World Diabetes Day08 November 2018
Diabetes – it is unfortunately a disease we have come to know well and I’m sure we all know a friend or family member who suffers from it if not suffering ourselves. Diabetes is largely preventable through diet and lifestyle and yet we are facing a global epidemic where 425 million people are living with diabetes and it is predicted that 1 in 2 people are currently living with diabetes but are unaware (1). Today is World Diabetes Day, so I thought I would talk a little bit about what causes type 2 diabetes and what can be done to help prevent it.
There is a problem with blood sugar in type 2 diabetes, but type 2 diabetes is NOT a blood sugar problem. Elevated blood sugar levels are a symptom, but not the cause. So what is the cause, what started the fire in the first place? In most cases, it is something called insulin resistance. Insulin is a very important hormone that is released by the pancreas and one of its main functions is to keep the blood sugar tightly controlled in your body. A way to view insulin is a like a key. When we have raised blood sugar levels (e.g. after eating) the glucose (sugar) floats around in our blood until insulin comes along, slots into a key shaped hole (called the insulin receptor) and opens the door to allow the glucose to be absorbed into our cells. Insulin resistance is kind of like a key in a faulty lock. When there is a change in the structure of the key hole, the key doesn’t fit well anymore, making it more difficult to turn the key and unlock the door. As this progresses, the cell needs a lot more of the keys (insulin) going into key holes (insulin receptors) simultaneously to unlock the door and allow the glucose in. This process requires more insulin to be produced and the pancreas can keep up with this demand for a while meaning your blood sugar levels will stay in a healthy range. However, eventually the pancreas won’t be able to keep up causing excess glucose in the blood. This excess glucose starts to stick and damage cells (because sugar is sticky right) and is what can cause the severe symptoms associated with diabetes such as eye damage, kidney damage and heart disease.
So what causes insulin to be released and the development of insulin resistance? High sugar foods such as sweets, white carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, rice), ice cream, biscuits, etc. (you get the picture) are one of the main culprits associated with the development of diabetes. But also chronic stress, sleep deprivation* and imbalances in your gut bacteria.
*Interesting fact for you – one night of sleep deprivation can give you as much insulin resistance as 6 months on a junk food diet! (2)
What can be done to help prevent diabetes developing?
Reduce your consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates (think white) as much as possible and replace with an array of fruit, vegetable and complex carbohydrate (think brown e.g. brown bread, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat)
Up your fibre! This will help keep your blood sugar levels stable, make your gut bacteria happy, help keep things moving in your gut and may even help lower your cholesterol
Prioritise sleep! Try to aim for an 8 hour sleeping opportunity each night
Reduce stress as much as possible. Try to do something you love everyday even if its just for 10 minutes and try to incorporate stress management techniques throughout the day if your work is particularly stressful
Try to move for at least 30 minutes every day. Exercise has been shown to severely reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance so if you want to avoid diabetes – just move more!
If you would like to have a go at going sugar free – I’m launching a 7-day sugar free challenge which is completely free to join. Want to take part, here’s the link - https://www.facebook.com/groups/2227058964202264/