wheat growing in field in countryside
Diet, Education on Diabetes

Gluten – what is the big deal?

Gluten is a very controversial topic, with ‘experts’ claiming we have to quit gluten in order to be healthy. So here is everything you need to know about gluten, and whether or not you should consider going gluten free!

What is it?

sources of gluten

Gluten is a storage protein found in certain grains.

It is essentially is what makes foods stretchy and expand. Sometimes, gluten can be linked to causing leaky gut syndrome due to its expanding properties.

Leaky gut syndrome is when cells in the gut lining lose tightness, and allow fragments of food to leak into the blood. This is linked to a variety of health conditions, including autoimmune diseases.

Grains that contain gluten include:

  • Wheat
  • Spelt
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Malt
  • Wheat starch

E.g. Pasta, bread, flour, cakes, biscuits, pastry and ready-made sauces.

Coeliac’s disease

Coeliac’s disease is where the body attacks the lining of the digestive tract in response to gluten consumption.

This creates some severe symptoms, including:

  • Severe or occasional diarrhoea, constipation, bloating or wind
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Recurrent stomach pain or cramping
  • Iron, B12 or B9 (folate) deficiency
  • Anaemia
  • Tiredness
  • Mouth ulcers
gluten free products

If individuals with coeliac’s continue to consume gluten, damage to the digestive tract will become so severe, nutrients will not be absorbed. This can result in multiple nutrient deficiencies which can lead to further discomfort and the onset of other health conditions.

Therefore, it is imperative that coeliac’s sufferers completely avoid gluten to stay healthy.

Gluten intolerance (non-coeliac)

Some people can have what we call intolerance or sensitivity. This is essentially when consuming gluten causes a variety of symptoms, without the presence of antibodies or long-term damage. The reason why is not fully known, but it could be linked to leaky gut syndrome.

Symptoms of sensitivity include: (these are usually less severe than symptoms in coeliac’s)

  • Bloating
  • Excessive flatulence
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Nausea
  • Brain fog/ poor concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches

Some people also benefit from quitting gluten with health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and chronic skin conditions like eczema. Research suggests that gluten can make inflammation worse in the body, and can increase autoantibodies seen in some autoimmune conditions.

If you do not have any digestive issues or health conditions, there is essentially no point in quitting gluten. Individuals can be perfectly healthy consuming gluten, so please do not go down the route of thinking cutting out certain food groups makes you ‘healthy’.

My general advice, is if you have any digestive issues or unexplained symptoms, go and see your doctor and consider quitting gluten for 6-8 weeks to see if this relieves symptoms. If it does not relieve symptoms, you are fine to continue consuming gluten.

Gluten and type 1 diabetes

type 1 diabetes and gluten

Interestingly, type 1 diabetes and coeliac’s disease seem to be linked. Many people living with type 1 also have coeliac’s.

Research has shown that the autoantibodies (antibodies that cause the onset of autoimmune diseases) seen in type 1 diabetes are very similar to those seen in coeliac’s.

So if you are living with type 1 diabetes, I would absolutely recommend asking your doctor for a coeliac’s blood test.

If this comes back negative, but you suffer from any of the gluten sensitivity symptoms listed above, I would definitely quitting gluten for 6-8 weeks (the longer the better) to see if this helps.

Thank you for reading gluten – what is the big deal? I really hope you learnt something new and have a better understanding of gluten! Be sure to subscribe and follow me on Instagram!

If you liked this post, be sure to check out Autoimmune conditions linked with type 1 diabetes and Keeping your feet healthy with diabetes!

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assorted wine bottles
Education on Diabetes, Top Tips

Top tips on alcohol consumption and diabetes control!

Sometimes it can be hard for people living with diabetes to know what to do and how to adjust lifestyle around drinking alcohol.

Paying attention to sugar levels in social settings can feel tedious and annoying, but it is definitely something we need to pay attention to. If we ignore sugar levels while drinking alcohol, some awful hyper’s and hypo’s can occur.

Keep reading for my top tips on alcohol consumption and diabetes control. These are easy adjustments you can make to ensure your sugar levels don’t go too crazy!

1. Choose beverages lower in sugar

  • In general, I would always recommend choosing alcoholic drinks that are lower in sugar for general health reasons.
  • As a diabetic myself, I find drinking beverages lower in sugar helps to prevent big glucose spikes, followed by a rollercoaster of sugar level readings after.
  • So, always try and choose sugar-free mixers, and sweeten with fresh lime or lemon juice, or sugar-free syrups.

2. Start with drinks high in sugar, then swap to drinks with less sugar

  • This is a trick I always use when I am having a few drinks!
  • I start with having a drink higher in sugar, firstly because I love a pint! And secondly, because this can help to prevent a hypo in the hours after consuming alcohol.
  • I then recommend swapping to beverages lower in sugar to prevent a hyper, and to keep your sugar levels as balanced as possible.
  • Furthermore, if you have a CGM or Flash glucose monitor, make use of it! Have a look at your sugar level trends when you drink certain alcoholic drinks to see how you can prepare, and what is best for you to drink.

