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Can You Control Diabetes With Diet And Exercise

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Is diet and exercise alone sufficient to control diabetes?

“You’re sitting there thinking, ‘Well, what does that mean?’ ” Norris says.

Type 2 diabetes can be reversed with weight loss and exercise but research shows that people need lots of help to achieve control of blood sugar with just a change in diet and lifestyle, and they rarely get enough support.It’s easier for doctors and patients to rely primarily on medication.

Norris says trying to overhaul her diet by herselfwas confusing and difficult. And when things didn’t change, the doctor just kept increasing her dosage of insulin.

But then Norris lost her health insurance. The injectable insulin cost her hundreds of dollars a month money she simply didn’t have.

Fortunately, that’s when a couple of nurses who were members of her community stepped in to help not with cash, but with crucial support of a different sort.

At the nonprofit Beersheba Springs Medical Clinic, a nonprofit clinic founded in 2010 to bring free or low-cost health care to the area, Norris was introduced to an alternative approach to taming her Type 2 diabetes and the prospect of reversing her diagnosis altogether.

Retired nurses on a mission

In a formerparsonage near the clinic, Karen Wickham ladles out lentil stew as a handful of participants in the evening’s health education sessionarrive.

“It’s our purpose,” Karen says. “Our purpose in life is to try to help make a difference first in our community.”

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Blood Sugar And Exercise

There are a few ways that exercise lowers blood sugar:

  • Insulin sensitivity is increased, so your muscle cells are better able to use any available insulin to take up glucose during and after activity.
  • When your muscles contract during activity, your cells are able to take up glucose and use it for energy whether insulin is available or not.

This is how exercise can help lower blood sugar in the short term. And when you are active on a regular basis, it can also lower your A1C.

Tips For When Temptation Strikes

In diabetes diet terms, temptation translates to foods you shouldnt eat because they are loaded with sugar and empty carbs that will send your blood sugar skyrocketing. That piece of cake, cinnamon bun, brownie, or bag of chips usually contain more than just carbs, they usually contribute unhealthy fats, too.

The less often you eat these sugary, fatty desserts and snacks, the less you will come to want them. Some people do better allowing yourself an occasional craving. Striking the right balance will depend upon your goals, and urgency.

Heres the thing: this word of caution is not just for people with diabetes who need to watch their sugar and fat intake, in truth, it is a red flag for anyone who wants stay healthy and avoid chronic diseases. Thats why the whole family benefits from eating healthy foods and saving small indulgences for special occasions.

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Can You Prevent Diabetes With Diet And Exercise

With diabetes mellituscommonly known as diabetesblood sugar or glucose levels are elevated because the body doesnt use insulin correctly. Instead of properly applying sugar in the cells for energy, glucose can build in the bloodstream, resulting in diabetes.

A diabetes diagnosis can lead to significant health consequences, including damage to the heart, kidneys, nerves, and feet. While there are some diabetes risk factors that can’t be controlled, maintaining an active lifestyle and eating nutritious foods can go a long way to helping prevent this disease.

Cut The Carbs Reduce Your Blood Sugar And Insulin Levels

Can You Control Type 2 Diabetes with Just Exercise and ...

While sugar is the bodys preferred form of fuel, we are equally well-equipped to burn fatboth dietary fat and stored body fatfor fuel. And when we decrease carbohydrate intake, thats exactly what happens.

Heres how the carbohydrate/blood sugar connection works: when we eat carbs, our bodies rapidly convert them into sugar, which can hit the bloodstream in as little as 15 minutes if theyre simple carbs like sugars and starches. This causes blood sugar to spike. Once blood sugar gets to a certain level our bodies produce insulin, which signals our muscles to take in more glucose to clear it out of our blood, our kidneys to eliminate excess sugar through urine, and more. It also tells our bodies to store excess blood sugar as fat, and we gain weight.

The more sugar in our blood, the more insulin our bodies must produce to counteract it. When we consistently eat a high-carb diet, as most Americans do, our bodies must produce more and more insulin to keep blood sugar stable. Eventually this leads to insulin resistance, which means that the signal gets lost in translation somewhere and our bodies lose the ability to clear all that excess sugar from our blood. And as we all know, consistently high blood sugar levels are the definition of type 2 diabetes.

However, results arent necessarily instantaneous. Depending on how long you have been diabetic, it may take as little as three or four months or as long as a year to eighteen months to see real results.

