While diabetes undeniably comes with a variety of unfortunate side effects and symptoms, many are less severe than others. For example, you might have to change your eating habits or start exercising more.
More often than not, these are simply inconveniences, and don’t actually pose any serious threat. However, there are a few symptoms that do pose very real threats, and one of the more dangerous ones is nerve damage.
Also known as neuropathy, nerve damage occurs when the high levels of sugar in your blood damage the blood vessels running through your nerves, sometimes damaging them beyond repair and rendering them useless.
This can lead to many severe issues, from feet needing to be amputated, from infections, to permanent loss of vision. When you first begin to develop nerve damage, the first thing you’ll probably notice is a tingling sensation, especially in your feet, and numbness in that area.
These are only the signs of early-stage nerve damage, so please pay attention! This should also be a bit of a wake-up call that you need to get your diabetes under control by getting in contact with your doctor.
The levels of severity of nerve damage can vary. In some cases, the nerve damage is very small, showing no actual signs of damage through symptoms. Others may experience very minor symptoms, but nothing too dangerous.
However, some do experience very severe symptoms with nerve damage, and these symptoms can even be fatal. On the bright side, there are ways to minimize or prevent nerve damage in most cases.
A recent study has shown that by simply keeping your blood sugar in a normal range, your chances of developing any form of serious nerve damage decrease drastically. This means you’ll have to monitor your blood sugar levels regularly, administer insulin, and stick to a diabetes-friendly diet.
If you get your blood sugar levels to normal and you still continue to see signs of nerve damage, then it’s time to get your doctor involved. Unfortunately, it is possible that you can still show signs of nerve damage no matter what you do.
Severe nerve damage, such as gastroparesis, and/or severe nerve pain, may require the intervention of a doctor. Fortunately, in some cases of nerve damage, you’ll experience light damage that can be stopped with a few basic lifestyle changes.
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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.
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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