Here are 4 nutrients that promote insulin sensitivity and blood glucose balance.
Having good insulin sensitivity means glucose can move around the body and be used more efficiently. This reduces your risk of getting type 2 diabetes, and supports your overall health.
* These nutrients ARE NOT ‘cures’ of diabetes, they can be useful in managing glucose levels.
Cinnamon mimics insulin, meaning receptors are more sensitive and glucose can move into cells easily. This helps to prevent hyperglycaemia as less glucose remains in the bloodstream.
It is really easy to get in your diet, sprinkle some cinnamon powder in your porridge, coffee or on toast. Also use either powder or sticks in your recipes. Cinnamon is delicious in asian dishes, jerk chicken and chilli-con carnie!
Chromium is a mineral linked to glucose homeostasis in the body. It increases the activity of the enzyme tyrosine-kinase which increases the uptake of glucose into cells.
Broccoli, brazil nuts, apples, potatoes and lean meats are all very high in chromium!
Berberine is a phytochemical present in many plants. It has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity through receptor activity, as well as regulating the amount of insulin secreted from the pancreas (in non-type 1 diabetics).
Herbs that contain berberine include barberry, goldenseal, Oregon grape and turmeric.
4. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have been seen to amplify insulin sensitivity. This may be due to its structural role in cell membranes and insulin receptors. Omega-3 is also vital for brain and eye health, as well as reducing inflammation.
Have 3-4 portions of oily fish per week (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring). Vegetarian sources include 1 tablespoon of chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts.
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The menstrual cycle can make sugar levels harder to control. Keep reading to find out why, and my tips for diabetes control.
How does the menstrual cycle impact blood sugars
The majority of girls living with type 1 diabetes will notice that their blood sugars rise around 7-5 days before their period starts.
This is due to a rise in the hormone progesterone. Progesterone builds the lining of the uterus before it shed during the menses.
Progesterone increases blood glucose because it reduces insulin signalling (causing some insulin resistance), as well as increasing glucose release from the liver.
Blood sugars usually return back to normal within the first couple days of bleeding, due to the rise in oestrogen.
This is what happens to the majority of women, but some may find that their blood sugars are lower, or not impacted at all (this is quite rare).
How to support blood sugar balance during this phase
There are quite a few ways to support blood sugar balance during this time. We want to focus on promoting insulin sensitivity.
The first thing I recommend is to track your menstrual cycle. Take note of your cycle length (bleeding around every 28 days). Write a reminder in your diary a week to five days before so you expect to see your levels rise.
Now you will know why your blood sugars are being more difficult to control and you can implement some changes.
1.Adjust your insulin dose. – Look at your doses and slowly increase them if necessary. You’ll need to trial and error how much insulin you need, and whether increasing your basal or bolus works better for you.
*For example, a week before I’m expecting my period, I’ll increase all of my rapid doses by around 1-2 units. I have tried increasing my basal over a few days, but I find it sends me into a hypo. You have to juggle doses around, and stick to what works for you!
2. Watch your carbohydrate intake – Make sure you are paying extra attention to what type of carbs and how many carbs you are eating. Carb counting can come in very handy!
*For example, I notice if I eat more than 40-50g of carbs in one go, my sugars can get very stubborn. I also try to stick to complex carbs to avoid rapid blood sugar spikes.
3. Try to reduce stress levels – If we are stressed, the body will secret more cortisol, which can also cause blood glucose to rise. So prioritise time to rest and relax!
4. Walk! –Gentle forms of cardio will really help to promote insulin sensitivity. Go for a walk after your main meal in the evening. Walking outdoors also helps us to unwind and relax after a busy day.
If you have irregular periods it can be much harder to keep track of your sugar levels.
My best advice is to note down every time you have a period, and contact your doctor so they can help and advise you.
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The keto diet can help the management of type 2 diabetes. Make sure you have read The Keto Diet 101before reading the rest of this post!
How eating keto can impact blood glucose
Quite a lot of people living with type 2 are overweight, so eating a high fat diet might seem confusing and unhelpful.
