Welcome to Diabetes Prevention Thursdays! Today, let’s talk about myths about diabetes. There are many myths that swirl about diabetes, especially Type 2. These myths range from what the condition actually is to what causes it, to how to treat it. Diabetes is a condition that needs to be taken seriously, but you need to know the facts about the condition in order to know how to manage it.
One of the myths often spread about Type 2 diabetes is that it has a singular, distinctive cause. It’s been said repeatedly by those who don’t understand the disease that the root cause for why people develop it is due to a consumption of sugar that’s too much for the body to handle.
This leads to another myth that people who have diabetes aren’t supposed to consume any sugar at all or that if they eliminate sugar, their condition will reverse itself. If a diabetic were to abstain from eating any sugar, that would mean not eating fruit, since it contains natural sugar.
Studies have proven that eating sugar, even consuming a lot of foods that are sugary, does not cause diabetes to develop by itself. Type 2 diabetes can develop as a result of several factors, including the person’s family medical history.
You can be predisposed to develop the disease simply based on whether or not your immediate relatives had it. Diabetes can also be caused by how a person lives. People who are overweight, carry a lot of weight around the abdomen, consistently eat more food than they need, and don’t exercise, are more likely to end up with diabetes.
But just because someone is overweight is not an automatic precursor for developing the disease. If there’s no family history of it, an overweight, non-exercising person is less likely to end up with diabetes than a slender person who exercises but has a strong family history of the disease.
Eating sweets – candy, cakes, cookies, etc., does not cause diabetes by itself. All foods are broken down by the body and turned into glucose. The difference between eating a candy bar and eating whole grains is how fast the body turns those carbs in the food into glucose.
The candy bar causes a spike in your blood glucose levels, while the whole grains are a slow acting and can reduce blood glucose spikes.
Another mistruth about the disease is that it’s a minor health issue. It’s a serious disease that can lead to major health issues such as a heart attack or stroke. It can cause kidney disease leading to dialysis. It can cause blindness, rashes, slow healing wounds, greater risks of inflammation and infection, and neuropathy – which in some cases can lead to amputation.
Some people may have the classic symptoms such as excessive thirst or frequent urination. But most people rarely experience those symptoms because it depends on their glucose levels.
You can have high glucose levels, but not high enough to cause those symptoms – and still have the disease. What you want to watch for is anything that’s unusual or different from your normal.
Listen to Your Body
Pay attention to how long it takes your body to heal after a cut or if your arm and fingers go numb. You may notice this right after waking and dismiss it as having slept wrong. Numbness of a single finger or numbness of the lips can be an early symptom of the disease. So can blurry vision and fatigue. Headaches can occur, but these are usually linked to high, as well as low, glucose levels.
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I really wanted to talk about this topic today because the overweight and obesity epidemic is at an all-time high! We are a fat society and it’s killing us prematurely. Not only do I truly believe that you have the power to lose weight to improve your health, but the science also agrees! You can adopt healthy lifestyle practices that improve your health and enrich your life, which can in turn improve the lives of those close to you. You have the power to break the cycle of obesity so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you lose weight, and maybe reverse some of your chronic diseases. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy.
Since weight management is very important in combatting chronic diseases, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor (*this scale cannot be used with a pacemaker or other implanted devices):
Physical activity (or exercise) can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several chronic diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, just to name a few. Physical activity can improve your mood, boost your immune system, and even help you maintain a healthy weight.
I often recommend yoga and resistance training for physical activity, but as you are aware, there are plenty of forms of “movement” that you can do! But for the basics, especially if you’re just getting started, yoga and resistance training are where I would start.
Yoga can be a great way to improve your strength and flexibility, manage your stress, improve your heart health, and lose weight! I recommend using a grounded yoga mat to connect yourself with the earth and reduce inflammation.
Resistance training is the mainstay for overall health. It not only has beneficial effects on reducing body fat, it also increases muscle size and strength. Here are some basic dumbbells/free weights that I recommend to everyone.
Another alternative for dumbbells/free weights are resistance bands. They are great for physical therapy, yoga, strength training, and excellent for traveling:
Remember, living a healthy lifestyle including eating a whole foods plant-based diet, regular physical activity, and reducing stress are the best ways to maintain a healthy weight. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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