Welcome to the second of two posts on type 2 diabetes. In this post we are going to focus on how to manage type 2 diabetes. If you haven’t read the first post, we recommend you do as it covers exactly what type 2 diabetes is and the main causes of this complex and debilitating condition.
Lifestyle choices are the best strategies to controlling your blood sugar, reducing your risk of diabetes and preventing secondary health problems from the condition. They do not have to be complicated or unpleasant, just simple changes that can easily become new habits that everyone should follow to stay well. Sometimes medications are needed as well and if your body cannot produce enough insulin, you may require insulin injections at night or several times during the day.
Here are my top recommendations to help prevent or manage type 2 diabetes:
1. Eat brown – Refined carbohydrates have a negative effect on blood sugar levels whereas complex carbohydrates release sugar at a much slower rate. If buying bread, pasta or rice, go for the brown whole-wheat varieties and avoid the ones that are white in colour.
2. Move – Exercising daily stabilises your blood sugar levels and for diabetes reversal at least 30 minutes per day is required. Start with three walks of ten minutes duration and build it up. Many studies have shown that exercise helps regulate blood sugar levels, increases sensitivity to insulin and decreases blood lipids (fats) while also helping to burn body fat. Exercise benefits are cumulative so making this a daily habit will produce health benefits over time.
3. Measure – A cup of rice or pasta is about 45 grams (cooked). Most women require no more than this with a meal and men need 45-60 grams. Ideally pair this with lean protein like fish, chicken, turkey or lean meat. This combination will keep you fuller for longer and help you resist the urge to eat sugary foods
4. Drink – Avoid juices and sugary drinks, choosing water as the healthiest option. Aim for a minimum of 9 glasses per day. When you become dehydrated, your liver will secrete a hormone that increases your blood sugar. As you hydrate, blood sugar levels lower naturally. Monitor hydration by checking urine colour, it should be light yellow.
5. Fibre – Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, aiming for no more than 5 fruits per day (natural sugar but sugar nonetheless) but plenty of green vegetables which have exceedingly low carbohydrate levels. Keep root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, turnips and onions to one serving (half cup) per day. A small portion of nuts or seeds can provide a good daily fibre boost.
6. Portion control – Fill your plate with half vegetables or salad, quarter with a wholegrain such as brown rice or whole-wheat pasta and a quarter with lean protein such as turkey, chicken, fish, pulses or meat. Restrict meat to twice per week. (Approx. 3 ounces is a serving of protein).
7. Sleep – Quality sleep is essential. Poor sleeping habits may reduce insulin sensitivity and promote weight gain. Less than 7 hours is too little.
8. Manage stress – Stress makes your body secrete cortisol and glucagon, both of which affect your blood sugar levels. Engage in relaxation (no screens) and exercise to control stress levels.
9. No rubbish – Eating sugary foods creates cravings for more sugary foods and creates a vicious cycle. Be vigilant about what you put in your shopping basket, not only avoiding sweet biscuits but processed foods like pasta sauces, pizzas and yoghurts which can have high sugar levels. Look at the label, carbohydrates (of which sugar) should ideally be less than 5 grams per 100 grams or 100 mls.
So, 9 good practical recommendations to help you manage type 2 diabetes. In fact, I’d go as far to say that the 9 recommendations could be in place without much hassle. Type 2 diabetes is caused by lifestyle factors and in some cases genetics, but poor diet and lack of exercise are by far the more common cause.
The choice is entirely yours. Change your habits, change your life. Manage type 2 diabetes out of your life.