Diabetes is a disorder caused by the inability of the body to control the amount of sugar in the blood. The condition can develop due to the inability of the cells to utilize the insulin properly or due to insufficient production of insulin.
Types of Diabetes
There are three major types of diabetes; namely type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
Also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, it is an auto-immune disease, where the body’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. This type of diabetes accounts for 10-15% of the people diagnosed with this condition, and is triggered by environmental factors such as viruses and diet. The condition may also develop due to genetically predisposition of the person. People affected by this condition need to inject insulin in their body before every meal, and follow a rigorous diet and exercise plan.
Type 2 Diabetes
Also known as late-onset diabetes, it is primarily genetic in origin, but lifestyle factors such as excess weight, inactivity, previous history of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and a poor diet are major risk factors for its development. In this condition the pancreas is producing enough insulin, but for some unknown reason the body cannot use the insulin effectively. The symptoms develop gradually which include fatigue or nausea, frequent urination, unusual thirst, sudden weight loss, blurred vision, and slow healing of wounds.
Gestational diabetes develops only during pregnancy, and is seen among women with a family history of diabetes. Women with this condition are prone to develop type 2 diabetes within 5 to 10 years of development of this condition.
Treat Diabetes with proper diet and exercise
Lifestyle changes make a significant impact in controlling diabetes to a large extent. Proper diet and exercise plays a significant role in controlling blood glucose levels, blood fats, and blood pressure. Type 2 diabetes usually develops as a result of a combination of problems with insulin resistance and insulin secretion. Diet and exercise helps combat both the problems. Overweight people with minimum level of activity are more prone to insulin resistance, as opposed to lean people who remain active and exercise regularly.
The exact opposite of insulin resistance is insulin sensitivity. When the body is sensitive to insulin, it requires less insulin to control the blood glucose levels. This can be achieved in a number of ways such as:
- Increasing the level of activity
- Reducing the number of calorie intake
- Losing weight
How does food affect glucose levels and insulin?
Simple carbohydrates are easily converted into glucose as they break down faster in the stomach and small intestine. As a result, these carbohydrates increase the glucose levels in the bloodstream rapidly. Consequently, diabetics or people with excessively high blood-glucose levels can control and manage their glucose levels by using the glycemic index (GI). The Glycemic Index classifies foods into high, intermediate, and low GI foods based on how fast their carbohydrates are converted into glucose, and thus how quickly the particular food raises our blood-glucose levels. Hence, the glycemic value is an important indicator of determining insulin levels and sensitivity in our bodies.
The Ideal Diet for Diabetics
A good diet plays a vital role in controlling diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes should have a diet that has approximately 35 calories per kg of body weight per day. While people with type 2 diabetes are generally put on a 1500-1800 calorie diet per day to promote weight loss and maintenance of ideal body weight. This varies from one individual to another, based on varying factors like age, sex, activity level, current weight, and body type. It is most important for diabetics to understand the dynamics of carbohydrate counting to facilitate controlled blood sugar levels through proper diet. A dietitian or nutritionist will suggest a high fiber diet, evaluate daily calorie need for each individual, and suggest the right diet plan. Also, make it a point to spread foods throughout the day, instead of consuming all at the same time.
Diabetes is a chronic disease which can be managed by making lifestyle changes, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy high-fiber diet.