The holistic approach to managing Diabetes.

Everyone is different. This means that every person who is diagnosed with Diabetes will approach it differently, too. Two months into Diabetes is a good time to consider a holistic approach.

The holistic approach to managing Diabetes.

Accept your diagnosis

Everyone is different. This means that every person who is diagnosed with Diabetes will approach it differently, too. Two months into Diabetes is a good time to consider a holistic approach. At and shortly after the point of diagnosis, everyone’s individual journey is similar. There’s a prescribed treatment plan and a check-up that gets scheduled.Within two months, your thoughts, emotions and relationships all take different paths. Everything depends on how you respond to your diagnosis. Today we want to talk about a holistic approach to managing your Diabetes, and why it might work for you.

Holistic Diabetes management begins with treatment

Before you drastically change your diet, lifestyle, and exercise routine, you should prioritise how to develop treatment discipline. Most Diabetics are placed onto a specific treatment plan by their doctors. Others may only be on medication for a short time. Some may not even have medication prescribed.Everyone is different, and everyone’s experience of living with Diabetes is different. If your doctor has placed you on a Diabetes treatment programme, research your prescribed medication. Start thinking about ways to integrate taking your medication as you need to. We recommend you:

  • Research your medication and make a list of questions you would like your doctor to answer.
  • Monitor your experience and take note of any side effects or anything else you think your doctor should know.
  • Set reminders on your cell phone to remind you to take your medication as prescribed.
  • Tie taking your daily medication to another activity you’re already doing. Eg. if you need to take your medication after breakfast every morning, leave your medication next to your cereal box, or the kettle. This way, you won’t forget while you’re preparing your breakfast or your tea/coffee.

Adjust your eating habits

Adjusting to life as a Diabetic will probably seem strange at first. Your next step in the holistic Diabetes management journey is to tackle your diet. Following a Diabetic-friendly diet is easier than it may seem at first, but give yourself time to adjust to a new eating plan. Adjustment is essential to support your body’s functioning, and enable you to live a happy, healthy life.Although millions of healthy eating guidelines can be found online and in pamphlets, your doctor/dietitian/clinic team will offer you the best, personalised advice. The information they give to you caters for your specific Diabetes type, personal preferences, and other chronic conditions.

Quick tips for a holistic Diabetic diet approach:

Embarking on a Diabetic-friendly eating plan will mean you need to:

  • Eat at regular intervals. This helps your body process all the blood sugar/glucose that’s produced from what you eat. Eating at regular times helps to avoid spikes or dips in your blood sugar.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Your approach here will depend on your individual Diabetes diagnosis. You may need input from your doctor to create a personalised eating plan. If you need to lose weight, your eating plan will be geared towards achieving your goal weight. If you need to gain weight, your plan will enable you to do that in a healthy and balanced way.
  • Manage your portions. Diabetic diets focus on controlling portion sizes, to regulate insulin levels. Don’t get trapped into thinking you can eat more than the recommended portion sizes. It could lead to inconsistent blood sugar levels.
  • Choose healthy carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are found in starchy foods. Simple carbohydrates are found in sweeter, sugary foods. Avoid sugary foods because simple carbohydrates quickly convert into glucose, and could spike your your glucose levels. Fruit, vegetables, whole grain bread and pasta, beans, and peas, are all considered better options.
  • Select good fats. Think avocados, nuts and vegetable oils.
  • Avoid bad fats. Avoid trans fats, sodium or saturated fats. Takeaways usually contain a lot of sodium, and cutting down can be tricky. Get inventive in the kitchen, and focus on preparing healthy, home-cooked meals.
  • Find heart-healthy foods. Oily fish like salmon, sardines and tuna should be included in your Diabetic diet. Chat to your dietician, doctor, nurse or clinic team for specific advice around the best options for your body and budget.
  • Reorganise your plate. Approach each meal with a simple mathematical equation in mind. Fill half with non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, sprouts, kale, spinach, green beans, brussel sprouts, mushrooms). Avoid potatoes, carrots or butternut as these are high in carbohydrates. Then fill a quarter of your plate with protein, like lean chicken breast or tuna. Fill the last quarter with a whole food, like a slice of whole grain toast. Add half an avocado to the top of that slice of toast, and you’ve got the perfect Diabetic meal.

Don’t forget that a holistic Diabetes management plan includes exercise

Adapting to a new exercise routine does not need to be as arduous as you imagine. We recommend you focus more on having fun at first, rather than achieving specific goals. Give yourself the time and space to learn how to have fun while exercising. If you’re starting a new exercise routine, the results will follow and you’ll be feeling healthier and better soon.It’s best to exercise caution, too, so be clear with your doctor, nurse or clinic team about your plan. They’ll advise you on the best type of exercise for your Diabetes type, and help you monitor your progress. Try for at least 20-30mins of moderate exercise, at least 4 times a week, and add in some resistance training too. Integrating a new exercise routine into your lifestyle is important, but take it slow and be patient with yourself. Nobody expects you to be ready for the Olympics by next Tuesday.

Understand more about Diabetes and how to live a happy, healthy life as a Diabetic.

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Adapt your way of thinking

This is possibly the most difficult part of holistically managing your Diabetes diagnosis. It’s precisely why we’ve built a support journey for you to make the most of. You’re adjusting to a whole new way of life, and living with Diabetes can feel like a massive obstacle. It might already be two months of living with the knowledge that you’re Diabetic, but not everyday is great or goes as planned. That’s life. You have a whole new life to become accustomed to, so take it easy on yourself.Many people who have been diagnosed with Diabetes battle to adjust once the initial shock of their diagnosis has passed.