The reason the keto diet can be useful in type 2 is because it causes our body to use our fat stores for energy, rather than glucose.
Eating high fat and reducing carbohydrate intake can help to promote weight loss and regulate blood sugar levels. It is important to distinguish between the types of fat you should be consuming if following the keto diet. Avoid having a diet high in red meat and processed/packaged foods. These foods contain high levels of saturated fat, which we do not want too much of.
Instead, prioritise eating extra virgin olive oil, avocado, nut butters, nuts and seeds and hummus for example.
Things to consider
Eating keto also promotes gluconeogenesis (when the body makes glucose from other sources), and can cause an increase in cortisol in some people. In other words, gluconeogenesis and high cortisol can also cause blood sugar levels to spike.
For this reason, eating keto can make little difference to sugar levels and can leave some people feeling fatigued. While the keto diet can be helpful for some, it is not a ‘cure all’ (no diet is!).
There are other diets that can help to drastically lower blood glucose in type 2 diabetes. This can include increasing high quality fats and proteins, and swapping to lower GI carbohydrates. (I.e. reducing carb intake, but not as drastically as when eating keto).
Trial and error is the best way to figure out what dietary model suits you best. Some people living with type 2 love the keto diet and reap the benefits. So giving it a go may be worth it.
If you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes, changing your diet is vital for your health and the management of your blood glucose levels. So chat to your doctor and see a nutritionist if you can. This is the best way to figure out which diet is best for you, and it is a decision you need to make.
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The Keto Diet is very popular at the moment, with people trying it for quick weight loss or the management of different diseases.
There is lots to know about this diet so I am writing multiple posts to provide you with everything you need to know!
What is the Keto Diet
The Keto Diet is when fat is the main food group consumed. Roughly 75% of calories consumed are from fat, 20% from protein, and only 5% from carbohydrates.
After a few days of eating keto, our body enters a state called ketosis. Ketosis is when our body is using fat as our main energy source, rather than carbohydrates. We begin to use ketones rather than glucose at a cellular level.
Our body also increases gluconeogeneis, which is when glucose is created from other sources (such as fat and protein).
Most people experience some symptoms for the first few days of eating keto. This can include fatigue, brain fog, cravings and GI symptoms. This is important to know if try eating keto.
Weight loss – eating keto can cause rapid weight loss. This is because we carry less water when we consume less carbohydrates. Furthermore, the body starts to use up our fat stores for energy.
Increasing brain function – The brain can use ketones more efficiently which can decrease brain fog, fatigue and increase concentration for some people.
Management of some diseases – Research has shown the keto diet can help to manage childhood epilepsy and type 2 diabetes (more to come on this on another post). Some research has also demonstrated benefits in some cancers, but more research is needed for us to know for sure.
Nutritional deficiencies –Removing carbohydrates for a long time can result in B vitamin and fibre deficiency. This can cause problems such as fatigue, brain fog, constipation, some skin conditions and many more.
Increasing ‘bad’ cholesterol –Some people turn to consuming more red meat and processed foods. These foods can increase our LDL cholesterol, potentially increasing the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Impacting kidney function, bone density and potentially increasing the risk of some cancers –This is also linked to food choices when eating keto. Eating a lot of processed foods and meats can be very detrimental to our health.
It’s hard to follow – It obviously takes a lot of will power to consistently eat keto. It can also limit socialising as most restaurants do not cater for the keto diet.
It’s not for everyone – There are people who swear by it, but not everyone feels the benefits of keto!No diet is a miracle cure for everyone, always remember that.
Before making any drastic decisions about your diet, always talk to a nutritionist and/or doctor. They will help you to weigh the pros and cons, and to ultimately make the best decision for your health.
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Insulin resistance is when cells across the body do not respond well to insulin. This means glucose remains in the bloodstream rather than moving into cells.
This can lead to elevated blood glucose, potentially resulting in pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
When we start to develop insulin resistance, the body starts to produce more inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines then amplify insulin resistance, showing a vicious cycle between the two.
Other markers of inflammation are often implicated in type 2 diabetes. This includes having high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart disease, kidney disease, neuropathy and retinopathy.
