Diabetes is a very common lifestyle disorder that’s almost assuming epidemic proportions now. India now has the dubious distinction of being called the Diabetes Capital of the world and frighteningly the diabetic population according to WHO can grow 200% in the next 15 years.
In this short article, we will discuss:
a. What is it? What are the common symptoms
b. What are the causes
c. what are some of the associated conditions.
d. How a proper diet may address the root cause
e. Diet myths associates with diabetes and the actual facts
f. Some special foods for diabetics
g. Summary of the key points
1. So, What is Diabetes? And what are its common symptoms?
Diabetes refers to excess sugar levels in the bloodstream. You would have heard the name insulin almost in the same breath as diabetes. So, what is the relation between the two?
An organ called ‘Pancreas’ secretes the hormone ‘Insulin’ which helps in breaking down the glucose or sugar in our food and carrying it to cells where it is used as fuel for our energy requirements and body processes.
In diabetics the insulin secreted is inadequate or the cells do not respond normally to insulin(also called insulin resistance). So? The glucose levels in blood shoot up as it cannot be carried normally to cells, liver and muscles. So, what can that do?
1. Your eye-sight may get impaired in the long run especially at night. There is an increased risk of Glaucoma and even blindness.
2. Your feet are susceptible to infections and sores. It may even necessitate amputation in the extreme cases.
3. Diabetes is called a ‘Silent Killer’ as it impairs the ability to control cholesterol and blood pressure leading to heart attacks.
4. Nerves get damaged causing pain and tingling or loss of sensation.
5. Kidney damage and even failure is common if blood glucose levels remain high.
Scared? Relax! it does sound scary but can be managed easily through some small diet and lifestyle changes. What’s worse is that there is no permanent cure. It can be only managed through dietary changes, exercise and insulin injections.
Some of the common symptoms of diabetes are –
· Excess thirst and urination
· Blurry vision
2. What are the symptoms of this ailment?
There are 3 kinds of diabetes known.
First there is the Type I diabetes. Although it can occur at any age, mostly teens, children and young adults are diagnosed with it. In this case, the body makes very little insulin and the entire life of these individuals depends on Insulin injections. The exact causes are unknown but some researchers have called it hereditary or a result of gestational diabetes in the mother.
Second and the most common variety is the Type 2 diabetes which usually occurs in adulthood but now even teens are being diagnosed with it thanks to the high obesity rates. Obesity, stress, lack of rest and sedentary lifestyles with no exercise have been blamed as the chief causes.
Third,there is gestational diabetes which develops during pregnancy even though the woman has no previous indications of diabetes.
3. What are the Associated conditions?
As we mentioned earlier due to reduced ability to control cholesterol and blood pressure, Hypertension (High BP) is one of the most common and crippling conditions.
Diabetic Foot as well as glaucoma have also become a cause for concern especially in senior citizens.
4. How can proper diet help?
Most people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. Hence weight loss and 30 minutes of moderate exercising definitely help in controlling the disease. In fact, losing just about 5kg can dramatically reduce the severity of the disorder. Since a diabetic’s body is already short of insulin, the problem becomes more severe with excess weight. Besides, in case of overweight people, fat gets deposited around pancreatic cells which are responsible for producing insulin in the body. As per some researchers, this fat damages the pancreatic cells, thereby further reducing insulin production.
The diabetic diet is based on the three principles of –
a. Consuming fewer and healthier calories
b. Consuming an even amount of carbohydrates (And replacing simple carbs by complex carbs)
c. Reducing overall fat content while increasing healthy mono saturated fats.
These keep the blood glucose levels in check and improve the insulin sensitivity. Meal Planning with a qualified nutritionist and doctor is essential to devise a diet that keeps your blood sugar levels near normal. Regular testing of the blood sugar levels will tell you how different foods affect the blood glucose levels.
However, neither is there a single diabetes diet which can suit everyone nor a diet once planned can be considered sacrosanct for you entire lifetime. The diet needs to be monitored regularly in accordance with the body’s response.
· Follow the golden rule of small frequent meals and having lot of water.
· Carbohydrates in form of whole grain cereals like oats, dalia, atta bread, whole wheat flour should be taken, as they are a good source of fiber. Role of fiber in a diabetic’s diet is to stabilize sugars, control appetite and lower cholesterol.
· Oils like olive oil, flax seed oil (alsi), til etc should be used in cooking. These oils are rich source of omega-3 fats which help in increasing good cholesterol.
· Sugar should be substituted with an artificial sweetener like aspartame, saccharine, stevia etc
· Lean meat like fish and chicken can be taken. Yolk of the egg should be excluded. Avoid red meat completely.
· Milk and products from skimmed milk should be used as it cuts down on calories as well as unwanted fat.
· Foods that should be avoided are mainly refined cereals like suji, maida, rice and related products.
· Fruits like banana, cheeku, lichi, mangoes, grapes and custard apple should be completely avoided.
· Starchy vegetables like potato, sweet potato, yam and lotus stem should also be avoided.
· Pickles, murabbas, fruit juices (packed and fresh both), packed soups and thick soups with corn starch should be excluded from a diabetic diet.
· Diabetics are at a higher risk of developing heart trouble. Hence saturated fats like ghee, butter, cream etc should be restricted.
In ayurveda meethi seeds, jamun seeds, amla and karela are used to cure diabetes as they help in bringing the sugar level down.
5. Some common myths associated with diabetes are –
a. Sugar is poison for diabetics especially children.
FACT: While excess sugar is indeed harmful, diabetics are not required to give up sugar entirely but are advised to control its intake.
For children with diabetes for example completely prohibiting completely the intake of cakes, candies and sweets is to rob them of their simple childhood pleasures. But then to control the disorder these should be had in moderation and while partying, the other food items (for example rice, pasta, noodles etc) should be controlled (consumed in reduced quantities) to balance the glucose and calorie levels.
b. Say bye-bye to tasty fatty or fried food if your have diabetes.
FACT As said before complete deprivation is not necessary. Occasional indulgence is fine as long as its balanced and only occasional. Even otherwise healthy individuals gorging daily on fried and fattening food will soon develop some or the other ailment.
c. Having bitter gourd juice means you can feast at other times
Fact: Due to its hypoglycemic properties karela juice is good (but not so yummy) for diabetics but do not over compensate it by indulging in a breakfast of puris or ghee laden ‘parantha’ thereafter.
6. Special foods for diabetics:
While fat free ice creams, sugar free pastries and sweets have come in vogue especially to cater to the needs of the growing and affluent diabetic population don’t be fooled by all the tall claims. Fat free ice cream is still rich in simple carbs. Sugar free mithai is still laden with ghee and saturated fat. So, please don’t gorge on them under the illusion that they possibly cannot cause you any harm.
Ayurveda recommends black currant, amla, karela, methi seeds and also to control diabetes.
Diabetes develops slowly and will not kill you in a day. A little discipline and life style change will go a long way in enabling you to live a happy healthy and tension free life.
We have covered in this presentation the various kinds of diabetes and their causes,the associated conditions and symptoms of diabetes, how a healthy diet goes a long way on controlling the disorder a few dos and don’ts of diabetes and have hopefully also dispelled some myths associated with this disorder while emphasising that diabetes is not a death knell for all that is delicious and good in life and not all that is sold to diabetics is truly good for them. Diet Solutions wishes you a happy and healthy life.