Maintaining Diabetes With a Healthier Lifestyle

According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report, 34.2 million Americans have diabetes. And on top of that, 1 in 3 adults have pre-diabetes. 


The numbers are alarming, especially knowing that 90–94% of the cases are type 2 diabetes, caused mainly by lifestyle choices. 


As much as the numbers are disturbing, it is also a relief to know that diabetes can be successfully maintained with a healthier lifestyle. Meaning everyone having this chronic condition has a say in how it evolves. 

Diabetes Guidelines

Although there are some common symptoms of diabetes, like increased thirst and hunger, frequent urination, fatigue, frequent infections, and a few more, diabetes can only be diagnosed after a blood sugar test or an oral glucose tolerance test. 


Typically, the test answers are compared to diabetes guidelines, and the diagnosis gets either confirmed or not. 


If the blood sugar levels potentially confirm the risk and the doctor suspects type 1 diabetes, additional tests might be performed. 


Here are the guidelines for diabetes based on the different tests:

Random blood sugar test (taken any time)

A blood sugar level of 200mg/dL (11.1mmol/L) or higher suggests diabetes.

Fasting blood sugar test (taken after an overnight fast)

A blood sugar level less than 100mg/dL (5.6mmol/L) is considered normal. 


A blood sugar level of 100–125mg/dL (5.6–6.9mmol/L) is considered pre-diabetes. 


A blood sugar level of 126mg/dL (7mmol/L) or higher is considered diabetes.

Oral glucose tolerance test

First, the fasting blood sugar level is measured to denote the baseline. Then the patient consumes a sugary liquid, and blood sugar levels are tested periodically for the next two hours to see how fast the blood sugar is dropping. 


A blood sugar level of 140mg/dL (7.8mmol/L) and less after 2 hours is normal. 


A blood sugar level of 140–199mg/dL (7.8–11.0 mmol/L) after 2 hours indicates pre-diabetes.


More than 200mg/dL (11.1mmol/L) after 2 hours indicates diabetes. 

Diabetes and Lifestyle

Since our lifestyle can gradually cause diabetes, it can also maintain or reverse it. 


Leading a healthy lifestyle does not necessarily prevent someone from getting this condition because more than one factor adds to it. And there’s genetics, too. 


However, paying close attention to what we eat and how much we move can definitely help maintain or improve our health, including diabetes control. 


Since the relation between food and diabetes is indisputable, many approaches were introduced to fight diabetes or maintain it. One of the most discussed recently is the Fasting-Mimicking Diet created and researched by Dr. Valter Longo.

Fasting-Mimicking Diet for diabetes

Fasting is currently being researched in over 2,000 clinical trials. It has multiple benefits to our health, and it’s no wonder it impacts blood sugar levels, too. 


According to the University of Southern California News report, “A diet designed to imitate the effects of fasting appears to reverse diabetes, a new USC-led study shows. The fasting-like diet promotes the growth of new insulin-producing pancreatic cells that reduce symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes in mice.”

How it works

The Fasting-Mimicking Diet requires the person to eat about 25% of their regular caloric intake for 5 days in a row, resulting in about 500–600 calories per day. This should be done only once a month, with the rest of the month relying on regular and healthy meals.


Also, this diet does not necessarily require the dieter to have strict fasting windows. Instead, it promotes eating till satiated, but not full. 


Although this fasting approach is considered safe and highly beneficial for diabetes control, it is always best to consult your physician before implementing changes to your lifestyle. 

Gluten-free diet and diabetes

Gluten-free is often considered a synonym for healthy. However, for people with diabetes, it is not necessarily so. 


Although eating a gluten-free diet can help improve gut health, at the same time, it may cause blood sugar spikes. That is because gluten-free foods usually have less fiber, so carbohydrates turn to sugars faster. 


Naturally gluten-free foods can be a part of a healthy diet. For example: 


  • Vegetables
  • Beans, seeds, legumes, and nuts in their natural, unprocessed forms
  • Eggs
  • Lean, non-processed meats, fish, and poultry
  • Most low-fat dairy products

However, most of the time, products with gluten substitutes (like bread) will also have more sugars. 


In general, a gluten-free diet might be beneficial for maintaining diabetes only if naturally gluten-free foods are consumed. 

Exercise and Its Impact on Diabetes

Exercise is considered any movement that increases energy use. Anything from brisk walking to planned HIIT sessions benefits our health.


According to the American Diabetes Association Position statement, “Exercise improves blood glucose control in type 2 diabetes, reduces cardiovascular risk factors, contributes to weight loss, and improves well-being. Regular exercise may prevent or delay type 2 diabetes development. Regular exercise also has considerable health benefits for people with type 1 diabetes (e.g., improved cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, insulin sensitivity, etc.).”


Adding movement to your daily routine will have a substantial effect on your blood sugar levels. Just a 10-minute walk after a meal will prevent the spike in the glucose levels in your body. 

Weight Loss and Diabetes

Having excess weight on your body increases the risks for type 2 diabetes. If the person is already pre-diabetic, then losing weight might prevent the development of diabetes. 


In case the person has type 2 diabetes and is overweight, then losing weight can have highly beneficial results like:


  • Decreased insulin resistance
  • Improved energy levels and mood
  • Lower LDL cholesterol levels
  • Lower chance of developing complications from diabetes

Sometimes weight loss can even bring the blood sugar levels down to normal. Meaning that people who take type 2 diabetes medication might not need them any longer. 

Key Takeaways

Diabetes is a chronic illness that has many side effects. Unfortunately for some, this condition is of an autoimmune origin, and little to nothing can be changed about that. 


But for the majority of people with type 2 diabetes, it’s just a matter of lifestyle.


Implementing a few new eating and exercise habits can have tremendous results and either maintain or sometimes even completely eliminate diabetes.  


Therefore for the best results, combine fasting, a healthy diet, and exercise. 


FAQs

​​1. Can you reverse pre-diabetes with diet?

Yes, eating a healthy diet can bring the blood sugar levels down to normal. This, as a result, can reverse pre-diabetes. 

2. Can diet soda cause diabetes?

Diet soda spikes blood sugar levels and irritates our gut in multiple ways, causing an imbalanced microbiome. This may lead to insulin resistance and therefore increase the risks of diabetes.

3. Does diabetes cause weight loss?

Yes, however, it is not the weight loss that anyone might want. When insulin is insufficient in the body, glucose can’t be used for energy. That’s when the body starts burning mainly muscle for energy, which results in weight loss.  

4. Can dietary changes and supplements help regulate low blood sugar?

Yes. Supplements such as chromium or magnesium can prevent blood sugar levels from plummeting. Also, a healthy diet without excess sugars helps maintain steady blood sugar levels.


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