Welcome to Diabetes Prevention Thursdays! Today, let’s talk about depression and diabetes. Whether you were diagnosed with diabetes just recently as an adult, or many years ago as a child, the side effects of diabetes are most likely still hitting you. These effects can strike every diabetic differently.
Some may have it worse for certain symptoms, some may have it better, and some may not experience them at all. One of the undeniable symptoms of diabetes is depression. While it doesn’t happen to every diabetic, many are in shock when diagnosed with diabetes, often developing some form of depression or depression-like symptoms afterward.
While these are harmful for all people, they can affect diabetics even worse due to a few common side effects. For example, those affected by depression often experience dramatic changes in their eating habits.
While some may begin to eat way more than they used to, others may experience the opposite, eating way less. These can both be very dangerous for diabetics who have to keep a consistent and well balanced diet.
Eating too little will result in you not getting enough nutrients like glucose, and when your body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs, you’ll end up having a worse immune system and the effects of diabetes can become further exaggerated.
This means you’ll be more prone to infections, disease, and more. On the flip side, eating too much, especially when you begin eating things like comfort foods, can raise your blood sugar numbers to dangerous levels.
Since your body cannot properly handle the sugar in your blood, it will continue to harm your system. This also exaggerates the symptoms of diabetes in that you’ll have increased levels of nerve damage and higher risk of heart attack or stroke.
Diabetes and depression form a harmful and vicious cycle that feeds upon itself. When you’re diagnosed with diabetes, you become depressed. When you’re depressed, the effects of diabetes get worse.
When the effects get worse, you get depressed, and when you get depressed, the effects get even worse, and so on. If you allow this cycle to continue without doing anything to change it, it can be fatal.
In order to break this dangerous cycle, you’ll need to learn to curb the effects of your diabetes and learn how to cope with it strategically. Everyone copes with diabetes differently, but you need to make sure you cope with it in a safe way that doesn’t hurt you or those around you.
How should we manage the 2 conditions?
- Diabetes self-management programs have been successful in helping people improve their sense of well-being while improving weight loss, fitness, and overall health.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (commonly known as CBT) have reported improvements in depression, which has resulted in better diabetes management.
- Medications for diabetes and depression, and lifestyle changes, including regular exercise and eating a whole-foods plant-based diet (WFPBD), can improve both conditions.
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I wanted to talk about this topic because it is absolutely possible to prevent and even reverse Type 2 Diabetes (but you cannot reverse Type 1). Yes, it’s possible! and emerging studies looking at lifestyle medicine and prevention support this! But I always tell my patients that you must be dedicated and diligent in adopting a healthy lifestyle to get the best results. You can create certain behaviors and practices that will not only enrich your life, but that you can pass on to your family, friends, and community, to help break the cycle of this chronic disease so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve your blood sugar levels, maybe reverse type 2 diabetes. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Tools For Diabetes Prevention and Monitoring
Blood Sugar Monitoring
As you know, I always stress the importance of taking control of your health. Monitoring your blood sugar levels is one of the best ways to do this. To do this, a single drop of blood is collected with disposable lancets and placed on a disposable test strip, which you insert into a home blood-sugar monitoring device, called a glucometer.
The common times for checking your blood sugar are when you first wake up (fasting), before a meal, 2 hours after a meal, and at bedtime; however, you should check your blood sugar as many times a day as your health care team suggests.
Monitoring your blood sugar level provides you and your doctors with important knowledge about how food, activity, medication, stress, and other elements might affect your blood sugar levels. This data will assist you and your doctor in developing a therapy plan that is suited to your demands.
Since weight management is very important in combatting chronic diseases such as diabetes, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor (*this scale cannot be used with a pacemaker or other implanted devices).
Physical activity (or exercise) can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several chronic diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, just to name a few. Physical activity actually improves insulin sensitivity. Physical activity can improve your mood, boost your immune system, and even help you maintain a healthy weight.
I often recommend yoga and resistance training for physical activity, but as you are aware, there are plenty of forms of “movement” that you can do! But for the basics, especially if you’re just getting started, yoga and resistance training are where I would start.
Yoga can be a great way to improve your strength and flexibility, manage your stress, improve your heart health, and lose weight! I recommend using a grounded yoga mat to connect yourself with the earth and reduce inflammation.
Resistance training is the mainstay for overall health. It not only has beneficial effects on reducing body fat, it also increases muscle size and strength. Here are some basic dumbbells/free weights that I recommend to everyone.
Remember, living a healthy lifestyle including eating a whole foods plant-based diet and regular physical activity are the best ways to prevent diabetes. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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