“Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live in.” Jim Rohn
by Kathleen Richardson
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease all too familiar in our communities and families. Erie county has a higher incidence of diabetes than NYS and the United States. It is also the 5th leading cause of death in Erie county. African Americans in Erie county have double the hospital admission rates than their white counterparts for Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is an insidious disease that can lead to loss of vision, kidney disease, nerve damage and is a precursor to heart disease and stroke. We must begin to understand this disease and take the necessary steps to mitigate its negative effects and begin the journey to reverse it.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
When someone has Type 2 diabetes, their body becomes resistant to insulin’s effects. This causes glucose (sugar) to end up in the blood stream and this can overwhelm the kidneys.
How Does Insulin Work?
Our bodies break down all the food we eat into glucose (sugar). Glucose is the fuel all our cells need to function. Glucose needs insulin to get from the bloodstream into the cells. Every time you eat a meal, the pancreas releases insulin to transport glucose into our cells. But when someone is a Type 2 diabetic, the cells are resistant to insulin and the glucose is not transported to the cells and instead builds up in the bloodstream. This is one reason why diabetics may be constantly hungry. The fuel (glucose) is not getting into cells and the body doesn’t know that energy has been provided.
Over time, this extra glucose (sugar) can damage the blood vessels throughout the body, causing blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks and stroke. Blood sugar can also damage the nerves, which is known as neuropathy. Diabetics can also suffer from poor circulation which can lead to injuries that don’t heal properly and could result in amputations.
What Causes Insulin to Malfunction?
The accumulation of fat inside the cells of muscles and liver interferes with the action of insulin. The larger the fat cells become, the more resistant they may be to insulin.
Where Does the Fat Come From?
The fat inside muscles comes from our own fat stores and the fat we eat. Obesity is considered the number one risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, especially when the excess fat is carried around the abdomen.
What can I Do?
As a practicing holistic nutritionist, it is the belief that there is no separation between mind, body and spirit and one is not affected without impacting the others. All action is preceded by thought. It has been said that “we become what we think about”. The first step is to analyze our thought patterns concerning Type 2 diabetes. Do we have the mindset that because our family members suffered with diabetes, so must we? Have we mentally resigned ourselves to taking pills, insulin shots, or dealing with tingling and numbness the remainder of our lives? Or are we prepared to believe that, “given the right conditions the body will heal itself”. Do our mindsets reflect the belief that our bodies are temples and should be valued and respected by nourishing it with good food, drink and exercise. As it was written, “as a man thinketh, so is he”.
Exercise is a great way to better manage Type 2 diabetes. Physical activity helps insulin get glucose into your cells! You don’t have to go out and run a marathon, but a 20-30-minute daily walk can go a long way. Remember, “success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out”.
Obesity is the number one risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. Losing weight will release the excess fat stored around the liver and in cells and help insulin work better to help normalize blood glucose levels. (Next Week Conclusion: Eating a Healthy Diet)
4.Eat a healthful diet
The standard American diet which is the meat-sweet diet is wreaking havoc on our bodies. Gradually switching to a plant based diet that is high in fiber and low in fat will aid the pancreas, liver and kidneys in performing its functions more efficiently. Eating healthful also means eating 5-6 small meals every 2-3 hours. Regularly scheduled, balanced meals will provide a constant, steady, moderate flow of glucose to the bloodstream—so the body’s insulin response can keep up with the need to process the glucose. This will also prevent overeating at any one meal.
Living with Type 2 diabetes can be a struggle and deciding to embrace and implement these lifestyle changes can be an even greater struggle. But there is one thing to remember, “You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight”. Taking it one day and one meal at a time is all it takes.
Small Changes That Can Make A Big Difference
Food Swaps –
Instead of… Do More of:
Pop and Fruit Juice -Water
Coffee – Organic green and herbal teas
Artificial sweeteners (Equal, Splenda) – Organic cane sugar, raw honey, agave nectar
Chips – Popcorn
White rice – Brown and wild rice
White potatoes – Sweet potatoes
Canned fruit -Fresh or frozen fruit
Fried – Grilled or baked
Cow’s milk – Almond, cashew, coconut milk
White Bread – 100% Whole Grain Bread
• Eat a variety of fruit
• Eat more fresh and frozen fruit and less canned fruit and fruit juices
• Eat more dark green veggies like broccoli, spinach and other dark leafy greens
• Eat more orange vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes
• Eat more dry beans and peas like black beans and red beans
• Eat a variety of whole Grains like wheat, rye, barley, quinoa, and brown rice
• Drink water
• Homemade snacks that satisfy the sweet tooth
• White rice
• White bread
• Eat fried and fast foods often
• Frozen meals (high in sodium)
• Eat processed meats often (hot dogs, bacon, sausage, lunch meat)
• Packaged cakes, cookies, pies, candy
• Diet pop
Kathleen Richardson is a certified Holistic Nutritionist and certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant. She is owner of Beauty In A Barbell Nutrition, a Holistic Health centered company dedicated to the physical, mental and spiritual empowerment of the African American community through nutrition and exercise education.