What would holistic management of Diabetes be, without an expanded support system?

You may battle to come to terms with your Diabetes, even after you’ve accepted your diagnosis, and again, that’s okay! That’s why your doctor is there to talk to, and your family and friends can support you too. Ask them to join you in your new healthy eating plan, or participate in your new exercise routine with you. A regular walk around the neighbourhood will get your blood flowing, and give you quality time together without disruptions like TV. What you may not realise after a Diabetes diagnosis is that you’re completely in control of how your body manages this. You make the choices that impact how you will adjust to living with Diabetes.

Approaching Diabetes holistically also involves recognising your emotions

Shock of being diagnosed with Diabetes eventually fades. Many people report feeling quite sad, angry, or frustrated, by their diagnosis. If you’re battling to come to terms with your Diabetes diagnosis, search for an online or in-person support group. A Diabetes support group can do wonders for your emotional and holistic wellbeing. It confronts common feelings like loneliness and offers you a channel for learning and processing your diagnosis.Some people also report that being diagnosed with Diabetes is a big enough wake-up call. It’s a form of motivation to take serious action around improving lifestyle, eating habits, and exercise routines. A support group amplifies that motivation towards living a more committed, healthier lifestyle, and that’s never a bad thing.

Most importantly: take things one day at a time

If you’re concerned about coming to terms with your Diabetes diagnosis, you may notice feeling withdrawn, unhappy, or continually uncertain. Speak to your doctor about it. You’ll learn that it’s quite common for people to, shortly after diagnosis, seek treatment for depression too. Some studies reveal a link between being diagnosed with Diabetes and, subsequently, with depression. Any massive demand on lifestyle change can cause something similar to culture shock, and even identity crises.So much change is demanded of you, all in one go, it’s no surprise that some people develop anxiety and depression. Consider seeking out the services of a therapist, or finding out if you are a candidate for anti-depressants. There is no shame in seeking out the right kind of help when you need it! Mood swings, persistent agitation, blocked thoughts and more are often reported by recently diagnosed Diabetes. Always remember that in our modern day connected world, help is at your fingertips, and so are we. For more support toward living  a healthy, happy life after your Diabetes diagnosis, please visit our Diabetes information centre.

Sources:

Accu-Chek. 2017. Eating healthy with diabetes. Web page online. Available at: https://www.accu-chek.co.za/eating-well/eating-healthy-diabetes [Accessed 11 March 2020]. American Association of Diabetes Educators. n.d. Healthy coping. Worksheet online. Available at: https://www.diabeteseducator.org/docs/default-source/legacy-docs/_resources/pdf/general/AADE7_healthy_coping.pdf [Accessed 11 March 2020].Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists. 2020. Healthy coping. Web page online. Available at: https://www.diabeteseducator.org/living-with-diabetes/aade7-self-care-behaviors/healthy-coping [Accessed 11 March 2020].Castro, MR. 2017. Diabetes and depression: coping with the two conditions. Mayo Clinic. 25 July. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/expert-answers/diabetes-and-depression/faq-20057904 [Accessed 11 March 2020].Felman, A. 2019. How does diabetes affect mood and relationships? Medical news today. 24 May. Article online. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317458 [Accessed 11 March 2020].Mayo Clinic. 2019. DIabetes diet: create your healthy-eating plan. 19 February. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/diabetes-diet/art-20044295 [Accessed 11 March 2020]. Spritzler, F. 2017. The 16 best foods to control diabetes. Healthline. 3 June. Article online. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/16-best-foods-for-diabetics [Accessed 11 March 2020].Telfer, J. 2017. Exercise for diabetes control. Dlife. 31 March. Available at:https://dlife.com/exercise-diabetes-control/ [Accessed 11 March 2020].Wheeler, T. 2019. The best exercises if you have diabetes. WebMD. 6 May. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/ss/slideshow-exercises-diabetes [Accessed 11 March 2020].Woolston, C. 2020. Diabetes: coping with the diagnosis. HealthDay. 1 January. Available at: https://consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/diabetes-13/diabetes-management-news-180/diabetes-coping-with-the-diagnosis-643980.html [Accessed 11 March 2020].

We all have questions.

Below are some of the answers to the most common questions that you need to know.

Which is worse – Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes?

“Worse” is a harsh comparison. The difference between these two types of Diabetes is that Type 1 requires insulin, and it never goes away. Type 2 requires consistent effort and can be managed over your lifetime.

What is the normal HbA1C level?

It is generally accepted that you should maintain HbA1C below 8%. The following guidelines are suggested by the South African Diabetes Association:

 

  • 4 – 6% Non-Diabetic range. 
  • < 7% Well-controlled Diabetic 7% – 8% Acceptable Diabetic control > 8% 
  • Poor Diabetic control needs attention.

What is the main cause of Diabetes?

Diabetes (Type 1) is usually a predisposed or genetically inherited condition. Diabetes (Type 2) is caused by lifestyle choices. Gestational Diabetes can be caused by either genetics or lifestyle choices.

What are the first signs of Diabetes?

  • Excessive thirst over a prolonged period.
  • Increased frequency in the need to urinate.
  • Significant weight loss or gain.
  • You find yourself fatigued, tired, and irritable, on a regular basis.
  • Open or ruptured wounds take a long time to heal.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Tingling sensations in your hands and feet.

Can you get life insurance if you have Diabetes?

Yes. AllLife can help you get up to R10million life insurance, as either a Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetic.

Can I test myself for Diabetes?

Although you can easily test your own blood glucose levels at any time, only your doctor, nurse, or clinic team can confirm a Diabetes diagnosis. This is because a series of specific tests are required for diagnosis.

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