Managing your health.

Food & Diet

Food is important in keeping your body healthy – whether you have diabetes or not – however most people don’t pay much attention to their basic nutritional needs.

In general, when choosing food you should limit your fat intake, and include a food from each of the food groups at each meal. If you are overweight, eat smaller portions, reduce your intake of fat, and limit the amount of alcohol you drink.

If you are diabetic, you should follow a nutritionally sound diet to realise three important benefits:

  • Achieve and maintain good control of your blood glucose levels.
  • Regulate body weight
  • Prevent or delay the potential long-term complications of diabetes

You should also consider visiting a dietician to work out a diet plan suitable to your own particular lifestyle. A word of caution: there are many trending and popular diet plans that may not be suitable for your condition. For example, the Banting Diet allows a high amount of fat intake per day, which could be dangerous for someone with diabetes if they have raised cholesterol levels too. The component of the diet that advocates reducing carbohydrates may be beneficial to a diabetic patient, as many of the carbohydrates that are commonly eaten have high levels of sugar contained in them and are nutritionally poor eg. white bread, cakes, pizza and pasta.

Exercise

Regular exercise helps your body lower blood glucose levels, promotes weight loss and reduces stress.

Always check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine, especially if you have led an inactive lifestyle. Always stop exercising immediately if you feel any pain or feel tired and/or dizzy. In particular, you should consult with your doctor to assess how best to adjust your insulin and diet or food intake - to prevent low blood glucose levels while exercising.

Treating Type 1 Diabetes

The aim of diabetic treatment is to maintain your blood glucose levels within the normal range (4 – 6 mmol/l). This may include healthy eating, exercise and insulin injections.

Good management of Type 1 Diabetes entails regular blood glucose monitoring - regularly testing your blood glucose levels and adjusting your treatment accordingly.

Treating Type 2 Diabetes

The three main treatment options for Type 2 Diabetes are diet, exercise and medication. In Type 2 Diabetes, diet and exercise alone are often all that is necessary to bring blood glucose down to manageable levels.

Sometimes oral medication is necessary. Oral medication (also known as hypoglycemic agents), assist the body in metabolising glucose obtained from food. These drugs are not insulin, but they do stimulate insulin-producing cells to secrete more insulin, and they help overcome insulin resistance. The most important thing to remember is that tablets are used only as an addition to diet and exercise, never in place of them. Diet and exercise remains the mainstay of treatment.

Controlling blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels are also important components of treatment, and Type 2 Diabetics may well (after a period of time) require supplementary insulin injections as well. The necessity for insulin treatment is greatly reduced if the patient commits to a healthy diet and exercise programme, and lives a generally healthy lifestyle (limiting alcohol intake and extreme stress, and gets enough sleep).

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