Monday, June 21, 2010

Maintaining Blood Sugar...

It’s the Holy Grail for people with diabetes – checking your blood sugar and seeing the numbers right in line. Can lifestyle changes help? Yes, says Jill Weisenberger, Lifescript’s nutrition expert, and other top diabetes doctors. Check out their 10 tips to lower your blood glucose…

If you have diabetes, lowering blood sugar isn’t just a short-term goal: Doctors believe that it consistently helps prevent or delay diabetes complications, including kidney, eye and nerve diseases.

Most of these diseases require 10 or more years to develop, but “it's still worth aggressively managing blood sugar levels to slow the onset of complications,” says Edward Geehr, M.D., Lifescript Chief Medical Officer.

Here are 10 tips to keep your readings on target:

1. Spread out your meals.
“I always tell my patients to spread their food out over the day, keeping carbohydrates consistent,” says Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D., C.D.E., and Lifescript’s nutrition expert. “Don’t eat small meals so you can save up for a big dinner.”

Avoid fasting or skipping meals, even on weekends or other days when your schedule is hectic. It’ll give your body enough time to regulate blood sugar levels and keep them even.

How many carbs per meal are ideal?

“It’s tailored to each individual,” says Weisenberger, who factors in medication, hormones and other key information for each patient.

A typical starting point is 45 grams per meal for women and 60 grams for men (15 grams per snack). From there, make adjustments according to your blood glucose readings.

2. Eat more food with resistant starch.
Resistant starch — found in some potatoes and some beans — bypasses the small intestine, gets metabolized by the good bacteria and then behaves as dietary fiber in the large intestine, Weisenberger says.

“Even after your next meal, your blood sugar will be lower,” she says. “It’s called the ‘second-meal effect.’”

You’ll find it in a potato that has been baked and then cooled, but not in a warm potato. So a half-cup of potato salad will bring on better blood sugar readings than the same amount of warm mashed potatoes.

Black and kidney beans also have natural resistant starch.

3. Bring on the beans.
Can something as simple and inexpensive as beans really help with diabetes control?

Yes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Beans digest slowly, resulting in only a small rise in blood glucose levels. Several studies have shown that eating 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 cups of cooked beans daily improves diabetes control.

Beans also are an excellent source of folate, which is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, a common diabetes complication. Eating 1-3 cups of cooked beans a day will lower total cholesterol 5%-19%.

Sneak beans in soups and salads, or eat them as a side dish.

But introduce them gradually into your diet, the ADA says. Chew thoroughly, drink plenty of liquids to aid digestion and take enzyme products such as “Beano” to avoid gastrointestinal distress.

For convenience, go for canned beans, which require less preparation time and are as healthy as dried.

4. Cook up cactus.
The paddle-shaped nopal cactus (also known as “prickly pear”) slows carbohydrate absorption and lowers post-meal blood glucose readings in people with type 2 diabetes, according to some studies. In Mexico, nopal is used for treating the disease.

According to a 2007 article in the journal Diabetes Care, the cactus is very high in soluable fiber, and, when eaten with other foods, slows the rate at which sugar from the meal enters the bloodstream.

Nopal, popular in central Mexico, is boiled, grilled, fried or mashed and added to soups and stews.

It’s available in supplements, but be careful: Some people experience gastrointestinal distress, and it hasn’t been studied extensively in the U.S. as an oral extract. Always talk to your doctor before trying this or any other supplement.

5. Get more sleep.
Poor or limited sleep affects body chemistry and getting more shut-eye helps with blood sugar control, Weisenberger says.

People who get fewer than 6 hours a night consistently are 4.5 times more likely to get abnormal blood sugar readings than those who slept longer, according to a study by the University at Buffalo, N.Y. Adults typically need 7-9 hours a night.

Lack of sleep is also linked with other health conditions, including heart disease, stroke and cancer.

More than a third of people with type 2 diabetes have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), where a collapsed airway causes a person to repeatedly stop breathing during sleep, according to James Herdegen, M.D., director for Sleep and Ventilatory Disorders at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

“Studies have demonstrated that type 2 diabetics who also suffer from OSA can dramatically reduce their glucose levels by getting treatment,” he says.

