Decoding diabetes

Published November 16, 2021, 5:30 PM

by Cheshire Que

Going beyond diet in managing insulin resistance

Diabetes has become a common word in almost all households all over the world, regardless of socio-economic status. It’s metabolic disorder characterized by elevated blood glucose or sugar level affecting 422 million individuals worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Left untreated, uncontrolled diabetes can lead to serious damage of blood vessels, heart, kidneys, nerves, and eyes. It can even affect fertility and sexual function.

What exactly happens in the body when one has diabetes?  It all begins upon the ingestion of food that has carbohydrates such as our staple food—rice. Rice is broken down into its simplest form of sugar called glucose, which stays in the blood before getting absorbed.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, an organ located behind the stomach. Think of insulin as a vehicle that transports sugar from the blood into the cells to be stored and used up as energy.

People with diabetes may fall into two categories.

The most common one is Type 2 diabetes. It is a condition where a person’s pancreas produces insulin, but the cells are resistant to it. In other words, the cells do not allow the passage of the insulin-bearing glucose resulting to insulin resistance. Therefore, sugar remains in the blood, causing the increased blood glucose level.

Diet alone will not help you overcome this arduous battle with your blood sugar. There are other factors that you need to take into account if you wish to possibly reverse insulin resistance.

The less common type is Type 1 diabetes, which usually occurs among the juvenile population. This is a condition wherein the beta cells in the pancreas fail to produce insulin and insulin shots are required.

When managing insulin resistance, diet plays a major role in maintaining blood glucose level, desirable weight, normal body fat, and quelling inflammation that messes up with metabolism and hormone balance. Diet alone will not help you overcome this arduous battle with your blood sugar. There are other factors that you need to take into account if you wish to possibly reverse insulin resistance. Your blood glucose reading is impacted by your lifestyle beyond what you eat. Let us tackle the aspects of your lifestyle that are causing that elevation in your blood sugar despite dieting.

Sitting is the new smoking. Are you a couch potato? Living a sedentary lifestyle is a sure way to not only gain body fat but also insulin resistance. Being physically active throughout the day will help your body cells become more sensitive to insulin. Exercising an hour a day is beneficial, but we should still be physically active throughout the day by walking, pacing, taking the stairs, standing, doing some stretching, running, or just engage in any form of movement or physical activity. Do not limit yourself to just having structured exercises that is done for only 30 to 60 minutes a day. Some do not even get more than two hours of exercise per week. The goal is to be mindful about your movement. Walk in place in between online meetings. Be creative about how you can increase your movement.

Have you been binge-watching movies all night? Have you been compromising on sleep? Inadequate sleep and lack of rest will put your body in stress mode. The release of stress hormone cortisol will stimulate your liver to produce glucose from non-carbohydrate source. Protein will be broken down into glucose through the process of gluconeogenesis. This will result to increased blood sugar. We often feel that we can only relax and have our me time at the end of the day when everything is peaceful and we are in bed. That is why we tend to indulge in watching movies and other activities before bedtime. While it isn’t necessarily bad, these activities must not in any way cause us to compromise sleep. Give yourself time to unwind at the end of the day but set a limit and practice sleep hygiene.

Lastly, reflect on your stress level and the type of coping skills that you have. Do you need to let go of some stressors? We can’t totally avoid stress but there are limitations to our capacity in handling stress. Do not allow yourself to be spread too thinly. Be realistic and acknowledge your feelings. No matter how healthy your diet is or how physically active you are, if you cannot handle stress and compromise on sleep, your body will continue to produce stress hormones that will definitely prevent you from keeping your blood sugar at bay. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed with stress and having difficulty maintaining normal blood sugar despite proper diet and exercise, it is best to consult a professional, who can help you develop healthy coping skills and manage stress effectively. A certified counselor, psychologist, or spiritual adviser may be able to help you. Seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness. It shows that you mean business when it comes to taking hold of your health and your life.

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