Conquering diabetes with diet and a positive outlook
2 years ago, my mother got diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It was the same year she turned 40. She’d already suspected she could have diabetes because her mother, father and younger brother all already had type 2 diabetes.
It started in the early months of 2020 when she noticed her body often went numb. She thought it was a general weakness of the body, but when she also got a tingling sensation in her hands and feet she took it much more seriously.
At first, the doctor put her on Vitamin B12 supplements. But then I came home and monitored her blood glucose levels (I’m a dietitian, and knowing our family history had a theory).
Monitoring her blood glucose levels, I noticed a spike in her random blood glucose level. That’s when I took her to the doctor, and the doctor prescribed her insulin.
I was shocked she’d been prescribed insulin so early; she didn’t have an insulin insufficiency, she just had insulin resistance! With my knowledge and experience as a dietitian, I knew it could be treated with diet and lifestyle modifications.
I was determined to treat my mother myself, and from that day on we’ve kept her blood glucose level in the normal range by following these simple steps:
#1 - Shifting to complex carbs
In Southeast Asian culture, simple carbs are a big part of our everyday diet. So the first thing I did was help my mother understand that simple carbs and complex carbs affect blood glucose levels differently (simple carbs are digested much more quickly than complex carbs, and can cause your blood glucose level to spike).
Once my mother understood how high glycemic (i.e. simple) and low glycemic (i.e. complex) index foods worked, she stopped taking low glycemic index foods for granted. She’s preferred multigrain bread over rice or plain flour bread ever since.
#2 Tracking calories and maintaining a calorie-deficit diet
Obesity is the mother of many diseases. Many non-communicable diseases (like heart diseases, cancers, chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, etc.) are linked to obesity.
My mother’s BMI was already in the Class 1 obesity category, so I showed her how to track her calories and maintain a calorie-deficit diet. This has helped her reduce her weight and enjoy an active lifestyle while still eating healthy and nutritious food.
#3 Modifying Lifestyle
Lifestyle modification is a key tool to getting any health condition under control. When my mother accepted this by heart, she made diabetes her friend.
One of her modifications was to incorporate a 30-45 minute brisk walk into her daily routine. This keeps her active and feeling fresh and has also helped her gradually reduce her weight.
#4 Avoiding stress
Mothers stress over the smallest things. The problem is, although stress isn’t the only cause of diabetes, it can still badly impact blood glucose levels – Research has shown that stress hormones can hinder the production of insulin and/or increase insulin resistance, increasing blood glucose levels.
So, to keep my mother happy, my siblings and I help her stay away from anything that would cause her stress.
#5 Accepting the change and staying positive
Positivity is like a magic wand – With a positive attitude, you can spread happiness and hope all around.
Knowing this, my siblings and I helped our mother accept the fact that she has to live a life with diabetes. There was no way forward without accepting this into her heart and making it her friend.
This made a huge difference. It helped us all cope with the situation, even when it felt impossible.
#6 Never ignoring the medication
It’s important to understand that different medicines work differently for different people. For my mother, her initial medication works for many people with type 2 diabetes, but it didn’t work for her – She took it for a few days and had many side effects.
But by understanding that everyone is different and paying attention to the side effects, she knew it was something she should raise with her doctors. They listened to her, prescribed a new medication, and the new one works well.
Although diabetes isn’t curable, it can be easily managed through diet, lifestyle, and medications. And vitally, when it comes to managing a disease like diabetes, every factor is important. So nothing should be ignored or taken for granted.
If diabetes isn’t properly managed it can lead to other diseases (like stroke, hypertension, etc.) – So isn’t it better to make friends with it, rather than thinking of it as an enemy?
And if you’re someone that’s been diagnosed with diabetes, or you know someone fighting diabetes, consider my mother. She became friends with her diabetes in no time because she accepted the change and was willing to gradually modify her life to meet it.
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