OSA can be treated with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a mask worn during sleep that sends air through the airway to keep it from collapsing.

Check out more sleep disorders here.

6. Lose a little weight.
Carrying around those extra pounds causes insulin resistance, keeping the blood sugar lowering hormone from working.

Your weight-loss goals don’t have to be enormous either, Weisenberger says. Some of her patients have seen improvements in blood glucose readings with only a 5-pound loss.

7. Manage stress.
When you’re stressed out, your body creates a lot of stored energy – glucose and fat – so cells can use it when called into action.

In diabetics, this extra energy doesn't make it to the cells, so glucose piles up in the blood and results in high readings, according to the ADA.

How can you burn off tension?

Yoga and meditation have helped lower blood sugar levels in her patients, Weisenberger says.

The ADA also recommends creating your own stress-relieving routines: talking with a supportive friend, taking a warm bath or shower, watching an enjoyable movie, listening to music or taking a walk.

8. Get moving.
Exercise normalizes blood glucose in people with type 2 diabetes (but not type 1).

"In type 2, exercise helps improve insulin resistance,” says James Beckerman, a Portland, Oregon cardiologist. “The end result is lower blood sugars.”

But exercise is important for both types because it helps prevent heart attack, stroke or diminished blood flow to the legs.

Because exercise can immediately reduce blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics, work with your health care team to determine the right amount of activity and timing for insulin.

A combination of resistance and aerobic exercise may be the most beneficial, Beckerman says.

9. Fidget more.
That’s right. It’s OK if you can’t sit still.

Mayo Clinic researchers studied how thin people burn calories and found that they have more “spurts” of daily activity, such as fidgeting, than heavier people. Just how much? Up to 350 more calories per day.

Add these short bursts of activity to your daily routine:

Park your car at the back of the lot and walk to the store’s door.

Return your grocery shopping cart to the supermarket door.

Walk to your neighbor’s house instead of calling her.

Walk your outgoing mail to a farther mailbox.

Do some sit-ups or pushups during TV commercials.

10. Eat breakfast.
We’ve all heard that breakfast is the day’s most important meal, and this is especially true for those who have diabetes. After fasting 8-12 hours, your body needs food to balance blood sugar levels and injected insulin from the previous night.

Besides, eating breakfast can help overweight people with type 2 diabetes shed extra pounds.

Of the 4,000 participants In the National Weight Control Registry who maintained at least a 30-pound weight loss for about 5.5 years, almost all said they ate breakfast daily.

So what’s the best breakfast? One with carbohydrate, protein and fiber, according to the ADA.

Good options are cereal or an English muffin, low-fat milk or yogurt and fruit. (Save high-fat foods, such as bacon, sausage and eggs, for special occasions.)

And think beyond the breakfast box: Leftover chicken breast with fruit is just fine too, the ADA says.

What if you're not usually hungry for breakfast? Then make your previous night’s meal smaller, so you’ll wake up hungry, the ADA says. It will spread your carbohydrates more evenly throughout the day, leading to better blood-sugar control.

Still unsure?
For more advice, speak to a diabetes educator or other member of your health care team and visit the ADA Web site at

How Much Do You Know About Diabetes?
In the United States alone, 23.6 million people have diabetes. And 5.6 million of them don’t even know it. Unfortunately, misinformation about diabetes is rampant – and mixing up the facts about this disease can have dire consequences. Are you confused about diabetes? Test your knowledge with our diabetes quiz.

Check out Health Bistro for more healthy food for thought. See what Lifescript editors are talking about and get the skinny on latest news. Share it with your friends (it’s free to sign up!), and bookmark it so you don’t miss a single juicy post!

