Simple Lifestyle Changes for Diabetics

Diabetes Blog photo.jpg

by: Dr. Ally Bell, Pharm.D.

Let’s talk about diabetes. It is the most common disorder in our country with at least 8% of the population affected. Most people are aware that the main indicator of diabetes is high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia. Most people hear the word glucose (sugar) and immediately think of the word in a negative way. However, glucose is the body’s main source of energy. When people have hyperglycemia, it is because the glucose cannot be used or stored properly in that person’s cells. The cells need insulin to move the glucose into the cells/muscle/tissues. Insulin comes from beta cells in the pancreas. Here is where we can differentiate between the two types of diabetes.

Type I diabetes is absolute insulin deficiency. Usually from a younger age, these patients’ beta cells do not produce any insulin. They will rely on insulin injections for the rest of their lives.

Type II diabetes is more common than Type I. Type II patients’ beta cells do produce insulin but not enough to move all of the glucose into the cells to be used. Type II is really what I want to talk about today. Type II can be caused by many things, the most common are obesity, physical inactivity, and lifestyle factors. If addressed, Type II can be reversed in some patients.

Lifestyle changes we will address:

  • Nutrition

  • Weight

  • Physical Exercise

Nutrition is the main factor that needs to be addressed for people who are pre-diabetic & diabetic. Both categories should be taught on proper diet and how to lose weight. It won’t be easy. Patients will have to increase their physical exercise and eat smaller amounts of food. Patients should decrease their calorie intake by an average of 400 calories per day, which should result in about 0.5-1lb per week weight loss.  

When it comes to the foods in your diet, sticking to “clean” nutrient dense foods is best practice. Foods such as lean meats, fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk, beans, and eggs are some examples. Keeping it simple when preparing these foods are the way to go. Try to avoid preparing meals with empty calories; such as, butter and sauces that are high in calories — particularly carbs and fats. Keeping away from foods high in sugar is an obvious choice but some people are not aware that carbohydrates are broken down into sugars as well.

There are different types of carbohydrates, simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are also known as sugars and complex carbs are also known as starches and are needed to help aid in weight loss. Examples of complex carbs are steel cut oats, basmati rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, and beans. Carbohydrates are one of the 3 main “macronutrients” that patients will need to consume to help reach their weight loss goals. Every person’s macros will be different based on weight, activity level, and desired outcome. Seeking help in this category (someone like us at Envizion Health) is always a good idea to dial in exactly what and how much you should be eating.

Now, exercise is probably something many of us do from time to time. Some days we have all the motivation in the world while others we don’t want to move a muscle. For diabetics in particular, getting up and moving is going to play a major role in weight loss. At minimum, people should be completing 150 minutes of aerobic exercise and adding in resistance training as much as their bodies will allow. You will experience some soreness and exhaustion, but as the body adapts it will begin to subside as you begin to see increased energy levels and . Don’t get discouraged just keep moving!

I see a lot of diabetic patients daily in my line of work and would not wish the disease upon anyone. It is time consuming and expensive. The amount of money spent on medications and the complications that result from the disease are insanely high. All of this could be prevented with diet and exercise. It’s not something that is easy or that everyone always wants to do. But with functional and flexible nutrition it can become a sustainable lifestyle.

Bryan McElderry