Diet for Diabetes on World Diabetes Day

Two years ago I wrote that we have 300 million people with diabetes worldwide. Now, according to the IDF, that figure is 371 million and it’s increasing in every country in the world. Worryingly, half of people with diabetes don’t know they have it. My message today is for you to recognize the signs and symptoms of diabetes and to learn what diet and lifestyle changes help to prevent or reverse the disease.

Signs and symptoms
The common signs of diabetes are frequent urination, weight loss, lack of energy and excessive thirst. Other symptoms commonly experienced are a lack of interest and concentration, a tingling sensation or numbness in the hands or feet, blurred vision, frequent infections, slow healing wounds and vomiting and stomach pain. If you are experiencing some of these symptoms you should seek medical attention.

What are the risk factors?
The main driving factors are eating a high glycemic load (GL) diet, coupled with lack of exercise, chronic stress and not enough sleep, made worse by a family history of diabetes. All these lead to obesity, which is also exponentially on the increase. We literally have a ‘diabesity’ epidemic going on in every country that adopts a western style diet.

Five principles to reverse or prevent diabetes
1. Eat a low-GL diet. Hundreds of studies now prove that a low-GL diet helps to improve blood sugar balance, and makes you less insulin-resistant, reducing the need for medication. Essentially, it’s eating little and often; combining carbohydrate foods with protein and eating no more than 40 GLs a day. Find out everything you need to know about a low-GL diet for diabetes here

2. Eat liver friendly foods. A sluggish liver often lies behind the complications of diabetes. Foods that support liver function include cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts) rocket, watercress, mustard, onions and garlic. Antioxidant nutrients are also vital to a healthy functioning liver. As a rough guide, foods with strong colours, such as blueberries, tomatoes and cherries have the most antioxidants.

3. Exercise every day. This is a must if you have diabetes or insulin resistance. Exercise lowers insulin, helps to stabilise blood sugar and to burn fat. Just a ten minute brisk walk after a meal helps get glucose out of the blood into the cells that need it. Even if you are not significantly overweight, exercise is the final puzzle piece in the process of reversing diabetes. As your energy goes up on my low-GL diet, you’ll also find you want to exercise more.

4. Reduce your stress and improve your sleep. Stress isn’t just caused by external events – it’s also caused by changes in your blood sugar. Your body makes the stress hormone cortisol when your blood sugar goes too low. You become more edgy, irritable, grumpy and hungry, craving carbs or sugar. So, by stabilising your blood sugar level, you’ll naturally feel less stressed and you’ll sleep better as a result. Read about HeartMath to learn a technique to transform your reaction to stress.

5. Take supplements every day. To tip your body back towards good health, you need much larger amounts of certain nutrients than you’ll need once you are healthy. I recommend a high-strength multivitamin combined with certain ‘insulin-helpers’. Chromium (which improves your sensitivity to insulin) is an example, with dozens of studies confirming that it helps stabilise blood sugar. In some trial participants, it has normalised sugar levels completely. Chromium has been shown to dramatically decrease the need for medication in many diabetics – in some cases eliminating the need for drugs completely. The ideal intake for someone with diabetes is 600mcg a day. Cinnamon, which mimics insulin, is also a valuable addition to your diet. Try having half a teaspoon daily, alternatively supplement a cinnamon extract – you’ll need the equivalent of about 500mg of cinnamon. Vitamin C is also important for diabetics. A study in Archives of Internal Medicine of over 21,000 people over a 12 year period concluded that having a high level of vitamin C in your blood, reduces your risk of diabetes by 62%. The optimal blood level for diabetes reduction is achieved by supplementing 1,000mg a day and eating lots of fruit and vegetables.

Bear in mind that if you are on medication your need for it may decrease when you follow these principles so it’s important to monitor your blood sugar levels and inform your primary care practitioner.

You can find detailed information and a complete strategy to making the change to a longer, healthier life in my book Say No to Diabetes which is on special offer right now and on my website here.