What is Diabetes?
If doctors were asked what they believe is the 21st century version of the Black Plague that affected millions in Europe, they’d undoubtedly say it is Diabetes. Not merely in scale of affection, but also the risk of further complications, makes diabetes a dreaded albeit common disease affecting majorly the developed world, but also increasingly spreading to the developing nations as their lifestyles begin to alter and emulate the West.
When we refer to diabetes, we tend to explore two different kinds of diseases, Diabetes Mellitus and Diabetes Insipidus. Diabetes in short usually refers to Diabetes Mellitus, making our good enemy Insipidus a story for a different day.
Diabetes Mellitus: China bad, sugars worse
As far as medical jargon and definitions can carry us, the clinical definition is ‘a group of metabolic disorders sharing the common underlying feature of hyperglycaemia, which is associated with different acute and chronic complications if uncontrolled.’ In simple terms, a patient is said to suffer from diabetes, when he is unable to metabolise the sugar he intakes, leading to excessive sugar floating around aimlessly in his bloodstream. Most commonly this is associated with human insulin, the hormone that helps metabolise sugars.
With the inherent human tendency to classify literally everything, Diabetes comes in several varieties, the two most common of which are:
- Type I – This is characterised by immunological destruction of the Beta cells of the pancreas which produce human insulin, leading to reduced insulin production. This affects mostly younger people, making the lean and thin and plasma insulin levels are extremely low.
- Type II – There is development of insulin resistance of variable degree due to unknown genetic factors, bad diet or lifestyle, which may even reduce the function of insulin receptors. This affects mostly middle-aged patients, who are usually overweight or obese and plasma insulin tend to be normal.
Other varieties such as Metabolic Syndrome, Gestational diabetes, etc. also exist.
Moreover, if this condition is not kept in check, it can lead to really bad stuff. How bad?
- Hyperosmotic Non Ketotic Coma
- Lactic acidosis
- Diabetic ketoacidosis
- Diabetic retinopathy and cataract
- Coronary artery disease
- Diabetic nephropathy and neuropathy.
All of these complications are dreaded because of the extreme loss of body function that they bring with it. Ketoacidosis implies acidification of blood to formation and underutilisation of acidic ketone bodies, lactic acidosis is similar to ketoacidosis but acidification occurs in muscle tissue instead, leading to fatigue, retinopathy or cataract implies an irreversible loss in vision; neuropathy irreversibly damages certain important sensory or motor nerves; coronary artery disease denies the heart of much needed nourishment, predisposing to infarction; nephropathy leads to fibrosis and shrinkage of kidney and accumulation of body waste in blood.
As rational beings, we would want to lead a life free of complications and diabetic complications in particular. Hence for a diabetic, keeping his blood sugar under control is of utmost importance.
Home Remedies for controlling Diabetes: Renew the gym membership
Before we discuss remedies, it is important to keep two things in mind:
- As far as ‘treatments’ go, diabetes is not curable. It can be controlled, and controlled really well to the extent that you do not feel its debilitating effects, but it will always stay with you like the 1% bacteria that dettol can not kill.
- While it is great to be able to take control over a potentially crippling disease all by yourself, diabetes needs strict medical attention. Please consult a physician for drugs, insulin therapy or the extent of physical control that you can reasonably include in your daily life.
The only and only governing principle behind controlling diabetes is keeping your blood sugar under check. This simple linear equation can be tweaked by a variety of factors, each of which you can incorporate to ease diabetes. Some of those are:
The holy grail of diabetic control is also possibly the most difficult burden of our generation. Working out seems great for the Brad Pitt look, but it has tremendous health benefits that are often overlooked for the aesthetic appeal they bring with them.
- For diabetes in particular, exercise increases insulin sensitivity in the body tissue, thus enabling them to utilise sugars more effectively.
- Exercise also exhausts your body, thus increasing the need for increased energy, which it obtains from the underutilised glucose.
- Exercise increases the rate of glucose uptake into the contracting skeletal muscles, regulated by the translocation of GLUT4 glucose transporters to the plasma membrane of these muscles.
2) Planning your meals:
Like we’ve discussed before, diabetes is basically hyperglycemia and is thus exacerbated with increased sugar or carbohydrate intake.
- In theory, reduced carbohydrate consumption should go a long way in reducing aberrant sugars floating around in your blood that your body fails to utilise.
- Replacing simple carbohydrates like plain sugars with complex carbohydrates like starch, as in brown bread, oats, brown rice etc. makes it more difficult for the body to break down these carbohydrates into simple sugars, thus expending more energy in the process and utilising more energy.
- Choosing carbohydrates with a lower glycemic index is also useful in limiting blood sugar levels.
Fibers also play a vital role in prolonging sugar absorption, thus slowing down the increase in blood sugar.
- Empirical evidence shows soluble fibre has some role to play in reducing blood sugar.
- High fibre diet has also proved to be useful in controlling Type I diabetes.
Aquaman has his fair share of enemies, and diabetes isn’t one of them. Guess why?
- Excess water is flushed out of the kidneys and carries with it excess blood sugar that now exits your body.
- Drinking enough water hydrates the blood thus reducing blood sugar concentration and lowering the risk for diabetes.
4) Monitor blood sugar levels at home:
Glucometers help you monitor blood sugar levels at home, so that when they get dangerously high, you can start medication or visit a doctor. Keeping a weekly log may also be beneficial.
5) Get enough rest and reduce stress:
Poor sleeping habits have been linked to reduced insulin sensitivity and increased appetite both of which predispose to diabetes. Furthermore, sleep deprivation causes release of stress hormone Cortisol, which causes hyperglycemia. Other factors that cause stress should also be eliminated. Music, yoga or anything else that helps you relax can be explored.
6) Consume food rich in Chromium and Magnesium:
High blood sugar and diabetes are associated with micronutrient deficiencies and need correction. In that regard, chromium is associated with carbohydrate intake and metabolism. Magnesium too, may play a vital role. Studies show that chromium intake through foods such as egg yolk, high bran cereals, nuts etc. has long term effects of keeping blood sugar levels optimum. Magnesium rich foods such as leafy greens, fish, bananas etc. should be tried.
Diabetes Mellitus is a bane on modern civilisation, due to reduced insulin sensitivity or production in the body that predisposes to hyperglycaemia and further complications. To add to that, the disease is incurable and thus needs to be controlled. Fortunately, besides medication, home remedies such as exercise, a low carbohydrate diet, hydration, proper sleep, etc. can go a long way in your quest to successfully conquer diabetes and lead a healthy life overall