What is Diabetes?
Diabetes, often referred to by doctors as diabetes mellitus, describes a group of metabolic diseases in which the person has high blood glucose (blood sugar), either because insulin production is inadequate, or because the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin, or both.
There are three types of diabetes:
Type 1 Diabetes:
The body does not produce insulin. Some people may refer to this type as insulin-dependent diabetes. People usually develop type 1 diabetes before their 40th year, often in early adulthood or teenage years.
Type 2 Diabetes (Gestational diabetes):
The body does not produce enough insulin for proper function, or the cells in the body do not react to insulin (insulin resistance).
Some people may be able to control their type 2 diabetes symptoms by losing weight, following a healthy diet, doing plenty of exercise, and monitoring their blood glucose levels. However, type 2 diabetes is typically a progressive disease – it gradually gets worse – and the patient will probably end up have to take insulin, usually in tablet form.
Type 3 Diabetes:
This type affects females during pregnancy. Some women have very high levels of glucose in their blood, and their bodies are unable to produce enough insulin to transport all of the glucose into their cells, resulting in progressively rising levels of glucose.
Symptoms/ Signs of Diabetes:
- Increased Urination
- Weight loss
- Excessive Thirst
- Slow Healing
- Skin Problem
- Blur Vision
Complications linked to badly controlled diabetes:
- Eye complications – glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and some others.
- Foot complications – neuropathy, ulcers, and sometimes gangrene which may require that the foot be amputated
- Skin complications – people with diabetes are more susceptible to skin infections and skin disorders
- Heart problems – such as ischemic heart disease, when the blood supply to the heart muscle is diminished
- Hypertension – common in people with diabetes, which can raise the risk of kidney disease, eye problems, heart attack and stroke
- Mental health – uncontrolled diabetes raises the risk of suffering from depression, anxiety and some other mental disorders
- Hearing loss – diabetes patients have a higher risk of developing hearing problems
- Gum disease – there is a much higher prevalence of gum disease among diabetes patients
Some Facts And Myths Regarding Diabetes
Many presumed “facts” are thrown about in the paper press, magazines and on the internet regarding diabetes; some of them are, in fact, myths. It is important that people with diabetes, pre-diabetes, their loved ones, employers and schools have an accurate picture of the disease. Below are some diabetes myths:
- I know when my blood sugar levels are high or low – very high or low blood sugar levels may cause some symptoms, such as weakness, fatigue and extreme thirst. However, levels need to be fluctuating a lot for symptoms to be felt. The only way to be sure about your blood sugar levels is to test them regularly. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark showed that even very slight rises in blood-glucose levels significantly raise the risk of ischemic heart disease.
- Diabetes diets are different from other people’s – the diet doctors and specialized nutritionists recommend for diabetes patients are healthy ones; healthy for everybody, including people without the disease. Meals should contain plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and they should be low in salt and sugar, and saturated or trans fat. Experts say that there is no need to buy special diabetic foods because they offer no special benefit, compared to the healthy things we can buy in most shops.
- High blood sugar levels are fine for some, while for others they are a sign of diabetes – high blood-sugar levels are never normal for anybody. Some illnesses, mental stress and steroids can cause temporary hikes in blood sugar levels in people without diabetes. Anybody with higher-than-normal blood sugar levels or sugar in their urine should be checked for diabetes by a health care professional.
- Diabetics cannot eat bread, potatoes or pasta – people with diabetes can eat starchy foods. However, they must keep an eye on the size of the portions. Whole grain starchy foods are better, as is the case for people without diabetes.
- One person can transmit diabetes to another person – NOT TRUE. Just like a broken leg is not infectious or contagious. A parent may pass on, through their genes to their offspring, a higher susceptibility to developing the disease.
- Only older people develop type 2 diabetes – things are changing. A growing number of children and teenagers are developing type 2 diabetes . Experts say that this is linked to the explosion in childhood obesity rates, poor diet, and physical inactivity.
- I have to go on insulin, this must mean my diabetes is severe – people take insulin when diet alone or diet with oral or non-insulin inject able diabetes drugs do not provide good-enough diabetes control, that’s all. Insulin helps diabetes control. It does not usually have anything to do with the severity of the disease.
- If you have diabetes you cannot eat chocolates or sweets – people with diabetes can eat chocolates and sweets if they combine them with exercise or eat them as part of a healthy meal.
- Diabetes patients are more susceptible to colds and illnesses in general – a person with diabetes with good diabetes control is no more likely to become ill with a cold or something else than other people. However, when a diabetic catches a cold, their diabetes becomes harder to control, so they have a higher risk of complications.
- People with diabetes should not exercise – NOT TRUE!! Exercise is important for people with diabetes, as it is for everybody else. Exercise helps manage body weight, improves cardiovascular health, improves mood, helps blood sugar control, and relieves stress. Patients should discuss exercise with their doctor first.
- Fat people always develop type 2 diabetes eventually – this is not true. Being overweight or obese raises the risk of becoming diabetic, they are risk factors, but do not mean that an obese person will definitely become diabetic. Many people with type 2 diabetes were never overweight. The majority of overweight people do not develop type 2 diabetes.
- Diabetes is a nuisance, but not serious – two thirds of diabetes patients die prematurely from stroke or heart disease. The life expectancy of a person with diabetes is from five to ten years shorter than other people’s. Diabetes is a serious disease.
- Don’t eat too much sugar, you will become diabetic – this is not true. A person with diabetes type 1 developed the disease because their immune system destroyed the insulin-producing beta cells. A diet high in calories, which can make people overweight/obese, raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes , especially if there is a history of this disease in the family.