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Choose Carbohydrates That Keep Blood Sugar Steady

Our wide variety of food products contain different levels and types of carbohydrates, making it harder to eat wisely with diabetes.

In general, you will want to choose carbs that have the least impact on your blood sugar. That means selecting foods that are high fiber, low sugar foods since these are absorbed more slowly and so have little impact on blood sugar changes.

Best carb choices to promote a healthy lifestyle for people with diabetes:

  • High fiber foods include: Whole grain breads and cereals, and foods made with 100% whole wheat, oats, quinoa, brown rice, corn and cornmeal
  • Dried beans, lentils, and peas
  • Fresh fruits like berries, apples, pears, and oranges
  • Dairy products including yogurt, milk, and cheese. The best yogurt is Greek-style or strained yogurt since these contain triple the level of protein.
  • Vegetables. Both starchy and non-starchy vegetables are all healthy carbs that have less effect on your blood sugar

As you might guess, sugar-sweetened cookies, cakes, doughnuts, and other baked goods made with white flour as well as candy and soft drinks that contain sugar and high fructose corn syrup have little nutritional value and are likely to send your blood sugar soaring, so should eat them only occasionally, if at all, and only in very small amounts.

Skip foods made with all-purpose white flour and avoid sugary foods and sugar-sweetened drinks.

How Exercise Helps Prevent Complications Of Type 2 Diabetes

Apart from managing blood sugar and insulin levels, exercise functions to slow, stop, and in some cases, even reverse the long-term effects that occur due to the progression of type 2 diabetes. Here are some of the main ways that physical activity combats insulin resistance-related complications:

Improving Vascular Health When you exercise, your muscles release a host of compounds that benefit vascular and circulatory health, Occhipinti says. That means more oxygen and nutrients can get where they need to go, reducing the risk of diabetes-related neuropathy, vision loss, and heart issues. Improved blood flow may also aid in joint health, he explains.

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Lowering Inflammation Inflammation throughout the body is believed to be a primary cause of the progression of type 2 diabetes and its related conditions such as arthrosclerosis , cognitive decline, and joint deterioration, according to an article published in April 2019 in the European Cardiology Review. Yet routine exercise can help lower chronically high inflammation levels to mitigate its detrimental effects, Occhipinti explains.

Improving Cholesterol and Blood Pressure Apart from strengthening heart health through improvements in blood flow and reductions in inflammation, exercise also targets blood pressure and cholesterol levels, Occhipinti says. Both are leading contributors to progressive heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

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Keeping Active As A Hobby

You could try starting up a new physical activity hobby. Itll help you manage your diabetes and feel good. Some ideas include:

  • starting yoga or Pilates YouTube workouts
  • signing up to a new class, such as dance or tai-chi
  • skipping
  • bowls.

You may also want to take a look at our fundraising events – theres a big range to choose from, involving walking, swimming, cycling and lots more. We organise these to help you get active and raise money, so we can keep working towards a world where diabetes can do no harm.

Protein: Make Your Choices Low In Saturated Fat

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Unless you are a vegetarian or vegan, youre likely to get plenty of high-quality protein from lean meats, poultry, seafood, dairy, and eggs.

Both vegetarians and non-vegetarians should also look to plant sources for some or all of your protein needs. Plant foods like soy-based tofu and tempeh are excellent sources of non-animal proteins and fit quite well into a diabetic meal plan because they are also low in carbs.

The same can be said for nuts, and legumes such as black beans, chickpeas, lentils, and edamame as well as some whole-grain foods such as quinoa, kamut, teff, even wild rice and couscous.

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What Should You Eat If You Have Diabetes

In truth, a diet aimed at reducing the risks of diabetes is really nothing more than a nutritionally balanced meal plan aimed at supporting maintaining blood sugar levels within range and supporting a healthy weight.

For those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, the main focus of a diabetes-focused diet is being attentive to your weight. That said, a diabetic diet is simply an eating approach that works to keep you healthy, and so is not reserved only for people with diabetes. Your whole family can enjoy the same meals and snacks, regardless of whether others have diabetes or not.

YesThere are a few food decisions that will matter more if you do have diabetes. We provide you with some general guidelines to help you understand how much and how often to eat in order to maintain steady blood sugar levels. And, these recommendations hold true for anyone who has diabetes: type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, as well as prediabetes and gestational diabetes.

