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Diabetes

Eleven million Canadians are living with diabetes or prediabetes. Chances are, diabetes affects you or someone you know.

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Diabetes is a chronic and sometimes fatal disease, in which the body either cannot produce insulin or cannot properly use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that controls the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Diabetes leads to high blood sugar levels, which can damage organs, blood vessels and nerves. The body needs insulin to use sugar as an energy source.

Definition and causes of diabetes

There are two main types of diabetes: diabetes insipidus and diabetes mellitus. The latter variety is further subdivided into types 1 and 2.

Diabetes insipidus is a rare metabolic disorder caused by insufficient production of vasopressin by the pituitary gland (when it is damaged) or by the kidneys’ insensitivity to the hormone. This kind of diabetes is characterized by intense thirst and the production of large quantities of urine, regardless of the amount of liquid the person ingests.

Diabetes mellitus is caused either by the pancreas’s inability to produce insulin or by a deficiency in the way cells react to insulin. In these cases, blood sugar levels are high, but cellular glucose concentrations are low. The condition is characterized as a chronic problem metabolizing sugars, which boosts the risk of kidney problems, atherosclerosis, macular degeneration and neuropathy (inflammation and loss of nervous system function). High blood glucose levels increase the risk of candidiasis (thrush) and can lead to complications during pregnancy. Some people may be genetically predisposed to diabetes, but a diet rich in low-fibre processed foods is the main cause. Overweight is the most significant risk factor in the development of diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes mellitus

Also known as insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes, is associated with the destruction of beta cells in the pancreas. This type of diabetes typically occurs in children and young adults.

A viral infection or an autoimmune disorder may cause the destruction of beta cells.

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes mellitus are irritability, frequent urination, excessive thirst, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and weight loss despite a major increase in appetite.

In children, the disease may also be accompanied by an increase in the incidence of enuresis (bedwetting).

If this type of diabetes is not controlled properly, blood sugar levels vary wildly, leading to medical emergencies such as severe hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia.

Type 2 diabetes

Typically begins in the forties and is linked to a cellular resistance to insulin (metabolic syndrome) rather than insufficient production of insulin. It can occur in younger people who eat astronomical amounts of sugar.

With this type of diabetes, glucose has a hard time penetrating the cells and ends up accumulating in the blood instead.

The symptoms are blurred vision, itching, intense thirst, dizzy spells, fatigue, skin infections, slow wound healing, the sensation of pins and needles or numbness in the feet, persistent flu-like symptoms, loss of leg hair, increase in facial hair and small xanthomas (yellow bumps) anywhere on the skin.

This type of diabetes is linked directly to malnutrition and those who suffer from it often have an abnormally large sweet tooth (they like sweets more than most).

Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT)

Constitutes an asymptomatic or latent form of diabetes. People who suffer from it have high blood glucose levels and an intermediate response to glucose, somewhere between that of a person who is diabetic and a healthy person. 

Diet for diabetes

For people who aren’t usually able to detect sweet tastes or who have a hard time reducing their sugar intake due to a sugar addiction—white sugar and synthetic sweeteners are highly addictive—it is important to eliminate all sources of dietary sugar and to replace them with stevia. Stevia is a plant containing compounds that can stimulate the papillae (taste buds) that detect sugar, yet without actually providing the body with any glucose. It fools the brain into thinking that foods are sweet, when in fact they aren’t. Use sparingly, as 1 teaspoon of stevia replaces a whole cup of white sugar! 

Eat no more than two fruits a day along with one to two portions of whole grains—no white flour or white rice, only wholegrain pasta, wholegrain bread, brown rice and so on. Choose fibre, as it slows the absorption of the sugars contained in carbohydrates (grains). To get enough fibre, eat a minimum of four portions of vegetables per day; you’ll also benefit from their vitamins and minerals. Adding two tablespoons of ground flax seed to your breakfast is a simple way to boost your fibre intake.

To help stabilize your blood glucose levels and reduce your body’s insulin resistance, you need to include a source of protein in every meal and snack. 

One portion of protein:

  • 2 Tbsp. of seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, flax, sesame, hemp, etc.)
  • 10–12 almonds or nuts (adjust the quantity according to nut size), unroasted if you want them to contribute less fat to your diet
  • ½ to 1 cup of legumes/pulses (peas, beans, lentils, soybeans, etc.)
  • 2 eggs
  • Lean meats (fish, chicken, turkey, game meats)
  • Low-fat dairy products without added sugars or sweeteners (avoid aspartame!)

To help control blood sugar levels, it’s also important to limit your consumption of saturated fats—avoid fatty meats, but do eat fish, which provides good fats—and dairy products with a high fat content. Eliminate cold cuts from your diet entirely—they contain tons of additives, some of which affect blood sugar levels. Eat a minimum of four portions of good fats per day; for instance, you can add two teaspoons of first cold press (extra extra virgin) olive oil to your food and take two capsules of VegOmega-3 with your meals. 

What do you think?

Have you found what you read useful? If so, I would love if you would leave your comment below. Thanks Sonia Chartier

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