Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is diagnosed either when the body does not produce enough insulin or when there is a resistance in the body to the insulin which is produced. This is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for up to 90 percent of all cases Unlike Type 1, which requires a lifelong dependence on medications, with Type 2 it is not always necessary to control blood glucose levels with medicines. Glucose levels can be controlled by diet and exercise just by getting your mind right and learning what to eat and what not to eat.
What Is Insulin?
First, it’s important to understand insulin a little better. It is a type of peptide hormone produced in, and released by, the pancreas after you eat or drink. This hormone is used by the body to metabolize both carbohydrates and fat so that they may be properly utilized where most needed.
With Type 2 Diabetes, the good news is that there is still insulin being produced by the pancreas. The bad news is that the body can no longer use it properly. Improper eating happens over the course of time take a toll on body functions. When the body is constantly bombarded with excess sugary foods, it develops a resistance and can no longer handle the strain, resulting in Type 2 Diabetes. That is where changes in your mentality about diet and exercise, especially your relationship with food, come in.
Carbohydrates are an important source of nutrients for the body, often the main source of energy. These energy-giving carbs can be simple or complex, depending on their source. Carbs are found in foods containing sugar, as well as in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Complex carbohydrates are found in whole grains, certain vegetables, and beans.
Simple carbohydrates convert more readily to glucose and may cause spikes in blood glucose levels. Complex carbohydrates are metabolized slowly, keeping blood glucose levels steady over a period of time. With Type 2 diabetes, it is important to limit simple carbohydrates and choose complex carbs in your diet.
Why Control Blood Sugar Levels?
Hypoglycemia, the fancy name for high blood glucose, can cause damage to cells and body systems over time, leading to diabetic complications. These include damage to nerves, heart and blood vessels, eyes, feet, kidneys, skin, and more.
Although the other problems are just as serious, a common complication to diabetics who don’t control blood glucose levels over time is the development of nerve damage, called neuropathy. This causes decreased sensation in the feet, legs, hands, and arms. It can cause numbness and tingling, as well as severe pain. Nerve and blood vessel damage can lead to erectile dysfunction as well.
How Your Mentality Affects Blood Sugar Levels
Diet and exercise are the number one way to control blood glucose levels, NOT the use of medication, according to most sources, including the Mayo Clinic. Lifestyle choices such as smoking and drinking alcohol also have an affect. Stress levels also have an affect, so finding ways to reduce stress can go a long way to controlling glucose levels in the blood.
Obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol can also affect a diabetic’s ability to control blood glucose. Not only the conditions themselves, but medications may affect how the body uses carbs affecting blood glucose levels. However, these conditions are also helped with changes in the way you eat and with an increase in your activity level.
How to Get Your Mind Right about Your Type 2 Diabetes
YOU are the main factor in keeping control over your diabetes. Are you eating to live or living to eat? Food is meant as nutritional fuel for our bodies, so it is important to eat just mainly what the body needs. A change in how you look at food can do wonders in improving your diet.
For example, refined carbohydrates and added sugar are not necessary to survival. However, complex carbohydrates provide necessary nutrients and fiber to keep the body functioning properly. Protein and fat are both necessary to help with cell growth, healing, and energy.
Changing Your Diet to Reduce Blood Glucose Levels
Whole foods, those found in nature and not changed by human processing, are the best foods for everyone, especially diabetics, to choose. Everything your body needs can be found in a variety of these food sources. Reduce added sugars and refined carbs and add a whole foods for your health.
Eating whole foods also has the benefit of helping you lose weight, as well as lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. That’s a lot of benefits for just changing the way you eat. Did you know that if you decrease the use of sweeteners in your diet, you may no longer want them as badly? In his book “The Skinny Rules”, fitness and nutrition expert Bob Harper (Bob Harper and Greg Crtiser; The Skinny Rules; Random House, 2012) states that going two weeks without using added sweeteners to your food can actually reduce your cravings for it. This proves that so much change can occur if you simply change the way you’ve been thinking about food and get your mind right about what you put in your body.
What Can Exercise Do for Diabetics?
If a change in diet can help T2D, then why is there a need for exercise? Exercise or nearly any form of increased daily activity can help with weight loss by increasing muscle mass to burn more calories. It also helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol. As the cells need glucose for energy, exercise uses energy to help use up that glucose, decreasing the levels found in the blood.
Rather than look at exercise as a chore, look at it as a way to use up any extra glucose you have. The benefits also include increased energy levels, better sleep, and better maintenance of diabetes and the other conditions that may lead to it.
Your T2D is in your hands. Eat to live and exercise. You CAN reverse it and take back your health!