Bridget McNulty, editor of Sweet Life diabetes community, was recently interviewed on the Expresso show on SABC3.
The segment was about what Type 2 diabetes is, how it is caused, what to do to prevent Type 2 diabetes and how to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.
What is diabetes?
There are three types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. They are all related to how insulin is used in the body. In people without diabetes, when you eat your pancreas releases the perfect amount of insulin to match the food you’ve eaten. In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas releases very little (or no) insulin so insulin injections are necessary. In Type 2 diabetes, either not enough insulin is being produced or the insulin that is being produced isn’t being used properly – the body is insulin resistant.
Insulin is so important because it acts as a key that unlocks the cells. When you eat, food is broken down into glucose, which is absorbed into your bloodstream. Insulin transports the glucose from the blood to the cells of the body, where they are used as fuel – as energy. People with diabetes have impaired insulin function, which means that if they are not in good control. their blood glucose gets higher and higher – this can lead to complications like blindness, amputation and kidney failure. But only if you don’t look after yourself! It is possible to live a perfectly happy, healthy life with diabetes.
What causes Type 2 Diabetes?
There is a strong genetic component, but Type 2 is often called a lifestyle disease because it is strongly linked to a poor lifestyle – being overweight (particularly around the belly), eating the wrong kind of food (junk food, lots of refined carbohydrates, fizzy drinks etc) and not exercising. If caught early enough, Type 2 can be reversed with a healthy diet, weight loss (if necessary) and exercise. (Type 1 can never be reversed). If lifestyle modifications don’t help, the treatment is generally insulin pills and eventually insulin injections. But the earlier you are diagnosed the better it is, because your body has not been damaged – that’s why we always promote getting your blood sugar checked. It’s a simple, fingerprick blood test at your local clinic or pharmacy.
Is stress a contributing factor – and how?
We all know that stress is bad for us. When it comes to diabetes and how the hormones function in the body, stress releases stress hormones like cortisol which raise blood sugar to give you an energy boost in times of danger (I’m not a doctor, but I’ve experienced this a lot myself). There are a lot of studies being done at the moment about prolonged stress, anger, anxiety, depression, poor sleep and how they relate to diabetes, but nothing has been proven yet.
What diet and lifestyle changes need to be made to fight diabetes?
Funnily enough, the kind of diet and lifestyle changes we should all be making – whether or not we have diabetes. A balanced diet with lots of fresh food and no refined carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, cakes, biscuits, etc), no juice or fizzy drinks, no fast food. Plenty of water, little alcohol, no smoking. Regular exercise – the recommendation is 30 mins 5 times a week, and it doesn’t have to be anything hectic, it can just be walking around the block and getting faster as you get fitter. And losing weight if necessary. Also regular sleep and keeping your stress down. It’s a recipe for health for anyone!
Diabetes and diet is a hot topic at the moment because of Banting and the wonderful results many people with Type 2 diabetes have had on it. At Sweet Life we don’t recommend a particular diet, we give everyone the facts so that they can decide for themselves. What works for one person may not work for others.