By Larisa Klein
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25.8 million people suffered from diabetes in 2010 with 90-95% of all cases of type 2. The costs associated directly and indirectly, i.e. missed work, to this disease was 174 billion dollars in 2007. (CDC, 2014) While it is relatively well known that eating a healthy diet and maintaining a normal weight can prevent type-2 diabetes, this disease continues to develop. However, even for those already there are lifestyle changes that can help manage this condition so that fewer complications arise.
Diabetes Mellitus (DM) occurs when specific cells in the pancreas fail to produce sufficient insulin disturbing the process of transforming glucose into energy. Type 1-diabetes is Insulin dependent and usually manifests before the age of thirty. Type 2 can be controlled by diet or diet and oral medications. It manifests later in life, generally in people who are overweight. Genetics, stress, infections, and poor diet contribute to the development of diabetes. (Blades, 1999)
It is recommended that those with diabetes follow a diet that is high in fiber, rich in low glycemic index carbohydrates, and includes large quantities of produce. Sucrose should be avoided and not exceed 25 g per day. In the case of complications such as renal disease, protein should not exceed 12% of daily calories. Fat should be reduced to no more that 35% of all calories with less that 10% of coming from saturated fat; this reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, another complication of DM. Salt should be limited to six grams per day. Alcohol consumption quantities are similar for general populations with the exception that it should be taken with food to avoid hypoglycemia. (Blades, 1999)
A slice of multi-grain bread with one or two eggs, a big salad with tuna, and cooked vegetables with chicken or fish would make delicious and healthy meals for someone with diabetes. Health snacks include fruit, cheese or yogurt, nuts, or vegetable sticks. This type of diet may even lead to weight loss which further aids in controlling this condition. Without having to quote sources, personal experience has shown this condition to disappear after substantial weight loss in many people.
It has been shown that DM management with diet alone is comparable to the results arrived at via medication: “The improvement in HbAlc concentrations associated with the intensive diet intervention, with and without activity, compares favorably with the HbAlc-lowering effects of sitagliptin and metformin in treatment-naive patients with type-2 diabetes.” (Andrews, 2001) While results are mixed on whether exercise helps control diabetes, some studies have shown that increased physical activity in conjunction with diet lowers concentrations of damaging agents in the blood: “HbA1J can be lowered by aerobic and resistance exercise and by dietary intervention, by 0.6-0.8%3-5 and 0-5%, respectively.” (Andrews, 2001) However, these results occurred in short durations and only in newly diagnosed patients with Type 2 DM.
Reasons as to why exercise did not aid considerably could be due to too low intensity level or inappropriateness of the type of exercise. There are reviews that show that more vigorous exercise reduces HbAlc concentrations. Similarly, anaerobic with aerobic activity improved metabolic control better that aerobic activity alone. (Andrews, 2001) It may also be that more time is needed as benefits of exercise take longer to register than those associated with dietary changes. Exercise, especially muscle building exercise, increases weighs loss which does control diabetes. However, this type of exercise must be consistent, adequately intense, and practiced as a part of lifestyle.
Conventional treatment of DM includes medication or insulin. Alternative treatments are relatively uncommon for this condition. In a study that interviewed 2005 people, 57% of those with diabetes used one or more complementary alternative medicine, CAM, therapies. Of those only 35% used CAM therapies specifically for diabetes. Their preferred method was prayer, an activity which is not considered therapy by some. But 60% of them found it to be very helpful.(Yeh, 2002) This is a nice illustration of how temperament does in fact lessen the impact of a disease. Besides prayer, possible alternative treatments include acupuncture for pain relief, chromium to improve insulin function, ginseng to lower fasting blood sugar levels, magnesium to reduce the risk of complications. In addition studies show that cinnamon, clove oil, and a compound in coffee other than caffeine also help improve insulin function. (WebMd, 2012)
When preventing diabetes is no longer an option, it seems that observing the diet that should have been followed in the first place still helps. Exercise, whether it helps with diabetes or not, will assist in preventing cardiovascular disease and other health problems which could further aggravate this condition. Alternative medicine can be added on, with the approval of a doctor to prevent possible interactions with drugs. Depending on the extent of this disease, it can still be ameliorated through healthy living, sometimes with medication and sometimes even without.
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N; Fitzsimons, K; Bright, J; Coulman, K; England, C Y; Gorton, J; McLenaghan, A;
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014) Retrieved from
http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/general11.htm on 4/18/2014
WebMd. (2012) Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/natural-remedies-type-
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