I’m a nurse practitioner specialized in helping people with diabetes. When I started this work I expected it to become boring in a matter of months; what I’ve found is just the opposite. Four years on I realize that these are my people. I get them. I hope they get me.
The first thing I want to communicate to someone with diabetes is that there are only 4 things you can manage that will help improve your diabetes. No matter how many things you’ve heard you need to do each day from your neighbor with diabetes, your aunt, your dietician or Dr. Oz himself, there are only just 4 things.
1. Stress What’s stressing you? I don’t know, but I know it’s elevating your blood sugar and making it less predictable to manage. Maybe you’re worried about finances, or you have poor sleep. Perhaps you have an illness like strep throat, tooth decay, or IBS. Maybe you have marital discord or your kids are making you nuts. Seems we have no shortage of stress in our lives – some of which we can actively reduce and manage, some of which we just gotta learn to roll with.
2. Medication If you have diabetes and you need medication(s) to lower your blood sugar and thereby help to cut the horrific complications we all know can come with diabetes, for goodness sakes take your medications. If you hate the medications and/or cannot tolerate side effects you’re experiencing, talk to your healthcare provider and see if changes can be made. If your medications cost too much, talk to your healthcare provider or his/her medical assistant and ask what resources might be available to help you. If patients do not communicate with us, we assume that everything is hunky dory.
3. Physical activity You should get some. Really. The larger muscle groups of your legs and behind will use up some glucose traveling around in your bloodstream, but you must get up and move. Even 10-15 minutes of walking around after a meal benefits blood sugar results. I’m not saying you need to spend an hour at the gym 5 days a week – I’m just suggesting walking around indoors or outdoors to burn up some glucose.
4. Nutrition Okay, this is the part of the sermon where everybody starts to look down toward the floor, right? But it’s gotta be said, so I’m saying it. You check your blood sugar using your glucometer and the number is higher than you want…where did that glucose in your blood come from? It came from whatever you chose to eat or drink. But you’ve been told (thanks to the USDA, a government agency that subsidizes corn, wheat, and soybean farmers) that you need to eat 6-11 servings of carbohydrate every day according to the Food Guide Pyramid. If you’re using the My Plate method then 50% or more of each meal is grains/fruit/milk. This is overwhelming in a body that is working very hard to clear excess sugar from the bloodstream and why I suggest that people with diabetes (especially T2DM) follow a well-formulated low carb way of eating to stop elevating their blood sugar repeatedly all day and all evening.