There are various different forms of Diabetes, and one form or another has affected over 400 million people worldwide.
For those with Type 2 Diabetes, it is possible to manage, reduce, and sometimes even cure the symptoms by following a strict low-carb diet and monitoring blood sugar to ensure it stays within the proper range.
The problem for diabetics is that they cannot properly process carbohydrates and sugars into the energy their body needs to function. In order to complete this process, they often need the assistance of medications. For some diabetics, their body simply does not produce any insulin on its own, and insulin is vital to this process of metabolizing carbohydrates. These are known as Type 1 Diabetics.
For others, their body makes insulin but does not process it properly or does not make enough of it, and they are known as Type 2 Diabetics. Some Type 2 Diabetics need medications to help their body process the insulin that they make more efficiently, while other can actually manage the disease by simply following the right diet. Some Type 2 Diabetics are able to cure themselves by losing weight and staying fit because their body just wasn’t making enough insulin to sustain the extra strain.
Tips on How To Prevent Diabetes
Let’s take a more in-depth look at how some Type 2 Diabetics can use low-carb dieting to manage or even cure their diabetes.
How Your Diet Affects Your Blood Sugar
Whenever you eat carbohydrates, the blood sugar levels in your body will begin to rise. The body then produces insulin in the pancreas which is used to process the glucose and allow it to enter the cells to be used for energy. For a healthy person without diabetes, this process is performed efficiently and blood sugar levels are kept within a safe and normal range. This is important because both low blood sugar levels and high blood sugar levels can be dangerous to the body.
While there are a handful of different forms of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes are by far the most common. While these used to be known as juvenile onset and adult onset diabetes respectively, it is now considered common for people to be diagnosed with either form at any age.
Type 1 Diabetes is caused by a complete loss of the ability for the pancreas to produce insulin, which occurs when an autoimmune disease attacks the pancreas’ beta cells. The beta cells are responsible for insulin production and once they are destroyed the body cannot make more of them.
Because this causes Type 1 Diabetics to be unable to create insulin, there is no way for their body to allow glucose to enter through the cell walls. In order to facilitate this process, Type 1 Diabetics must take insulin injections regularly to regular their blood sugar. Insulin goes to work as soon as it enters the body and is not stored, so a patient who requires injections must take one every time the body would normally produce insulin on its own. This amounts to multiple injections a day.
Type 2 Diabetes is caused when the body produces insulin of its own, but for some reason grows resistant to it or cannot produce enough to sustain its mass. This results in high blood sugar levels because the body does not have enough insulin to process all of the sugar it takes in. The body usually attempts to compensate on its own by producing more and more insulin, but in the end, it simply isn’t enough to account for the discrepancies.
Nutrients can be broken down into 3 major groups, known as macronutrients, and these are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Of the 3, carbohydrates have the greatest effect on blood sugar levels, because it is the body’s ability to process carbohydrates that is impaired by diabetes. The more carbohydrates you eat, the more insulin you need to be able to process it. Diabetics will need to take more medication to compensate depending on how large a dose of carbohydrates they consume.
Studies And Trials
Because of the direct relationship between diabetes and carbohydrates, many studies have shown that lowering your carb intake can be an effective measure in treating and managing diabetes. Placing diabetics on a low-carb diet was actually the only real treatment available before insulin was discovered in 1921. This treatment was of little use to Type 1 Diabetics, but many Type 2 Diabetics found it to be of great help.
Type 2 Diabetics who are faithful to their low-carb diet usually have very good results, especially when dealing with long-term results. One study followed a group of Type 2 Diabetics for 6 months after placing them on a low-carb diet. They also checked in on the group 3 years after the study to see how they were doing without observation. Those who had stuck with the diet and continued to follow it faithfully all had no trouble maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
There was a similar study among Type 1 Diabetics that lasted for 4 years. This study used a restricted carbohydrate diet and showed very similar results. There have been a few studies which restricted carb intake to a very low level of no more than 20 grams a day, and these studies observed not only improvements in blood sugar but also better weight management.
Overall, research seems to point to the best results being achieved when carbohydrates are limited to no more than 20% of the diet. For most healthy diets, this is around 70 grams to 90 grams a day.
Every diabetic responds to carbohydrate differently, so the best way to measure the right amounts, servings, and times for you is to check your blood sugar an hour or two after you eat.
