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Diabetes Basics: Management and treatment


Healthy eating should be a part of every diabetes management plan

Diabetes is a disease that currently affects over one million people across Australia, and the numbers are on the rise: in fact, diabetes is developing worldwide at epidemic rates. However, although diabetes is so widespread, many of us don’t have a good basic understanding of the disease or how to manage it.

Even if you don’t have diabetes yourself, you are likely to know someone who does, and it is good to be familiar with the basics. This two-part guide explains the basics of diabetes and diabetes management in easy-to-understand terms.

In this second part of the guide we look at how to manage diabetes, including issues like diet, exercise, medications, blood glucose regulation, and managing diabetes in special circumstances. For the first part of this guide, click on the link for ‘Diabetes Basics: Understanding the disease’ at the bottom of the page.

When managing diabetes, remember you don't need to do it alone. Establish a good relationship with your doctor, dietitian, and other medical professionals, as they can provide you with sound advice for your situation.



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Weight control

Type 2 diabetes occurs two to three times more often in overweight persons - particularly if they are inactive. Obesity causes the body cells to resist insulin and the resultant build up of glucose leads to diabetic symptoms. Weight loss, coupled with a healthy diet and regular exercise, often corrects this condition in Type 2 diabetes. By reducing weight, the need for oral anti-diabetic drugs can also be prevented or their dosage lessened. Over time, your body cells can lose their resistance and become sensitive once again to the effects of insulin. Insulin and blood glucose levels may normalise, and diabetes symptoms may disappear.

Weight control is also important for people with Type 1 diabetes as it contributes to a healthy lifestyle and longevity.

Using a food and exercise diary is an excellent way to keep on target with recommended diet and activity goals.


Good diet


Whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, good diet is essential for effective management. Eating a wide variety of foods with an emphasis on a balance of healthy fats, moderate protein, and high fibre, as well as plenty of water is recommended. Actual food quantities, as well as when you eat, are also vital to blood glucose control. Your dietitian can individualise a diet plan to suit your food preferences, lifestyle and health status.

Here are a few hints on foods, eating patterns and carbohydrate distribution to keep in mind:  

Foods

  • Eat foods rich in antioxidant vitamins C, E and beta-carotene (such as non-starchy vegetables and fresh fruit) as well as omega-3 fats (flaxseeds (linseeds), salmon, tuna, sardines), magnesium (dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts/seeds, beans) and chromium (wheat germ, liver). These foods may help to prevent long-term complications of diabetes, such as damage to small blood vessels and nerves.

  • Choose wholegrain breads, cereals and pasta, and eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes. These foods contain fibre and slow the release of glucose into your blood after a meal.

  • Limit foods that are very high in sugars, such as soft drinks, cordials, lollies. Small amounts of sugar as part of a meal may occasionally be okay, but you should discuss this with your dietitian. You may like to use artificial sweetners.

  • For circulation and heart health, limit foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol.

 Eating Patterns

  • Don't skip meals. If you take insulin or diabetes tablets, regular meals are important.
  • If on insulin, eat meals at the same time each day and eat a similar amount of food at each meal. This allows for a steady release and usage of insulin.
  • Eat smaller amounts of food more frequently for steadier, more even blood glucose levels.

Carbohydrate Distribution

  • An even carbohydrate distribution is very important in order to make best use of available insulin and to prevent extreme fluctuations in blood glucose levels.
  • Ask your doctor or dietitian to help you determine the level of calories and carbohydrate most appropriate to your weight, medication, and activity. Use regular blood glucose checks to provide feedback.

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