It's a worrying state of affairs if you look at the condition of diabetes in India. Despite having some of the best medical facilities all over the world, some of the best doctors in the world, medications and treatments, diabetic protocols, access to gyms, nutritionists, India still remains the world's Diabetic capital! The biggest gap here is the symptomatic approach (as opposed to a root cause approach) that we all adopt towards diabetes.
While it’s true that we need medical protocols, we also need corrective lifestyle methods to overcome this. Diabetic medication and treatments aren't supposed to be a lifetime deal. Most people believe that their diabetes is taken care of because they're on medication and the sugar levels on their reports appear normal. But the truth is that these sugar levels look normal only because of the medicines. The patient still has diabetes. So, a complete eradication needs an integrative approach – the right medications as well as the right lifestyle changes.
Type-2 Diabetes is not a disease. It is a lifestyle disorder and a dietary illness. This goes on to mean that a poor lifestyle and poor dietary habits can very well lead to type-2 diabetes. This also means that the kind of lifestyle and the dietary habits that you follow play a huge role in reversing the condition. Diabetes isn't just about sugar levels. Most diabetics do not care to look beyond observing fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels. It’s important to understand that diabetes starts at the pancreatic level, which is why it’s important to pay attention to the health of your pancreas.
The pancreas have two main functions:
1. Secreting digestive enzymes that aid digestion
2. Producing insulin that helps in blood sugar management
We should make every effort to preserve our pancreatic health and rule out any acidity since acidity is one commonality among diabetics. These patients are acidic, bloated, constipated, suffer from the issue of indigestion or have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Each of these issues is correlated to the pancreas and the way it produces insulin.
Another important factor is the intake of artificial sweeteners. These artificial sweeteners have aspartame, which is worse than sugar and is responsible for all kinds of inflammation in the body. And what is diabetes after all? It's an inflammatory condition. Anything that's artificial and has been refined is harmful to your health. Another point to keep in mind is not going overboard with the use of healthy sugars, like jaggery for example. Jaggery has the same GI (glycaemic index) as sugar, but it's a tad healthier since it's not refined and also has phosphorus, iron, and other trace minerals in it. Though, jaggery does behave the same way as white sugar does in the body of a type-2 diabetic. So for diabetics, it's just as vital to go easy on natural sweeteners such as jaggery.
Over the last few years, enough data has been collected to study certain commonalities among type-2 diabetics. These commonalities weren’t present in all diabetics but a majority of them experienced these commonalities. Studying them might help us understand type-2 diabetes better, and in turn, aid better prevention against it. But the first thing that we need to remember and believe is that type-2 diabetes is completely reversible in most cases.
Some of the commonalities are:
• High inflammation: Diabetes is an inflammatory condition. High levels of chronic inflammation can not only cause diabetes but can also worsen it. Inflammation isn't necessarily a bad thing; it's a part of the biological response of our immune system to a pathogen, bacteria or a foreign substance including injuries from physical activity. The key to inflammation is understanding the right time to turn it on and off. Chronic inflammation is a problematic situation and can pave the way for several diseases, including diabetes. People often believe that diabetes is genetic, and while that may be true, it also needs a wrong lifestyle and a set of internal & external environmental conditions to activate the bad gene responsible for it.
• Sedentary lifestyle: If you have type-2 diabetes with your sugar levels fluctuating with little to no change despite increasing the medication month on month, then you might want to check your physical activity levels. A sedentary lifestyle causes as well as worsens type-2 diabetes. One should make mindful efforts to stay active if they have type-2 diabetes. Even if you work out for an hour everyday but spend the rest of the day in a sedentary mode, it's not going to be of much help. You have to make small changes like taking the stairs instead of the lift; get up now and then from your desk and walk around; answer the door every time the doorbell rings. Such small mindful changes help a lot in the long run.
• High consumption of carbs: Another commonality is about an eating pattern that is high in carbs and low on fats, while it should be the opposite – high in fats and low on carbs. We have to stop thinking of fats in a negative sense wherein we blame them for making one fat, sick or for causing issues like high cholesterol and triglycerides. We need to understand that it’s the wrong kind of fat (and maybe even too much of it) that is the culprit here. We need good fats for several functions of the body like maintaining good hormonal health, cellular health, brain health, the lustre of your skin & hair etc. Diabetes itself involves a hormone called insulin. Type-2 diabetics who go on an oil-free or low-fat diet make a huge mistake by not understanding that good fats from nuts, seeds, pure oils are great for their heart, diabetic health, hormones, hair, skin and even weight loss. Crucial vitamins like A, D, E, K are also well-absorbed in the presence of fats. Although, portion control even for good fats is advised. Anything in excess, even good fats, is harmful to the body.
