National Diabetes Awareness Month—Nutrition and Diabetes
Diabetes is rather prevalent in the United States, affecting approximately 30 million individuals. Shockingly, 7 million of these individuals are not even aware that they have the disease. As the seventh leading cause of death in the country, it’s important to educate ourselves on understanding the role nutrition can play in managing diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
With diabetes, the body cannot properly breakdown foods we eat to use as energy. When we eat, foods are broken down into glucose, or sugar, which our body utilizes as fuel. The pancreas releases a hormone called insulin that is required to help the glucose get into our cells. When you are diabetic, the body may not make enough insulin or does not use insulin well. This results in glucose accumulating in the blood stream, causing high blood sugars. Over time, high blood sugars can cause a variety of health issues, including damage to your eyes, kidneys, nerves, and blood vessels. Blood sugar control is the overall goal with diabetes. Management plans typically includes medication components, but you can help keep your blood sugars in check by watching your diet as well.
High Blood Sugar vs. Low Blood Sugar
Blood sugars fluctuate all day every day depending on a variety of factors. While the goal is to keep it in a normal range, low and high blood sugars are frequent occurrences if you are diabetic.
High blood sugar, also known as hyperglycemia, occurs when your fasting blood sugars are greater than 130, or greater than 180 after you eat a meal. You may experience increased thirst, nausea, blurred vision, frequent urination, hunger, or drowsiness. High blood sugars could be caused by not taking your diabetes medications correctly, eating more simple carbohydrates than usual, exercising less than usual, or with increased stress in your life.
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, typically occurs if your blood sugar becomes less than 70. This can be incredibly dangerous, as you could potentially lose consciousness and suffer brain damage. Low blood sugars can occur for a multitude of reasons, including taking diabetes medications on an empty stomach, not eating enough food, doing more exercise than usual, or drinking alcohol. Signs and symptoms include shakiness, dizziness, fast heart rate, sweating, headache, or confusion. Low blood sugars must be treated by consuming something high in sugar like juice or glucose tablets.
Blood Sugar Control and Diet
Since the food we eat directly effects our blood sugars, it is important to follow a healthy diet, complete with proteins, complex carbohydrates, and non-starchy vegetables. To keep your blood sugars level, try these following tips:
- Since carbohydrates have the greatest effect on blood sugars, count carbohydrate servings at meals.
- One serving is equivalent to 15 grams of carbohydrates. For example, one slice of bread is 15 grams of carbohydrates, or one serving.
- In preparation for bariatric surgery, try to limit yourself to 2-3 complex carbohydrate servings at meals.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, candy, soft drinks or sweets. These foods cause dramatic increases in blood sugars.
- Instead, choose complex carbohydrates—whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Incorporate lean protein sources and low fat dairy products into your diet.
- Following bariatric surgery, protein is your number one goal! Be sure to include it at every meal and snack.
- Eat consistently throughout the day—shoot for every three hours.
- This typically includes three meals plus two snacks.
- Drink plenty of hydrating, sugar free beverages.
- Aim for at least 64 ounces of water or sugar-free flavored water daily.
- Avoid sugary beverages, as simple sugars will cause a spike in blood sugars!
- Check the nutrition facts label on packaged products. You should always be looking at protein, but also look at total carbohydrates and dietary fiber content.
- Foods higher in dietary fiber help to keep blood sugars level.
- Get moving!
- Consistent exercise can also be helpful in keeping those blood sugars under control.
Blood sugar control is imperative diabetes management and making good nutrition choices directly affects it. Optimizing your diabetes and blood sugars prior to a bariatric procedure, not only reduces your risk for post-op complications, but also helps you to make lifestyle and behavior modifications that will set you up for success following bariatric surgery! This is what we strive for at My Bariatric Solutions!