will have to monitor your blood sugar levels, you will most probably have to alter your diet and you may have to take insulin. This change will be difficult in the beginning but as you get your diabetes under control it will become easier.
Whilst every intention has been made to make this article accurate and informative, it is intended for general information only. Diabetes is a medical condition and this article is not intended as a substitute for the advice of your doctor or a qualified medical practitioner. Before making any lifestyle changes you should always seek your doctors advice. If you have any concerns regarding any form of diabetes then you should speak to your doctor right away.
Blood Sugar/Glucose Information (Wikipedia)
Diabetes and Blood Glucose Information (Diabetes.co.uk)
Diabetes and Blood Glucose Monitors Information (Diabetes.co.uk)
Diabetes Causes and Risks Information (DLife)
Exercise and Insulin Sensitivity Information (Diabetes Care Journals)
Hypoglycaemia Information (Net Doctor)
Insulin Information (Wikipedia)
Insulin Side Effects Information (Diabetes.co.uk)
Oral Insulin Information (Diabetes.co.uk)
Pancreas Information (Wikipedia)