Welcome to Diabetes Prevention Thursdays! Today, let’s talk about the possible need for insulin after a diabetes diagnosis. One of the most infuriating parts about being diagnosed with diabetes is that you have to take on a list of new responsibilities, and one of the more feared ones is having to administer insulin to yourself. It just seems like such a hassle, but do you really even need to administer it?
The answer depends on a few different factors. Most importantly, which type of diabetes do you have? If you have type 2 diabetes, there are certain situations in which you may not always have to take insulin.
However, if you’re a type 1 diabetic, you will always have to take insulin, since type 1 diabetics cannot produce their own. However, if you’re a type 2 diabetic, you might be able to skip the syringe early on by simply maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular exercise and a healthy diet.
However, if you can’t do that, then you will need to make the switch to insulin. Unfortunately, the lifestyle changes alone only really work for type 2 diabetics who have only recently developed diabetes.
In its early stages, diabetes can be controlled through the healthy lifestyle, but as you get older, insulin may be required. It depends. This might sound a bit devastating, but fortunately, administering insulin to yourself these days is easier than it ever has been. There have been several occasions where a total lifestyle change has led many people to be weaned off of their insulin medications. Some only require anti-hypoglycemics taken in pill form, or they may even be able control their diabetes with diet and physical activity.
There are a few different methods which all sound a bit scary at first, but due to advances in medical technology, really aren’t too big of a deal. The classic method if administering insulin, though it’s losing popularity, is by syringe.
You would typically have to draw the insulin up into the syringe and use the needle to give yourself a shot, making sure to administer the right amount. This obviously would make most people uncomfortable and scared, but you can be assured that the needle doesn’t actually hurt that much.
The vastly more popular method which has been recently introduced is using insulin pens. These pens are like preloaded shots, and are much easier to use. By using preloaded cartridges for the doses, it makes it impossible to get the wrong amount in.The pens are way more comfortable to use, are less intimidating, and hurt far less. Some are disposable pens, only good for one use before needing to be thrown away, but others can use the cartridges, allowing you to keep using the same pen with different needles.
An insulin pump constantly gives you a small amount of insulin, called a “basal rate,” throughout the day and night to help control your blood sugar. When you need extra insulin to cover a meal or to correct high blood sugar, you tell the pump to give you a small dose of rapid-acting insulin.
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I wanted to talk about this topic because it is absolutely possible to prevent and even reverse Type 2 Diabetes (but you cannot reverse Type 1). Yes, it’s possible! and emerging studies looking at lifestyle medicine and prevention support this! But I always tell my patients that you must be dedicated and diligent in adopting a healthy lifestyle to get the best results. You can create certain behaviors and practices that will not only enrich your life, but that you can pass on to your family, friends, and community, to help break the cycle of this chronic disease 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 improve your blood sugar levels, maybe reverse type 2 diabetes. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Tools For Diabetes Prevention and Monitoring
Blood Sugar Monitoring
As you know, I always stress the importance of taking control of your health. Monitoring your blood sugar levels is one of the best ways to do this. To do this, a single drop of blood is collected with disposable lancets and placed on a disposable test strip, which you insert into a home blood-sugar monitoring device, called a glucometer.
The common times for checking your blood sugar are when you first wake up (fasting), before a meal, 2 hours after a meal, and at bedtime; however, you should check your blood sugar as many times a day as your health care team suggests.
Monitoring your blood sugar level provides you and your doctors with important knowledge about how food, activity, medication, stress, and other elements might affect your blood sugar levels. This data will assist you and your doctor in developing a therapy plan that is suited to your demands.
Since weight management is very important in combatting chronic diseases such as diabetes, 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 actually improves insulin sensitivity. 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.
Remember, living a healthy lifestyle including eating a whole foods plant-based diet and regular physical activity are the best ways to prevent diabetes. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use. 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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