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7 Natural Ways to Manage Diabetes

According to CDC research, at least 29 million people in the U.S., or 9.3 percent of all Americans, have diabetes. But another 86 million U.S. adults have pre-diabetes, which means that their high blood sugar may develop into full-blown diabetes without weight loss, exercise, and good nutrition.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder where one’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. But type 2 diabetes is a much more common metabolic disorder caused by high blood sugar. Medication and insulin therapy are commonly used to treat diabetes, but there are many natural ways to manage and treat the condition in daily life as well. This is especially true for people with type 2 diabetes, since its onset and symptoms are more related to lifestyle habits.

Photo credit: Alden Chadwick via Flickr

Drink More Water

Many people don’t drink enough water during the day, but hydration is particularly important for diabetics. This is because high blood sugar levels can cause the body to draw water from itself to flush excess glucose in the blood. Better hydration contributes to preventing insulin resistance. But stick to pure water because fruit juices, alcohol, and caffeinated beverages have a reverse effect and dehydrate the body.

Foods to Avoid

Nutrition makes a big difference no matter how healthy you are, but especially among diabetics. Unfortunately, you can’t just eat whatever you want whenever you have diabetes. First, phase refined sugars out of your diet because sugary foods and beverages cause rapid blood glucose spikes.

Grains and wheat products contain gluten and carbohydrates that are quickly broken down into sugar. Therefore, eliminating grains can help reduce intestinal inflammation and prevent blood sugar spikes. Diabetics should also avoid alcohol, especially beer and sweet liquors, because they drive up blood sugar levels too.

Foods to Eat More Of

But as you begin to steer clear of all of those foods, there are some delicious and healthy foods that you can add to your diet to replace them. Foods that are high in fiber are great for slowing down the body’s glucose absorption, and you can easily get fiber from nuts, seeds, berries, vegetables and even nopal cactus. Foods that are rich in the mineral chromium, like broccoli and green beans, can also help balance the body’s glucose levels. Other healthy choices for diabetics include foods with healthy fats, like fish and avocados. Turmeric and cinnamon are spices that have shown to help control blood sugar levels as well.

Photo credit: Lindsay Attaway via Flickr

Reduce Stress

High stress levels have been linked to diabetes, but bodily stress can be caused by much more than just a busy schedule. The body feels stress when it doesn’t get the nutrition it needs, with lack of sleep, due to infection, and with exposure to toxins. Stress has negative impacts on bodily hormones and weakens the body from fighting off disease. Try meditation, yoga, deep breathing, long walks, or even playing with your pet to reduce stress when it arises.

Limit Exposure to Toxins

Toxins are a big part of everyday life – in our air, water, cleaning products, and the foods we eat. Do your best to buy organic foods whenever possible, and avoid GMO foods and pre-packaged foods. Also, try making your own cleaning products at home with natural ingredients like vinegar and baking soda.

Exercise More

Pretty much all of us could stand to exercise a bit more than what we’re doing now. But this is an especially important goal for diabetics. Exercise helps the muscles use insulin properly and readjust insulin resistance back to healthy levels. Short workouts with high-intensity bursts is ideal for diabetics because it spurs weight loss and insulin balance better than longer, moderate workouts. Since diabetes and obesity often go hand-in-hand, exercise is the best medicine for weight control.

Monitor Your Condition

Since the progression of diabetes can fluctuate with changes in lifestyle habits, it’s important to monitor your condition on a daily basis. Get familiar with how to use a glucometer and test strips, and designate a notebook to keep track of your readings, diet, and exercise. A food and exercise log can help keep you accountable, especially if you share your results with someone else who cares about your health.

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