Simple ways to boost insulin sensitivity and decrease inflammation
1.Remove refined and processed sugars – The best place to start is to remove/decrease foods that cause blood sugars to spike rapidly. Processed sugars can also contribute towards increased cytokines, so be sure to stick to natural sugars.
2. Eat 8 portions of the rainbow everyday – The body needs a lot of antioxidants to overcome insulin resistance, and to prevent any damage to the body. So try to eat 8 handfuls of fresh fruit and veg everyday. Also try herbal teas (green tea is great). They are generally very high in antioxidants.
3. Get moving – Having a sedentary lifestyle is linked to the onset of insulin resistance, so be sure to get some movement in everyday. A great habit to get into is to walk after your evening meal. The exercise helps to increase insulin sensitivity, preventing a big glucose spike.
4. Eat fermented foods – A link has been found between insulin resistance and having less ‘good’ bacteria in the gut. Try and eat one fermented food everyday, such as greek yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir or kombucha. This will help to decrease inflammation and will aid healthy digestion.
5. Rest up – having a stable sleep pattern is vital for overall health and helping the body to heal. So try and get 8-10 hours of sleep and stick to your schedule for the majority!
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Here are 5 things to never say to a diabetic, and how to avoid being that patronising person.
1. ‘You need to stop eating sugar/carbs’
Don’t try and be the carb police, carbohydrates are vital for everyone including those living with diabetes.
People seem to get confused between types of diabetes, and how they are managed. Decreasing the amount of carbs and changing the type of carbs is more important. However, cutting out this food group will be detrimental and will likely not change sugar management.
Positive changes can be swapping to brown and wholegrain carb sources, and ensuring the plate is balanced with carbs, fats, protein and veggies.
So, please don’t be that person, this is not how diabetes works and cutting out carbs will not reverse it.
2. ‘Did you used to be fat‘
Being overweight is associated with the onset of type 2 diabetes, however it is not the only cause. Age, ethnicity, diet quality and activity are also major factors.
Furthermore, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, it is not caused by being overweight. Perfectly healthy individuals can get type 1 due to immune dysfunction.
We need to move away from associating the word ‘fat’ with diabetes. There is a link with some types of diabetes, but it creates a negative stigma around the disease. This is unhelpful for people living with type 1, as well as people trying to manage and reverse pre-diabetes and type 2.
3.‘All you have to do is inject some insulin right?’
Some people like to believe managing diabetes is that simple. Taking insulin can be difficult in the first place, from people having to move past fears of needles, painful injection sights and pumps going wrong (to name a few).
But what really makes this statement ridiculous is the amount of factors that impact how much insulin you need. There are quite literally hundreds of factors that impact blood glucose, and how much insulin is needed. Everything impacts your sugars, and every diabetic taking insulin has to consider each and every thing when deciding on a dose.
Sometimes the dose we calculate can be completely wrong when most days it would be perfect. That is because we cannot know everything that is going on in the body all the time, for example minor infections or hormonal fluctuations.
This statement is more than an oversimplification, it is an insult. Feel free to ask about insulin/ diabetes management, but never insinuate it is an easy task.
4. ‘Are you supposed to be eating that’
Simply, never question what anyone is eating. People who barely know me (or anything about living with diabetes) say this, and it can be an incredibly damaging statement.
It is none of your business and it is patronising. We can eat pretty much anything we want with the right prep.
So please, never say this, you are only making yourself look stupid. Perhaps a better way to approach this is to ask how we might adjust our insulin etc. But if you barely know the person, I wouldn’t say anything at all.
5.‘That’s the disease where you lose your legs and eye sight right?’
Some reading this will be shocked at this statement, but people say this all the time… Of course it is insensitive, everyone living with diabetes is aware of the potential complications. We don’t need to be reminded of such possibilities.
We also need to take this back to diabetes education. Having a diagnosis does not mean that it will lead to severe complications. Many people living with diabetes (regardless of the type) may get some degree of complication, for example background retinopathy is extremely common even if you have very well controlled diabetes. Living with diabetes is not a sentence to an unhealthy life.
