Many people are told that they have high blood sugar or pre-diabetes and they are not sure what that means or what they can do.
Pre-diabetes develops slowly over multiple years. It is a gradual breakdown of how the body normally regulates the sugars that come from food. In a person who does not have pre-diabetes or Type II diabetes, the sugar from digested food is brought into cells and helps the cells stay alive. In muscle cells, the sugar is used to make the muscles contract. When a person's body starts to have trouble bringing sugar into cells, the cells do not get the fuel that they need and the amount of sugar in the bloodstream rises.
Red blood cells that pick up sugar from the bloodstream damage and irritate small blood vessels. These sugar coated blood cells damage small blood vessels in the eyes, kidneys, heart, liver, hands and feet in the same way that swallowing a steel wool scrubber would affect your throat, stomach and intestines. When small blood vessels are irritated and damaged in this way, they do not bring blood to these areas. This is why people who have diabetes often experience vision loss, kidney problems, heart problems and numbness or burning pain in their hands and feet.
It is possible to improve blood sugar regulation in your body by eating foods that slowly release sugars into the bloodstream and by making the cells more receptive to take in sugar. When you improve blood sugar regulation in your body, your blood sugar levels will not get as high and your risk of Type II diabetes will decrease dramatically.
Here are some ideas:
Exercise: increasing your physical activity is a central aspect of any plan to improve blood sugar regulation because exercise makes muscles use more sugar as fuel. Even contracting your calves under your desk at work or doing 30 sit-ups in bed before you go to sleep will reduce the sugar levels in your blood. Try to work physical movement into everything you do. Every time you tighten your muscles, you are using some blood sugar.
Sleep: recent studies have shown a link between lack of sleep (less than 7 hours), weight gain and problems with blood sugar regulation. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night.
Sweets and starchy foods: A good general rule is to avoid any white foods (pasta, white rice, potatoes, bread and sugar). Replacing some of these foods with fish, lean meats and colorful vegetables will help lower the rate of sugar going into your bloodstream. It is best to avoid sweet foods and white foods. If you do find yourself eating cookies, cake or other sweet treats, you can do exercise to offset the treat. In order to prevent that treat from causing worsening of blood sugar regulation problems, you will need to walk briskly for 30 minutes.
According to the Consumer Reports Health Study in 2010, a person with diabetes who already has insurance spends an average of $6,000 per year on their healthcare. While you are making these changes to prevent diabetes, I'm sure you can think of more fun ways to spend that money. These medical treatments have great side effects including weight loss, increased libido, stress reduction and general improvement in wellbeing.
Here's to trading in sweet foods for a sweet life!
Gwenn Rosenberg is a naturopathic doctor at the Natura Medica clinic in downtown Mystic, Connecticut. When she is not in the office, Dr. Rosenberg enjoys spending time with her sweet dog, Turtle. Dr. Gwenn, as her patients call her, loves to hike and ride her bicycle. She hiked across Oregon and Washington on the Pacific Crest Trail and she is often seen along Route 1 in her bright yellow jacket, riding to work.