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The Eight Point Action Plan to Fight Diabetes: By Clinical Dietician Aiswarya

Today, diabetes is rising at a very alarming rate in India. According to International Diabetes Federation, it is estimated that, 77 million people are diabetic in India, and one in ten women aged 35-49 is diabetic. Moreover, gestational diabetes is a serious concern in India, with increased risk of such women developing type 2 diabetes later in life. THMC caught up with leading Nutritionist, Aishwarya to understand the risks and the action plan to tackle this disease.

Many people struggle with managing their sugar levels, especially women in the later stages of their lives. What advice would you give our readers regarding how they can control their sugar levels and avoid getting diabetes?

Although there are certain factors such as genetics, age and family history which cannot be changed, diabetes can still be prevented by taking small steps towards establishing a daily routine with healthy lifestyle practices that can minimize the risk of diabetes and in-fact, can even the reduce the chances of suffering from diabetes. Since women play an anchoring role in Indian families, the first and foremost step is when women start prioritising their own health and wellbeing on par with that of their family members, by being mindful about their lifestyle pattern.

The Eight Point Action Plan

Eat a balanced diet – The quick pace of life along with little or no time for home-cooked meals, individuals are settling for fast foods and quick nourishments. This is especially true for working women. So, plan your day’s or week’s menu ahead and replace the consumption of processed foods with healthier options. Choose nutritious whole foods like whole grains, millets, pulses, nuts, dairy, eggs, lean meat, vegetables and fruits in your diet. Try to incorporate plenty of soluble fibre such as whole grains, beans and legumes, greens, etc as it is effective in reducing the risk of diabetes. Skip sugary carbonated drinks and choose plenty of plain or infused water to stay hydrated. Eat wholesome balanced meals daily, including all food groups in appropriate portions.

Watch out the portion size of your meals, because eating too much food at one time spikes your blood sugar levels abruptly. So try to implement portion control as it helps you to regulate the calories intake and also aids in weight loss. Few simple ways by which you can control your portions are by measuring and weighing your food portions, using smaller plates to eat, keeping a food journal and eating slowly by chewing well, since it gives time to your brain to process the signals of satiety.

Be Active – Choose a physical activity that you enjoy doing regularly and stick to it. It could be walking, jogging, yoga, swimming, zumba etc for 30-40 minutes daily or 4-5 times in a week. Find the exercise which you feel you can engage regularly for a long-term. Exercise increases the insulin sensitivity of your cells and reduces the risk of diabetes.

Keep your weight under control – Women in the later stages of their lives tend to put on excess fat in their abdomen. If your waistline measures more than 35 inches (or more than 80 cm) in females, then there are high chances of harbouring dangerous amount of abdominal fat, which could lead to insulin resistance and thereby increased chances of lifestyle diseases like pre-diabetes and diabetes, heart disease and so on. Being obese makes you more likely to develop diabetes than someone with a healthy weight. Losing 5-10% of your current weight can reduce your chances of developing diabetes. So, lose weight if you are overweight or obese and try to maintain normal weight.

Get moving – Sedentary lifestyle, that is, sitting for long hours working in your computers can also affect your blood sugar levels. Change your sedentary behaviours by standing up from your desk while at work and walking around for a few minutes every hour or doing some stretching-relaxation exercises from your chair or chair-yoga will help you to increase your non-exercise activity thermogenesis. Try to work your muscles more often, as it helps to improve their ability to use insulin and absorb glucose and thereby reduces stress on the insulin making cells. This will help you to keep your blood sugar levels within healthy limits.

Manage Stress – Hormones such as glucagon and cortisol are secreted during stress and these hormones cause blood sugar levels to spike. Adopt regular exercise, relaxation and meditation methods like yoga, as that will significantly help to reduce the secretion of these hormones and in-turn reduces stress and, manages the blood sugar levels effectively.

Get enough good quality sleep – Getting enough sleep is necessary for good health. Poor sleeping habits and a lack of rest disrupt important metabolic hormones, thereby disturbing the insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels. It can also increase the appetite and promote weight gain in women. Come what may; get sufficient and consistent sleep daily for better management of your blood sugars and promote a healthy weight. Fix your sleeping and waking up at the same time, each and every day.

Do routine tests and take prompt action – Make sure to check with your doctor, do routine tests, at-least yearly once. This is particularly important if you have a family history of diabetes or if you are suffering from diabetes or have problems in managing your blood sugar, then you should start taking actions as early as possible.

People nowadays have switched over to artificial sweeteners and is especially popular amongst diabetic people and those who want to lose weight. How safe is it to consumer these sweeteners, such as Sugarfree and Stevia? Would you recommend it to people with the above conditions?

Intake of any artificial sweetener requires individual nutrition counseling which will take into consideration the person’s blood sugar levels, their overall diet and its nutritional adequacy.

Research indicates that your body responds differently to artificial sweeteners. That is, artificial sweeteners could lead to cravings, over-eating, and alterations in the gut bacteria which could potentially lead to weight gain and glucose intolerance. So, for people with diabetes looking to manage their weight or sugar intake, artificial sweeteners may not be a good substitute for long term.

If you are looking for a better and healthier alternative, you can try stevia. You can get stevia in the raw form, or grow the plant by yourself or buy it. However, moderation is the key, rather than switching to sugar substitutes completely.

3. A lot has been said in the news about Type 2 diabetes which mostly happens when you get older. On the other hand, could you share your findings on Type 1 diabetes and how to manage it?

Usually diagnosed in infants, young children and adolescents, it is normal when parents and children feel slightly overwhelmed in managing type 1 diabetes. As their body cannot produce insulin, insulin injections have to be taken every day. When a child is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, the entire family is diagnosed as well because, it takes a lot to be a caregiver and provide consistent support and encouragement to the child. While each day is different, planning ahead is the key to manage type 1 diabetes. You can add some simple strategies into your daily routine which will help you to stay on track and live well with type 1 diabetes, that is:-

  • Regular monitoring of your blood sugar levels daily. Because Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) of blood sugar readings can help you and the care team to do a better job in adjusting your insulin doses, diet, exercise and overall diabetes management plan to improve your blood sugar control.
  • Take insulin injections every day as prescribed by the doctor or wear an insulin pump.
  • Eat a nutritious, balanced diet with accurate carbohydrate counts.
  • Perform regular physical activity – exercise or sports activity daily.
  • The child, parents and teachers need to be aware of the signs of hypos and the precautions to be taken, insulin regimen to be followed in school and at home, pre-and post exercise precautions to be taken, etc
  • While travelling, carry your doctors certificate, tool kit with insulin and monitoring devices.

About the Author: Aiswarya is a qualified and experienced Clinical Dietician, Certified Paediatric Nutritionist, Lactation Counsellor, Diabetes educator, Critical care nutritionist, and Trained in Low FODMAP. With a wide range of expertise, from medical nutrition to pediatrics to gut health to women’s health, diabetes and weight management, she has the ability to help each individual to improve their diet and lifestyle for optimum health and wellbeing. Founder of cherish wellbeing, she can be found at Instagram and Facebook. She helps individuals with personalized, sustainable and healthy nutrition plans and lifestyle management to live holistically healthy. Aiswarya is a health enthusiast, yoga practitioner with love for good food, reading and travelling.

To know more about her, visit her insta page here

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