Diabetes: Tips and Info
Do you stay hungry but feel your food isn’t giving you the energy you need to make it through the day? Do you make frequent trips to the bathroom, especially at night?
If this is happening to you, you may be at risk for diabetes, a chronic disease that can lead to many health complications. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin—the hormone that regulates blood glucose—or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. In other words, your body cannot effectively control your blood glucose, also known as blood sugar, on its own.
More than 122 million Americans are living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, and lower limb amputation. Diabetes, however, can be controlled and managed.
Many people do not know they have high blood sugar levels until they are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, according to Dr. Athena Philis-Tsimikas, an endocrinologist and corporate vice president of Scripps Diabetes Whittier Institute in San Diego, California. Dr. Philis-Tsimikas says that knowing the risk factors and the early warning signs of type 2 diabetes can help prevent or delay the disease.
The five most common warning signs of diabetes are:
1. Frequent infections and slow-healing wounds
Repeated yeast, bladder, or urinary tract infections are often warning signs of type 2 diabetes. This is because bacteria and yeast thrive when there are high levels of glucose in the blood, and having type 2 diabetes makes it harder for the body to fight off infection, according to Amy Hess-Fischl, an advanced practice registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator, and Lisa M. Leontis, a certified adult nurse practitioner.
In addition, it takes longer for small skin cuts and wounds to heal because the excess sugar in the blood slows the white blood cells down from doing their job of healing wounds.
2. Blurry Vision
Excess blood sugar can cause the lens of the eye to swell. The lens focuses light onto the retina at the back of the eye. The swelling can cause the shape of the lens to change, resulting in blurry vision. Clear vision usually returns when blood sugar levels fall within a normal range.
3. Extreme Hunger
No matter how much food you eat, you may still feel very hungry. This happens because the body’s insulin resistance keeps glucose from entering the muscle and providing energy, according to Hess-Fischl and Leontis. Because of this, “the muscles and other tissues send a ‘hunger’ message, trying to get more energy into the body.”
4. Frequent Urination
Dr. James K. Salem, an endocrinologist at Summa Health in Akron, Ohio, explains that diabetes causes the kidneys to work harder to remove excess sugar from the blood. But, when the kidneys cannot keep up, the kidneys spill excess sugar into the urine, resulting in frequent urination.
5. Skin Changes
Diabetes can cause changes in the small blood vessels that reduce blood supply to the skin. According to Dr. Salem, diabetes can cause dark, velvety patches of skin in the folds of the neck, armpits, or groin because of an excess of insulin in the blood. People with diabetes should report any skin changes to their doctor.
Breads to Watch Out For
Breakfast breads, such as bagels and French toast, and sandwich breads are usually high in refined carbohydrates, as are other forms of breads, including pancakes, doughnuts, and pastries; what’s more, refined carbohydrates contain sugars and processed grains, both of which can spike blood sugar and insulin levels.
As an example, one slice of Pepperidge Farm Hearty White Bread has 26 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of added sugar, and only 1 gram of fiber, noted Kelsey Lorencz, a registered dietician with Zenmaster Wellness. If you’re eating a sandwich, you can double the number of net carbs just from the bread alone, she said.
Breads that have little to no fiber but are high in carbohydrates will cause blood sugar to spike. Lorencz says this is because carbohydrates are quickly broken down into sugar and released into the blood.
Lorencz further states that people with diabetes should watch out for potato breads, like Oroweat Country Style Potato Bread, which has 22 grams of carbohydrates and less than 1 gram of fiber.
According to nutrition experts, if you’re eating breads that are high in refined carbohydrates and low in fiber, you can eat another high-fiber food or a serving of protein and fat. The extra fiber, protein, and fat will not only offset the intake of refined carbs but will help slow down digestion so that blood sugar will rise more steadily and will less likely crash.
Battling High Blood Sugar With A Balanced Breakfast
The body is amazing in that it works on its own to give you a natural boost to start the day. Before you wake up, the liver releases glucose into the bloodstream while the pancreas releases insulin to push the glucose into cells where it’s used for energy. This is called the “dawn phenomenon,” says Vanessa Rissetto, a registered dietitian nutritionist and the co-founder of Culina Health in New York City.
But this natural process can cause problems if you have diabetes because the body doesn’t produce enough insulin to handle the newly released blood sugar. So, when you test your blood sugar in the morning, your blood glucose levels will be elevated. A healthy breakfast, however, can balance high blood sugar.
Rissetto says her favorite breakfast to recommend to people with diabetes is “Overnight Chia Oats,” a type of oatmeal mixed with chia seeds that are made the night before and eaten cold the next morning. She provides the recipe here in an article on the EatingWell website.
With combined ingredients of old-fashioned oats, chia seeds, nonfat plain Greek-style yogurt, frozen berries, unsweetened almond milk, and chopped walnuts, the breakfast contains plenty of protein, healthy fats, and fiber-rich complex carbohydrates.
Besides starting the day off with this meal, Rissetto offers the following tips to people with diabetes:
- Eat frequent but small meals. This helps to keep blood glucose levels steady and promotes weight loss.
- Manage portion sizes to prevent blood glucose levels from spiking too high.
- Stay active. Physical activity, which includes regular exercise, can lower blood glucose levels and improve the way insulin works.
In all, Rissetto recommends people with diabetes eat a consistently scheduled, balanced breakfast that contains fiber-rich carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to help keep your blood sugar levels steady in the morning and throughout the day.