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No Login Required. Showing 1-8 of 17 comments
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Expand ⇗GuestGuest at 15 minutes ago Number 8 is a bit misleading. You're excluding type 1 and being a type 1 for nearly 44 years, exercise after eating normalizes my blood sugar incredibly. I take no bolus for breakfast which usually requires 2.5 units. I just came home with 111 blood sugar after 50 minutes of biking. Please encourage exercise for normalizing blood sugars even in type 1.

Optional: Login Sign-inGuest at 05/18/2010 02:07 PM article is really helpful.

Optional: Login Sign-inGuest at 12/10/2009 10:08 PM This may sound like I'm looking for excuses, but here goes. Both my wife & myself are retired. Been so for over three years now. Get up in the morning, then after gulping down nomerous prescribed pills & a shot of Insulin, a good cup of hot tea and I'm ready to go. Never have been a breakfast person.

We don't consume anything but water until the evening meal, which is not that large. This routine has been consistant since retirement. Yet I still weigh over 300#. I don't eat sweets or candy, don'y snack in between meals, and at my last doctors visit, which is every month, I gained 7#'s. Granted, I don't keep track of my meneral intake, but one would think I could at least maintain a consistant weight.

My insulin input is consistant, my sugar level is consistant, very seldom over 150. If anyone has any suggestions.
(Edited by a moderator)

Optional: Login Sign-inGuest at 06/16/2010 07:20 AM It looks like you need to eat MORE. The human body goes into starvation mode if it doesn't get enough calories. I once heard the illustration that our bodies' metabolism is like a fire. You can bank it overnight, and it still burns, but only slightly. You have to give it more fuel for the fire to rev up again. That is why breakfast is important. Then you can exercise to keep your metabolism going.

Optional: Login Sign-inGuest at 05/12/2010 11:27 AM walking is the best thing to may need a list of low carb foods to eat and snack on, i,m the same way, i gain wht, and i tend to sleep after i eat,for me it means i ate to many carbs,i cut down on carbs and i stay awake all day!!! with energy !!! good luck!!

Optional: Login Sign-inGuest at 12/30/2009 11:17 AM This is to the person over 300ibs. You need to eat small healthy balanced meals and snacks throughout the day including the fluids. One meal a day slows down the metabolism. I have something every 2 hours or so, but adjust to your body's needs. Begin exercising...even walking a few minutes a day and increasing it more each day will help also.

Optional: Login Sign-inGuest at 12/05/2009 06:19 PM I thought I knew it all. I am a type 2 diabetic and have been since 1990. I do my best already to follow all 10 tips. Thanks for this valuable info. I know people I can pass it on to. I love cactus but don't eat too often. It grows in my back yard. I do eat the prickley fruit, so yummy. This is definitely a keeper.

Optional: Login Sign-inGuest at 12/05/2009 09:02 AM Poor. No real help. Will have a heart attack eating all those beans. I do great eating baby spinach and blueberries.

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Guest at 12/04/2009 11:10 AM To the guest # 1 commenter who loses interest " because of your spread out presentation' a hint: click the print button and the whole article will appear in a contracted form and can be read in a straight form and you don't even have to print it.

Optional: Login Sign-inGuest at 12/04/2009 09:29 AM I realize that you are trying to maximize your ad explosure, but I lose interest because of your spread out presentation.

Optional: Login Sign-inExpand ⇗GuestGuest at 12/04/2009 06:09 AM thankyou for this information, I have type 2 and alway looking for helpful hints . The potatoe cold as apossed to hot is great. I dont eat potatoes because I thought it would raise my blood sugar to quickly. I knew about beans being good for you and now looking for some lowfat kidney bean salad receips. Thanks again you can never get enough help with diabetes.

Optional: Login Sign-inGuest at 12/04/2009 04:56 AM I use Cinnamon and Alpha LIpoiec Acid to control sugar metabolism. My sister was able to stop taking glucophage when using this regimen. My AIC dropped from 6.8 to 5.2 in one year. Lost some weight and although I can't exercise as much as I would like due to arthritic feet and knees, I feel much improved.

1 comment:

angies list said...

Wow - these are awesome tips. Bathrooms are my least favorite cleaning task, and you name some great ways to make it easier.