Pacific Wellness Institute Clinic: Bloor-Yorkville Toronto

Managing Diabetes Through Exercise and Diet

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States, over 29 million have been diagnosed with diabetes. Worldwide over 400 million people are living with diabetes.

Image of happy diabetic  female holding blood sugar meter after healthy diet and lifestyle

What are the Types of Diabetes?

There are three different types of diabetes including type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when insulin is not produced by the pancreas, or too little is produced. The reason some people develop type 1 diabetes is not fully understood. This type of diabetes usually develops during childhood, although it can occur a bit later.

Type 2 diabetes develops when your body become resistant to insulin or produces insufficient amounts. It is strongly associated with a sedentary lifestyle and being overweight.

The third type of diabetes occurs during pregnancy and is called gestational diabetes. It occurs when a woman become insulin resistant during pregnancy.

Complications of Diabetes

Diabetes can cause serious complications. If not managed effectively, blood sugar levels in the blood can become too high or too low. High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels in the body, which leads to a variety of problems including kidney damage, nerve damage and bone and joint problems. 

Additional complications of diabetes include loss of limbs and blindness. People with diabetes also have an increased risk of heart disease and strokes.

But low blood sugar levels can also lead to problems. When blood sugars become too low, it can lead to confusion, fainting and even be life-threatening. 

Fortunately, diabetes can be treated with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. In fact, diet and exercise can play a huge role in managing diabetes and preventing complications. In some cases, lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, can even reverse type 2 diabetes.

How Nutritional Counseling Can Help

Since diet plays a key role in managing diabetes, it’s essential to take the guess work out of what you should eat. That’s where nutritional counseling can help.

According to the American Diabetes Association, dietary guidelines should involve an individual approach to managing the condition. There are not set amounts of carbs, protein and fats a person with diabetes should eat. Several factors may determine a nutritional plan, such as a person’s weight and whether they have kidney disease and what medications are being taken.

Because individual needs vary, nutritional counseling is a must to develop an appropriate eating plan. A nutritional counselor may recommend specific grams of carbs or calories to eat. Nutritional counseling can also teach portion control, meal planning and how to choose healthy foods.  

Keep in mind, many variables go into choosing the best diet for a person with diabetes.  But there are some general guidelines that are usually recommended. For example, certain carbs are better than others for keeping blood sugar levels steady. Complex carbs, such as fruits, whole grains and vegetables contain fiber, which is slower to digest and does not cause big spikes in blood sugar.

Simple carbs do the opposite. They cause a rapid rise in blood sugar. Simple carbs may include foods in which the fiber was removed, such as white bread. Other simple carbohydrates that should be limited include fried foods, pasta and sweets, such as cakes, pies and pastries.

While proteins and fat do not affect blood sugar like carbs do, it’s still important to make healthy choices to keep blood sugar steady and maintain a healthy weight.

Exercise Guidelines  

Becoming and staying active is also important for people with diabetes. Staying active can help with weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight. It’s also good for your heart and can boost energy levels.

The type of activity you do is not as important as being consistent. The American Diabetes Association recommends people with diabetes get at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. It might take a little trial and error to find an activity you enjoy. But if you do, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.  Just be sure to incorporate both cardiovascular exercise and strength training.

Remember, if you can’t fit in 30 minutes, any exercise is better than none. Even if you can only incorporate 10 or 20 minutes of exercise in your day, it’s beneficial.

Staying active is not just about jogging, doing aerobics or swimming. Being more active also involves activities, such as walking the dog, gardening or running around with your kids. 

If you’re a rookie when it comes to exercise, get the green light from your doctor before you start. Always do a good warm-up first before working out harder. Listen to your body and don’t push yourself to the point of exhaustion.

Keep in mind, if you have type 1 diabetes, exercise can affect blood sugar levels. It’s important to match your insulin dose with what you eat and how much exercise you get.

Although living with diabetes can be challenging, it can be managed effectively. In some cases, diet and exercise are all that is needed to manage this condition. People with diabetes can take a proactive approach by working with their doctor and their naturopath or nutritional counselor to come up with a healthy eating and exercise plan. By managing your condition, you can prevent complications and improve your overall quality of life.