Ever wonder if there was something you could do at home to keep your blood sugar levels in check? Well, there is. Here are some of them:
Natural Treatment for Diabetes/Diabetes Diet:
The combination of aloe vera gel, bay leaves and turmeric is helpful for controlling blood sugar. To make this herbal medicine, mix:
- one to two teaspoons of ground bay leaves.
- one teaspoon of turmeric.
- one teaspoon of aloe vera gel.
Drink this solution daily, before lunch and dinner. Aloe vera gel helps lower fasting blood glucose levels. It contains phytosterols that have possible anti-hyperglycemic effects for type 2 diabetes.
Eating guava can be really helpful in maintaining the blood sugar level due to its vitamin C and high fiber content.
It is best for diabetics not to eat the skin of the fruit so peel it first. However, too much consumption of guava in a day is not recommended.
Black Plum or Indian Black Berry (Jamum)
Black plum or jambul, also known as jamun can help a lot in controlling blood sugar level because it contains anthocyanins, ellagic acid, hydrolysable tannins etc. Each part of the Jambul plant such as the leaves, berry and seeds can be used by those suffering from diabetes. In fact, research has shown that the fruits and seeds of this plant have hypoglycemic effects as they help reduce blood and urine sugar levels rapidly. The seeds regulate control blood sugar levels.
- Whenever this seasonal fruit is available in the market, try to include it in your diet as it can be very effective for the pancreas.
- Else you can make a powder of dried seeds of Jambul fruit and eat this powder with water twice a day.
This fruit is native to India and its neighboring countries but you can find it at Asian markets and herbal shops.
Powdered cinnamon has the ability to lower blood sugar levels by stimulating insulin activity. It contains bioactive components that can help prevent and fight diabetes. Certain trials have shown that it can work as an effective option to lower blood sugar levels in cases of uncontrolled type-2 diabetes.
Cinnamon, however, should not be taken in excess because we commonly use Cassia cinnamon (found in most grocery stores) which contains a compound called coumarin. It is a toxic compound that increases the risk of liver damage. There is another variety of this herb known as Ceylon cinnamon or “true cinnamon.” It is considered safer for health but its effects on blood glucose levels have not been studied adequately.
- Mix one teaspoon cinnamon in a cup of warm water. Drink it daily.
- You can also swallow a pinch of cinnamon with warm water every day.
Fenugreek is an herb that can also be used to control diabetes, improve glucose tolerance and lower blood sugar levels due to its hypoglycaemic activity. It also stimulates the secretion of glucose-dependent insulin. Being high in fiber, it slows down the absorption of carbohydrates and sugars.
- Soak two tablespoons of fenugreek seeds in water overnight. Drink the water along with the seeds in the morning on an empty stomach. Follow this remedy without fail for a few months to bring down your glucose level.
- Eat two tablespoons of powdered fenugreek seeds daily with milk.
Indian Gooseberry (Amla)
Indian gooseberry, also known as Amla, is rich in vitamin C and Indian gooseberry juice promotes proper functioning of your pancreas.
- Take two to three Indian gooseberries, remove the seeds and grind it into a fine paste. Put the paste in a cloth and squeeze out the juice. Mix two tablespoon of the juice in one cup of water and drink it daily on an empty stomach.
- Alternatively, mix one tablespoonful of Indian gooseberry juice with a cup of bitter gourd juice and drink it daily for a few months.
The delicate and tender mango leaves can be used to treat diabetes by regulating insulin levels in the blood. They can also help improve blood lipid profiles.
- Soak 10 to 15 tender mango leaves in a glass of water overnight. In the morning, filter the water and drink it on an empty stomach.
- You can also dry the leaves in the shade and grind them. Eat one-half teaspoon of powdered mango leaves two times daily.
Bitter gourd, also known as bitter melon, can be helpful for controlling diabetes due to its blood glucose lowering effects. It tends to influence the glucose metabolism all over your body rather than a particular organ or tissue. It helps increase pancreatic insulin secretion and prevents insulin resistance. Thus, bitter gourd is beneficial for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. However, it cannot be used to entirely replace insulin treatment.
- Drink some bitter gourd juice on an empty stomach each morning. First remove the seeds of two to three bitter gourds and use a juicer to extract the juice. Add some water and then drink it. Follow this treatment daily in the morning for at least two months.
- Also you can include one dish made of bitter gourd daily in your diet.
The amount of water you drink on daily basis is important in controlling high blood sugar. Water mobilizes the high sugar content in your blood. Drink at least 2.5 liters of water daily. Drinking enough water will also lower the risk of other ailments associated with diabetes. Moderate exposure to sunlight too, is essential for leading a healthy life, and a very simple yet effective way to help control high blood sugar. Sunlight improves the functionality of vitamin D, which is essential for insulin production. Take a few minutes every day and let your body soak in the sun light.
Curry leaves are useful in preventing and controlling diabetes as they have anti-diabetic properties. It is believed that curry leaves contain an ingredient that reduces the rate at which starch is broken down to glucose in diabetics.
So, you can simply chew about 10 fresh curry leaves daily in the morning.
For best results, continue this treatment for three to four months. It also helps reduce bad cholesterol levels and obesity.
These natural remedies can aid in controlling blood sugar levels, but you must also eat healthy foods in small amounts and make regular exercise part of your daily routine.
It is important also to consult your nutritionist or doctor on regular basis if you have diabetes.