Welcome to Diabetes Prevention Thursdays! Today, let’s talk about how diabetes can wear down your immune system.
Diabetics are less resistant than others when it comes to certain diseases. This is because type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease and chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. For some unknown reasons, your body’s cells attack the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. You can think of it as not having a key.
While this doesn’t present too many issues directly when it comes to your immune system, there are side effects which can severely affect your immune system. For example, diabetics are particularly at risk for infections, especially foot infections.
This is primarily due to the fact that diabetes causes nerve damage, also known as neuropathy, all over your body. However, the neuropathy is especially prevalent in your feet and legs.
Once the nerves are damaged, it becomes harder for your body to detect and fight infections once they’ve started. It’s also more difficult for your body to get infection-fighting cells to those parts of your body due to poor blood flow.
If left unchecked, these infections can, in severe cases, lead to amputation. It’s not just your feet that are at risk as a diabetic. Additionally, you may be at greater risk for yeast and urinary tract infections, and other bacterial infections.
This can lead to even greater complications, in that your body will be unable to use white blood cells to adequately fight off other diseases. There are a few ways that you can boost your immune system so that you’re not so prone to infection.
One important thing to note is that you have to continue eating healthy. A good diet and proper nutrient intake is the key to maintaining a healthy and functioning immune system.
For example, you need to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C, which has been found to be very effective when it comes to combating infection. While you can’t really overdose on it, too much of it can make you feel sick.
The recommended limit of it is around 2,000 mg per day, but you can take much less and still get the full immune system boosting effect. If you’re worried about getting a foot infection, then there are a few things that you can do to make sure you don’t get one.
For example, be sure to always wear socks and shoes if possible, as to avoid any chance of getting cuts or scrapes. Additionally, be sure to check your feet each night and make sure there are no open wounds on them before you go to bed. If you discover any open wounds, be sure to sanitize them and contact your doctor for more information.
It is very important that you keep your blood sugar under tight control to prevent nerve damage, infections, heart disease, and other damage to small blood vessels leading to erectile dysfunction, peripheral vascular disease, stroke, etc.
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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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