This is also not a great way to start a conversation around diabetes, people living with diabetes can have a lot of anxiety around complications (which is normal). It is vital to know about the potential life changing consequences, but it should never be the only focus.
We can absolutely do anything with the correct support and resources. The focus should always be how to support each person individually, and maximising time in range.
One other point I’d like to make is that people living with diabetes do not want to constantly answer questions about it. Many of us are open and will talk about it, but if you are constantly bringing it up it can get annoying. Always ask appropriate questions so you can learn, but know when to stop and move onThere is so much more to people than the disease they are may be living with.
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Leaky gut syndrome is a hypothetical condition with symptoms being extremely common. Leaky gut can often cause a myriad of symptoms in the gut and across the body.
What is it?
The intestines have a barrier made up of cells which separates the lining of the gut and the bloodstream. Normally this layer of cells are tightly packed together, so we only absorb nutrients and not harmful substances.
Leaky gut syndrome is when the tight junctions between cells become loose, increasing absorption of harmful substances. This can result in toxins and bacteria leaking into the bloodstream, creating inflammation and symptoms across the body.
Symptoms can include:
Skin conditions e.g. acne and eczema
Due to such a variety of symptoms, people often do not know they have leaky gut.
Consequences of leaky gut syndrome
Inflammation created by leaky gut can be associated with:
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis)
Autoimmune conditions (e.g. Type 1 diabetes, Grave’s disease etc)
Preventing leaky gut syndrome
The following can be associated with leaky gut:
Certain medications (PPI’s)
Environmental toxin exposure
Dysbiosis (overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut)
The following steps can help to decrease the risk of getting leaky gut:
1.Remove foods that can trigger inflammation. This can include going gluten-free, decreasing alcohol and caffeine consumption.
2.Replace essential nutrients needed to support digestive health. This can be achieved by increasing fibre and prebiotic foods (garlic, onion, leek, asparagus, banana) to support digestion, absorption and elimination.
3. Reinoculate the gut with beneficial bacteria. Consuming fermented foods such as kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut and/or taking a prebiotic supplement can help to reinoculate the gut.
4.Repair the gut by consuming vital nutrients needed for the intestinal barrier. Increasing fresh fruit and vegetables for vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals can help to increase nutrients for the intestinal barrier.
5. Rebalance and decrease stress load. Chronic stress can decrease blood flow to the gut, linking to leaky gut. Use breathing techniques and relaxation methods to aid stress relief.
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Some people living with diabetes struggle with the morning phenomenon (AKA – high blood sugars in the morning). This can be confusing as we don’t expect our sugars to rise when we are sleeping and not eating.
There are a couple of different causes of the morning phenomenon, so here is everything you need to know, as well as how you can help to prevent it!
In the morning the body secretes cortisol and growth hormone. Both hormones cause blood sugar levels to rise to give us enough energy to wake up. Of course people living with diabetes either cannot make insulin, or have insulin resistance. Therefore too much sugar remains in the blood.
Morning spikes can cause fatigue as it interrupts energy delivery, so it is something we really want to prevent.
The best way to combat this is to look at your basal insulin. Take a look at your dose with your doctor and they can help to recommend a different dose, or perhaps a better time to take your basal insulin.
Another cause of the morning phenomenon is not having enough insulin in your blood to last the whole night. Of course this will result with higher sugar levels.
Again, taking a look at your basal insulin is the best place to start. If you take your basal in the morning it may not last until the following morning. You and your team may decide to increase your basal dose, or even consider basal splitting. This is when you take the basal in divided doses so you have enough background insulin 24/7.
The Somogyi effect
The Somogyi effect is when a low blood sugar in the night causes a rebound high blood sugar. The body is overcompensating for the low blood sugar, and releases too much sugar into the blood.
The best way to prevent the Somogyi effect is to prevent the hypo in the first place. So make sure you eat enough carbs with your evening meal and try to limit exercise late at night.Always check your sugars before going to sleep, and I advise having a snack if you are below 5.0mmol/L.
My final tip is to have a portioned hypo snack by your bedside. This will prevent you over-treating a hypo during the night.
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