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More than 37 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes and more than 90 percent have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is one of the top 10 causes of death and the number 1 cause of hormonal disorders in the US. In 2017 studies show that over 462 million people in the world were affected by Type 2 diabetes. This growing worldwide epidemic affects individuals of all socioeconomic backgrounds and although found mostly in adults over the age of 45 it is now increasingly being diagnosed in younger groups. The rising number of this disease is vast because of the increased consumption of an unhealthy diet also known as a nutrient-poor diet. In this article we’ll discuss the necessary changes to prevent, manage, and aid in treating type 2 diabetes.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is the presence of an excess amount of sugar in the bloodstream because of loss of sensitivity to insulin otherwise known as insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone used to regulate and maintain proper blood sugar levels in the body. In the early stages of type 2 diabetes, an increased amount of insulin is secreted to metabolize the surplus of sugar in the body, gradually the body is unable to produce enough insulin to keep up with the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. The ongoing excessive amounts of sugar or inability to metabolize it results in a cascade of chronic disorders (i.e. kidney disease, nerve damage, and more).
Obesity, poor nutrient diet, lifestyle, and genetics are major risk factors for the development of type 2 diabetes. A sedentary lifestyle, chronic stress, unhealthy gut, lack of sleep, and toxins also contribute to this disease process.
Basic Science You Should Know to Successfully Manage and Treat Type 2 Diabetes
To successfully manage Type 2 Diabetes, it’s crucial to have a basic understanding of the science behind blood sugar. Carbohydrates are metabolized into monosaccharides. Glucose is one of the monosaccharides, that is absorbed into the bloodstream from the digestive tract and carried into our cells via insulin. As mentioned before, high blood sugar in the bloodstream is the result of cells gradually becoming insensitive to insulin. Therefore, it is important to measure blood sugar to manage and monitor the progression of this disease. The most common tests used to measure blood glucose are, fasting blood glucose, oral glucose, and hemoglobin A1c.
3 Things You Should Do Today If You Have Type 2 Diabetes
Change Your DietWith obesity and poor diet being a major risk factor in type 2 diabetes, consuming a healthy diet is essential.
- Grains: pasta, bread, cereals
- Snack foods: candy, processed baked goods, and cookies/ crackers
- Sugar-sweetened beverages- soda, juices, sports drinks, etc
- Legumes- lentil, beans
- Starchy vegetables- potatoes, yams, corn
Refined sugars, processed, and high-carb foods should be avoided. Carbohydrates are broken down into sugar hence the importance of removing foods high in carbs to reduce and prevent uncontrolled blood sugar levels.
Foods to Add
- Blueberries: reduces inflammation which allows for an increase in uptake of sugar
- Olive oil- reduces hemoglobin A1c and fasting blood glucose
- Seafood- reduces hemoglobin A1c, fasting blood glucose, bad cholesterol, and more
- Cacao: dark chocolate has been shown to cause vasodilation improving and increases the uptake of sugar from the bloodstream
- Fermented foods: improves digestive health by yielding good bacteria which aids in glucose metabolism
- Seeds and Nuts: has multiple benefits that include but are not limited to reducing blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and hemoglobin A1c. Chia seeds, almonds, walnuts, and others are great sources of these nutrients
- Spices- like turmeric, garlic, and more enhance the flavor of food while reducing inflammation
There are plenty of foods that promote the reduction of oxidative stress**, inflammation, and high blood glucose. The intake of these foods can be very helpful in improving and preventing Type 2 diabetes.
**Oxidative stress is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body, which can lead to cell and tissue damage.
Add these Supplements
- Vitamin D: regulates insulin and increases insulin sensitivity
- B12 and Folate: drugs like metformin used to treat diabetes can deplete B vitamin, supplementation prevents oxidative stress
- Magnesium: deficiency in magnesium is a risk factor in developing Type 2 diabetes. Magnesium helps regulate blood sugar by improving insulin sensitivity.
As mentioned before obesity and lifestyle factors like physical inactivity are strongly correlated to the development of Type 2 diabetes. Therefore, regular exercise is important in not just prevention but the progression of the disease. This helps to avoid complications like heart disease and retinopathy. The American Heart Association shares that exercise, eating a diet low in sugar and processed foods resulting in weight loss, significantly reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Talk with your Doctor and Nutrition Specialist
If you have diabetes, it’s important to work closely with a doctor and nutrition specialist to find the best diabetic diet for you. You should also consult with them before making any changes to your current diet or adding supplements as it may affect current diabetes medication. This is to prevent sudden and dramatic drops in blood sugar.
Type 2 Diabetes affects one-tenth of Americans and can lead to long-term damages resulting in death. It is a disease that develops gradually, and early detection can not only prevent complications but reverse diagnosis. Dietary and lifestyle modifications can eliminate major risk factors like obesity, poor nutrition, and oxidative stress. There are a variety of foods that can be added to replace the necessary foods that need to be removed for the proper treatment of Type 2 diabetes. Consult with your doctor/nutritionist before making dietary changes as this may require modification in medication dosages.