Is Diabetes something that shows up a lot in your family? Do you know someone who has Diabetes? Or maybe you have Diabetes yourself. What I hear a lot in my practice is frustration and a sense that a diagnosis of Diabetes is or would be a death sentence because there is no cure for it. That is true, there is no “cure” for it, but I’m here to tell you that it CAN be prevented even if it’s something that’s prevalent in your family history, and that it’s NOT something you just have live with. It CAN be managed, and the beauty of it is that it can be done mostly through WHOLE foods and BALANCED meals. That’s good news financially, because you have to eat anyways, so why not eat in a way that’s going to prevent a disease, and even help to eliminate many symptoms that we all experience day to day that can lead to a diagnosis of Diabetes?
First, a little sciencey stuff(I promise, it will be quick and easy, so bare with me!). Whenever there’s a diagnosis of Diabetes, or pre-Diabetes, it’s ultimately an issue with the body not being able to manage blood sugar levels throughout the day. And what’s blood sugar? Basically, every time we consume food(unless we are eating plain chicken or a spoon full of oil), that food goes through our digestive system and breaks down into glucose(which is a fancy word for sugar) and that glucose goes into the blood stream. The body needs that sugar to give us energy, but it can’t do that when it’s just in the blood stream. So every time there’s glucose in the bloodstream, we see an increase in the hormone insulin produced by the body. Insulin’s job is to pair up with each of those glucose molecules, and pull them into the cells. The cells unfortunately can’t take in glucose unless it’s paired up with insulin, and if it can’t get into the cells, then it’s just floating around in the blood stream and not able to be used by the body. So that’s where Diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2 come into play. In Diabetes Type 1, the body is not able to make insulin at all, leaving all that sugar without anywhere to go unless they inject insulin into their bodies. In Type 2 Diabetes, the body makes plenty of insulin, but for a number of reasons(which we’re going to get to a little later), the cells of the body are not able to take in the pair of glucose and insulin. Often, one of the symptoms that we see with those who are pre-diabetic or those who have been diagnosed with the disease, is a lack of energy and drowsiness after meals. And if we look back at the explanation above, peel back the sciencey stuff, it all makes sense: if the energy source is not getting into the cells, then our bodies don’t have enough fuel to be able to be able to manage our day to day activities.
Unfortunately, this disease has been severely mis-managed and misunderstood for many years, but due to advances in research and science and the progress that we’ve made as a society in recognizing the power of food, there IS a light at the end of the tunnel! Personally, I have witnessed many success stories since working as a Holistic Nutritionist, and I have also had the pleasure of meeting individuals who have shared their account of how a few simple changes in diet and lifestyle have completely managed the disease without any symptoms or need for medication. And now I would like to take this opportunity to pass some of it along to you, so here it goes:
PROTEIN PROTEIN PROTEIN!
I think we often think that if we’re not body builders or working out regularly, then we don’t need to be conscious of our protein intake. But it’s a critical component of managing blood sugar. Now, I’m not suggesting we load up on lots of protein and forget about everything else, but for the average non-athlete, we need at least 20g of protein per meal to sustain a more constant energy level throughout the day. Because protein does not break down into sugar, it naturally keeps the amount of sugar in our bloodstream low when consumed as part of a complete meal, which ultimately doesn’t require the body to produce as much insulin to bring the level of sugar down. It’s just a win-win for the body!
2. HEALTHY FATS:
For years, we’ve been told to shy away from fats because we are afraid that consuming these foods might make us FAT! But now we’re finding that not only is this not true(actually, excess sugar being stored in the body as fat is what makes us fat), we’re now seeing that healthy fats are an essential nutrient for the body to maintain balance and prevent against diabetes. Remember when we talked about how sugar pairs up with insulin to get into the cells? One of the biggest reasons why our bodies are becoming more and more “insulin resistant” is because our cells don’t have the nutrients (ie. fats and essential minerals) required to have healthy cells. And without healthy cells, no matter how much insulin our bodies produce, and how much it pairs up with sugar, it can’t get into those unhealthy cells. The one main nutrient that helps to build a healthy outer wall of those cells is healthy fat sources: unrefined coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, flax oil, hemp oil, hemp hearts, nuts and seeds, and my personal favourite: avocados! Fats also help to keep us full for longer, so there’s another bonus there too!
3. LOADS OF FIBRE:
For the best of the best blood sugar balance, we want to get our fibre from super low sugar sources. And that’s mainly all the greens! Because fibre moves through our system nice and s l o w l y, it releases those sugars slowly into our blood stream, creating less stress on the body to release a ton of insulin all at once to pair up with the sugar. When you think you’ve had enough greens, have some more! Add spinach to your smoothies, have a salad with lots of leafy stuff for lunch instead of a sandwich, and don’t hesitate to double up on the greens at dinner time. Get it in any way you can!
4. REAL SALT:
I know I know, sodium is the enemy, right? But I’m not talking table salt or the sodium that’s added to our processed foods. Natural SEA SALT or PINK HIMALAYAN salt is where it’s at. These types of salts are not just sodium, but instead, they are a more balanced composition of a whole bunch of minerals. And guess what? These minerals also help that sugar and insulin duo get into the cells, as well as helping with blood pressure balance and heart health. So don’t be afraid of salt! Sprinkle a little in your soups, on your salads, and season your meats. That little bit can do more good than you know!
5. NATURAL SUGARS:
To help balance blood sugar and prevent diabetes, we want to reduce our sugar intake as much as possible. But opting for artificial sugars isn’t quite the solution, as these sugars are loaded with chemicals that cause a whole slew of other issues in the body! Instead, we want to go for natural sugars, with a lower potential for a blood sugar spike: maple syrup(the real stuff!), honey, or stevia are all good options!
While I do believe that everyone’s body is different, and one set of rules doesn’t apply to all, this simple list of tips and WHOLE food options is not associated with any risks and many have found much success with adding in these nutrients. And of course, this is just a small glimpse into the very vast world of Diabetes, but if you know me, I am very passionate about the effects of managing our blood sugar, so if you’re looking to expand from this short list or looking for an individualized plan to help prevent your risk of disease, send me a message! I’m always available to help answer any questions or work with you towards your health goals!