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Too Sweet To Digest!

Though 69.2 million people in our country are afflicted with Diabetes, knowledge and awareness of the disease remain shrouded in mystery

Despite the growing prevalence of Diabetes in our country, the understanding of the clinical condition remains limited. It is largely assumed by people with Diabetes that high blood sugar is caused due to sugar and this naturally gets translated into an 'I don't' take sugar in my tea' expression. Many, instead, switch to the use of artificial sweeteners which are even more harmful.

Why there is inadequate knowledge about a condition which affects so many people still remains a mystery. Also, why has health education not been able to keep pace with the growing prevalence and why do health professionals (doctor's, dietitians, diabetes educators, podiatrists etc.) give diverse advice rather an official, approved, up to date set of guidelines to each person diagnosed with Diabetes, across the Health Care System at all levels, remains unknown.

Those affected need to understand that Diabetes is a lifestyle disorder. In simple words, how we lead our everyday lives affects how our body manages its blood sugar. Lifestyle comprises of your food, exercise routine, daily activity, sleep pattern, stress management skills and emotional health. Creating harmony at each level will help enhance the quality of life.

For Diabetes care and management, each one of the above parameters are crucial – through different pathways in the body, each affects how our body manages its blood glucose.

To gather a better understanding, lets discuss strategies for Diabetes care and management under three pillars – Nutrition, Exercise and Sleep

Nutrition

We are what we eat. The importance of eating right cannot be overemphasised, this is also because this is the activity we perform three or four times in a day. A meal with all its macros balanced allows for optimum digestion without spiking blood sugar. A traditional, freshly prepared meal with seasonal produce comes handy in getting this parameter right. Avoid processed, packaged food options, salads or smoothies as main meal options. These lack in nutritive quotient and burden the body with added chemicals in the form of additives, colourants, emulsifiers, preservatives etc.

Breakfast options can include freshly prepared regional recipes of poha, upma, dalia, idli, dal cheela, parantha, egg and roti. Add seasonal vegetables to these and cook using traditional oils like Mustard Oil, Sesame Oil, Coconut Oil or Ground Nut Oil. Avoid vegetable oils. Vegetable oils are high in Omega 6 and inflammatory in nature.

For lunch and dinner, stick to one staple cereal you have grown up eating and have it with dal (lentils) or beans or meat along with seasonal vegetables. You could add curd/buttermilk and salad to complete the meal.

How you eat is as important as what you eat. Practice mindful eating. Chew your food slowly. The act of slowing the speed down while eating helps in keeping the portion size regulated. When we eat with distractions like eating while watching TV, checking mobile, reading newspaper, we tend to eat more.

For in between snacks, stick to options like nuts, peanuts, chana, paneer, a bowl of curd with fruits or seeds.

Exercise

Any kind of physical activity that keeps your heart rate elevated for a period of time is termed as exercise. Popularly, people engage in walks. Target achieving a goal of 10,000 steps in a day. Work towards staying active. For every 30 minutes of being seated, take 2-3 minutes to stretch, walk around, this is known to fight insulin resistance. Creating a better environment in the body helps regulate blood sugar.

Consistency is key: No matter what type of exercise you engage in, you need to stay consistent. Being enthusiastic one day and then letting go does no good to Diabetes. Therefore, stay consistent. If some form bores you out, try something new, but don't stop working out. Build in a weekly schedule to include variety.

Weight Training: Loss of strength is one of the driving factors to insulin resistance. The contribution weight training has towards combating insulin resistance cannot be emphasised enough. Usually considered a form for young boys who want to pump up, it is often surrounded with speculations for women. But weight training has the ability to bring down high blood sugar levels and maintain that for the next 48-72 hours. This is because when you do strength training exercises that target muscles, your body uses glucose from your bloodstream to power them, which can help clear excess sugar from your system. It improves the body's ability to manage sugar. Engage in strength training twice a week. You could use resistance bands, free weights or do machine assisted workouts in this category.

Sleep

Sleep is the most underrated aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Health enthusiasts only focus on diet and exercise and rarely consider sleep as a contributory factor to improved health. Sleep gives our body the time to repair. The immune system, our bodies' repair system, is strengthened by sleep. Lack of sleep is associated with raised levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol triggers insulin resistance. Sleep deprivation also lowers satiety signals in the body, thereby increasing appetite, which translates as bigger portions. And, as already discussed above, bigger portions lead to high blood glucose and circulating insulin. In a physiological environment of high cortisol and insulin, insulin resistance is heightened. A good quality sleep helps in balancing hormones in the body. It helps in detoxification both at the physiological and mental level and improves lymphatic function.

It wouldn't be wrong to say that the effort put towards achieving better health during the day (diet and exercise), only begin to manifest with a good sleep routine. Have a stable routine of bedtime and wake up time for 80 per cent of a week and plan ahead for late nights (if any) in advance. Taking your body in confidence and preparing ahead of time ensures that we don't leave to chance important measures like meals, exercise and stabilise the hormonal balance of the body.

In a nutshell, Diabetes management cannot be oversimplified to the elimination of sugar from tea! It is a lifestyle disorder and all aspects of our life need to be modified with simple, practical and doable tips to improve and even reverse this condition. All the above guidelines serve as means of prevention from Diabetes too.

Madhavi K Sharma

Madhavi K Sharma

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