• Eating too much or too little fruit: It has been noticed that type-2 diabetics either eat too much fruit or too little of it, for several health reasons. A type-2 diabetic can easily have 1-2 fruits spread through the day. But having them together or gorging on a huge fruit platter is what's going to cause trouble to the blood sugar levels. It's important to space out the intake of fruits because you don't want so much sucrose going into your body at a single time, and avoid having them after sunset.
• Eating too fast: A lot of people eat fast which is why it becomes easy for them to overeat. If you're a fast eater, then chances are that you will end up eating more than what your body requires. In the case of overeating, the body naturally starts producing everything in excess – be its digestive enzymes, insulin or stomach acids. Also, if you chew slowly, you initiate the digestion process in the mouth itself because your saliva contains amylase and lipase that help break down carbohydrates & fats in the mouth itself. Hence, there's a direct relationship between how well you chew and how your blood sugar levels behave. So it is not just about what you eat, it is also about how effectively you can break down carbohydrates, and the process of slow chewing helps break it down effectively.
• Keeping long gaps between any two meals: : You should ensure that you’re not keeping long gaps between meals. The longer the gap, the more you will end up eating at the next meal since you will be that much hungrier. The more you eat, the more your sugar levels change and continue to fluctuate.
• Chronic stress and less sleep: : This is an obvious commonality among all type-2 diabetics. Most of the hormonal balances occur when we are asleep, and most of the hormonal imbalances occur when we are chronically stressed out. And, insulin is nothing but a hormone and an important one at that. So, managing stress and sleep is crucial for diabetics to completely reverse the condition. When you're chronically stressed, your cortisol levels go up and impacts every other hormone in the body including insulin.
• Late night meals: Our bodies aren't designed to digest late-night meals, and now we have research linking it to the development of diabetes. The pancreas has melatonin receptors, which means when our bodies start secreting melatonin, they also bind to the receptors on the pancreas to stop its function and allows digestion to shut down.
These are some of the commonalities among type-2 diabetics. Making lifestyle changes along with dietary changes can help a lot. Some of the lifestyle changes you can begin to make in your routine are:
One of the more common ways to deal with an iron deficiency is by including iron-rich foods in your daily meals. The top noted sources of iron are:
Be more active. Get up every hour and move around - Take a 10-15 min-long walk 30 minutes post meals. This habit immensely benefits how your post-meal blood sugar levels rise.
Eat a balanced diet - whole grains, legumes, pulses, lentils, good fats, fibre are all required by the body. Adding salads to your meals adds the necessary fibre that helps in delaying the rate at which sugar gets released into the bloodstreams.
Manage your stress - It is extremely difficult to get your blood sugar levels in control when your cortisol levels are high.
Add laughter to your routine - Researches show that laughing helps to turn on certain genes that aid better blood sugar level management;
Practise yoga asanas - Like mandukasana (frog pose), ardha matsyendrasana (seated spinal twist), dhanurasana (bow pose) and chakki chalanasana (mill churning pose)
Sleep well - This is non-negotiable. Less sleep leads to more inflammation and eventually hormonal imbalances.
Anti-inflammatory foods – All green, leafy and cruciferous vegetables are anti-inflammatory. Some of the anti-inflammatory foods are fresh & chemical-free fruits; right quantity & quality of protein; prunes, omega 3 fatty acids, unsalted nuts & seeds, bells peppers (red, yellow, green); dark chocolate or raw cacao; spices (clove, cinnamon, curcumin); tea (green/black); red wine, garlic, berries, beans & peas; all cold-pressed oils; mushrooms, raw vegetables in the form of salads.
Fasting – circadian rhythm fasting, when done the right way, helps manage diabetes. But this might not be suitable for everyone, so it's best to keep your doctor involved if you do decide to go in for this type of fasting.
Superfoods for diabetes – Ceylon cinnamon, curry leaves, apple cider vinegar, okra water, nuts and seeds, lemongrass, amla, paneer phool and Triphala.
While medication can never be replaced by any means or methods in certain cases of diabetes, it is still a good idea to switch to a better and healthier lifestyle. Treating the symptoms of diabetes will keep them at bay, yes, but the real problem still exists. So, to treat the real problem, one must make conscious and thoughtful lifestyle changes that, in an integrated manner, aid their diabetes management and overall health.
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