Studies have shown that nerve damage can be caused by levels as low as 140 mg/dL. It’s best to check your blood sugar regularly to ensure you are within your optimal range and you are fully aware of how any given meal will affect you. For most diabetics, smaller servings of carbohydrates throughout the day provide better results than having a large amount all at once.
Making Good Food Choices
Starchy foods usually contain high amounts of carbohydrates, so it’s safe to say that you want to avoid eating too many starchy or sugary foods. Fiber content is never processed into glucose, so high-fiber foods are a very good choice. A few food choices that are high in fiber and also very nutrient-dense are vegetables, blueberries, nuts, and seeds. These are all sources of carbohydrates that bring a lot to the table.
When you are counting up the carbohydrate content in your food, there are two common methods available. If you subtract the carb content that is derived from fiber away from the total carbohydrates, you are left with what is known as the net carb count.
It is important for you to do research, talk with your doctor, and try both methods for yourself to decide whether your diabetes is managed better when using the net carb count or the total carb count to determine your carb intake. If you are counting net carbs for a cup of cauliflower, you will take the 3 carbs that are from fiber and subtract them from the total carb count of 5, leaving you with 2 net carbs.
There is a prebiotic fiber known as inulin that can help to maintain blood sugar levels and also improve other aspects of your health, so eating foods that contain inulin may be a good choice for you.
Xylitol, mannitol, and erithritol are sugar alcohols, which are often used as sweeteners in sugar-free products, especially candies. These can often raise blood sugar levels in diabetics. They can be found on nutritional labels under the total carbohydrates, and it is important not to subtract these from your carb count even if you are calculating based on net carbs.
Keeping to such a strict diet can often be disheartening, and you may often find yourself wanting to prepare a meal without having to count and measure every ingredient. Luckily, there are a good number of ingredients and snacks that diabetics can eat freely, and many of them are also great sources of protein. These include:
- Sour Cream
- Cream Cheese
- Olive Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Low-Starch Vegetables
The following foods should not be considered free foods, but can also be eaten in small amounts without having a significant effect on blood sugar:
- 85% Cocoa Dark Chocolate
- Chia Seeds
- Flax Seeds
- Cottage Cheese
- Greek Yogurt
- Butternut Squash
Our bodies produce less insulin as we begin to eat fewer carbs, which also causes the kidneys to release stores of sodium and water. You can replace the sodium lost this way with low-carb food choices like broth or olives, and you can also add some salt to your recipes as long as you aren’t on a low-sodium diet as well. If you have hypertension, congestive heart failure, or kidney disease, adding any more salt to your diet isn’t a great idea.
The foods that you need to be wary of are those that are higher in carb content and can increase your blood sugar. These should be either avoided or measured out carefully in small servings:
- Ice Cream
- Baked Goods
- Sweet Potatoes
- Fruit (Except For Berries)
- Beer & Most Other Alcohol
- Soda, Juice, And Other Sweet Drinks
If you are taking any sort of medication for your diabetes, especially insulin, you should never make major changes to your diet without discussing it with your doctor first. The dosage of these medications relies heavily on your carb intake and changing one without adjusting the other could be very dangerous to your health.
Anytime to lower the number of carbohydrates in your diet, your overall blood sugar levels are going to drop, as well. If you do not adjust your medication to account for this, you will experience more occurrences of hypoglycemia. However, it’s definitely worth taking the extra steps to adopt a low-carb diet if you aren’t already following one. Many patients with Type 2 Diabetes can stop taking their medication completely after they adopt a low-carb diet.
Following a strict diet isn’t the only thing you can do to help improve your blood sugar levels. Other methods include:
- Lowering Stress Levels
- Beginning A Routine Of Aerobic Exercise And Resistance Training
- Getting Enough Sleep
How To Prevent Type 2 Diabetes Final Words
Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes both come with a lot of risks and can cause many complications in your daily life. Following a low-carb diet can help to decrease these risks and improve your blood sugar levels regardless of which type of diabetes you currently have. For those with Type 2 Diabetes, many have been able to reduce the amount of medication they needed or even stop taking medication entirely after adopting a low-carb diet alongside a regular exercise program.
If you are diabetic and are considering making any changes to your medication, diet, or exercise routine, remember to talk to your doctor first. Diabetes is an intricate disease that can be affected by the smallest of changes in any of these areas, and your doctor will be able to help you make the right decisions and begin the transition safely.