3. Do not over-compensate your insulin dose

  • This is the most important tip to pay attention to because alcohol can cause hypo’s hours after consumption.
  • This is because your body needs to use sugar in order to get rid of alcohol from the body. If too much insulin is present, a big drop in glucose can occur. Having a hypo whilst under the influence can be particularly dangerous, so it is vital to prepare before and after drinking.
  • I would also recommend having a snack or meal before drinking. If you tend to have hypo’s after drinking, consider reducing your insulin dose with your meal, or eat slightly more carbohydrates.
  • If you’re having a hyper while drinking alcohol, drink lots of water and inject a small correction dose so sugar levels come down slowly.

4. Always have a snack after drinking alcohol

  • As well as having food before drinking, always make sure you have a snack after consuming alcohol. This should be a balanced snack with a source of carbohydrate, protein and fat.
sandwich snack
  • I know this can be tricky when you have had a few drinks, so I recommend preparing a snack before you go out.
  • Some examples of snacks I love to have after drinking are peanut butter on toast, a chicken salad sandwich or Weetabix with peanut butter.
  • Finally, put a hypo snack next to the bed, so if you drop overnight, you can have this snack immediately to get your sugars back in range.

5. Never neglect your health for the sake of others

  • It is absolutely fine to let go sometimes and have a treat, but please don’t fall into the routine of not checking your sugar levels due to embarrassment.
supportive friends
  • It is so easy for people living with diabetes to feel out of place in social settings, but you are not!
  • Surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, and never make you feel uncomfortable with looking after yourself.
  • If you are anxious about checking your levels, or injecting in front of other people, I highly recommend speaking to somebody about it. I have been through stages like this, and sharing your anxiety with others can really help. You could bring this up in a checkup appointment with your team, or with another person who is living with diabetes themselves.

Thank you for reading my top tips on alcohol consumption and diabetes control! I hope you take something away and try out some of my tips! Let me know what you found useful, and make sure you are subscribed for more content!

If you liked this post, be sure to read How to stay on track this Christmas! and 5 foods diabetics should be eating! and drop me a follow on Instagram !

Top Tips

5 Easy ways to lower your HbA1c!

When working to decrease your HbA1c, some small changes to your lifestyle can actually make quite a big difference!

HbA1c is the measure of glucose attached to haemoglobin in your red blood cells. To see what the ranges of HbA1c are click here.

Don’t underestimate the power of these small changes before you try them! Implement these 5 factors and see how your glucose readings change.

1. Move more!

  • The thought of exercise can be so daunting! But the key point of exercise is to do something that you enjoy, and something you can easily implement into your daily routine.
  • For some this might be a walk or run every morning, going to the gym, or doing a yoga session.
  • It is important to realise that exercise is different for everyone. Do the form of exercise you enjoy and that you can fit into your routine. Exercise is something you should be prioritising because it is beneficial physically and mentally!
  • Also remember that there are activities you can do that are not necessarily classed as ‘exercise’, for example taking your kids to the park, taking the dog for a walk or activities such as gardening and cleaning.

2. Swap to brown/wholemeal carbs

  • There is a lot of debate about whether eating white carbs is bad for you, such as white pasta, bread, rice and so on. The general answer is no, if you are not overeating.
  • BUT for people living with diabetes, swapping to brown and wholemeal carbs can be very beneficial.
  • This is because brown carbs have a more complex structure, containing more fibre, vitamins and minerals. This means it will take the body longer to digest the glucose, meaning there will not be such a sudden spike in glucose readings.
  • Making this swap along with correct carbohydrate counting should really make a difference to your levels after eating. It’s as simple as picking up a wholewheat bag of pasta in the supermarket rather than white!
  • Some examples of brown carbs include: brown pasta, brown rice, brown bread, rolled oats, quinoa, legumes and wholegrain couscous.

3. Decrease your stress load

  • If you are constantly feeling stressed, your cortisol levels are going to be increased. High levels of cortisol will also cause your glucose levels to increase.
  • Therefore, it vital to decrease your stress load. Find cathartic activities that you enjoy and make sure you take time out of your day to prioritise yourself and your feelings.

4. Drink more water

  • Drinking adequate water is essential for bodily functions. It is also essential for dealing with high glucose levels. Water helps the kidneys to filter excess glucose out of the blood stream.
  • If you are not drinking enough water, your body will draw water from other sources, causing further dehydration.
  • Aim to drink around 2 litres of water per day, and sip water throughout exercise.
  • If you struggle with drinking enough water, get yourself a measured water bottle, and add lemon/lime or other fruits to make it taste more fresh.

5. Get adequate sleep

  • Getting sufficient sleep is so important, the amount of sleep you get will directly impact your day. Sufficient sleep makes you feel more energised, more productive and less stressed.
  • Being really tired can also increase your appetite to compensate for lost sleep, which means you are more likely to binge eat and do less activity, which will cause glucose levels to rise.
  • Start by going to bed 5 minutes earlier, and do this every night so your body can adjust to your new bedtime.

And just a quick reminder, having a good HbA1c reading is important, but it is not something to define yourself from. Every person living with diabetes has good days and bad days. Always remember to consider your health mentally and physically.

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