Diet really does matter, a lot!

In fact, if you were recently diagnosed with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, by decreasing your weight by about 10%, you may even reverse your diabetes, putting it into remission.

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Whether Youve Been Diagnosed With Prediabetes Or Full

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A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes or even prediabetes usually means the doctor has suggested that you make some changes to your diet or the diet of someone you care for. This is a good time to become wiser about how you are eating on a regular basis.

Fortunately, following a diabetes diet doesnt mean giving up the joy of eating or avoiding your favorite foods and special family meals. You can still enjoy pizza night, celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, and partake in holiday meals and vacation dining. This is more about your routine daily food choices and meal planning.

Use the four sections of a plate as a guide when planning healthy meals for someone with diabetes. Photo: 123RF

Eating to control and prevent diabetes is much more about making wise food adjustments than it is about denial and deprivation. A better way to look at a diet when you have diabetes is one that helps you establish a new normal when it comes to your eating habits and food choices.

What Does Curing Or Reversing Diabetes Even Mean

Diabetes Management: Weight, Diet, Exercise and Medicine

If you have type 2 diabetes and experience a long-term improvement in your insulin sensitivity, it is referred to as curing or reversing your condition. This means you are able to get your A1C level below 6% without medicationand keep it there.

After one year or more of both normal A1C and fasting blood sugar levels without medication, you are considered to be in complete remission. But youll still need to check in regularly with your healthcare provider and sustain the changes that reversed your diabetes in the first place.

Committing to a regular exercise regime can make a big difference in helping reverse or cure diabetes and keep it in remission. A recent study out of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., showed that 40% of type 2 diabetes patients were able to reverse their diabetes by exercising, cutting calories and keeping their glucose in check.

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Follow A Mediterranean Diet

A 2020 study on the Mediterranean diet found that this way of eating can reduce blood sugar levels by as much as 0.53 percentage units and that each component of the Mediterranean diet could be involved in a 20% reduction in diabetes risk.

A Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, lean protein, and healthy fats. It is also low in processed foods, added sugars, and refined grains. Aim for a rainbow of food colors on your plate.

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The Biggest Risk For Diabetes: Belly Fat

Being overweight or obese is the biggest risk factor for type 2 diabetes. However, your risk is higher if you tend to carry your weight around your abdomen as opposed to your hips and thighs. A lot of belly fat surrounds the abdominal organs and liver and is closely linked to insulin resistance. You are at an increased risk of developing diabetes if you are:

  • A woman with a waist circumference of 35 inches or more
  • A man with a waist circumference of 40 inches or more

Calories obtained from fructose are more likely to add weight around your abdomen. Cutting back on sugary foods can mean a slimmer waistline as well as a lower risk of diabetes.

Peggy Harum Rd Ld Renal Dietitian

Diabetes & sports: How to control glucose levels through diet & exercise

As a renal dietitian my focus cant be solely on diabetes. Although a very large percentage of our patients with chronic kidney disease are here due to unmanaged blood sugar control, that is just one of our problems. I have to prioritize my counseling in other ways the most important being control of potassium, then sodium , protein and phosphorus.

The majority of our dialysis patients lose kidney function completely in other words they no longer urinate. So imagine what happens when they eat salty foods they get thirsty and drink Then the dialysis treatment must try to remove the fluid they accumulate. It is true that high blood sugar also causes thirst which I must keep in mind. I have many patients who rely on their PCP for advice with their insulin. They take the same amount of insulin regardless of their blood sugar and the A1C remains elevated I cant change how they administer the insulin but only recommend asking for a referral to an endocrinologist.

This sometimes takes months to achieve. So probably the best thing I can do is recommend I can say the secret of the diet is the size of the portion.

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Why Is Diet And Exercise The Best Combination

Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight is a key part of keeping your diabetes in remission. One of the best ways to lose weight is through diet and exercise.

When it comes to diet, experts suggest watching portion sizes and adding plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, high-quality proteins and high-fibre foods to your meal plan. Find more on how diet can reverse diabetes.

The longer you can stay in a reversed state of diabetes, the better your chances of delaying or preventing further complications of the disease. By combining a good diet with regular exercise, you give your body the best chance to do just that.

Curious about other potential ways to reverse or cure diabetes? Find some more tips here.

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