Monday, December 26, 2011

Whole Grain Reaffirmed As Effective Diabetes Fighter

Whole grains can reduce the risk of diabetes, and that medical notion was upheld in a recent scientific study from a major University. We've known the benefits of whole grains for a few decades. The fiber aids digestion, and helps the digestive system assimilate carbohydrates properly. The germ from whole grains is an abundant source of nutrients like phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. A professional nutrition publication authored by a group of professors from Harvard University reinforces how effective whole grains are at reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The findings report on a study of more than 100,000 nurses who were surveyed on a number of health measures every two years. When they tallied the statistics, researchers found that the nurses who ate whole grain foods high in bran had about half the risk of developing diabetes. Consuming large amounts of whole grain foods high in germ content appeard to reduce the risk of developing diabetes by about 30 percent in the study participants.

Not only do whole grains help fend off diabetes, but they also reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. One frequently overlooked benefit of high-fiber diets is the stress reduction they. The digestive system is one of the most active systems in your body. Relieving stress within your stomach and intestines often has a noticable effect on a person's emotional well-being.

Exercise Like Crazy, But Don't Run Away from Insulin

As you know, there are certain ethnic groups that run a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If you belong to one of these noble heritages, you have a lot to celebrate that far surpasses the worries associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes.

This article from an Arizona news outlet discusses Michelle Reina-Long's fitness strategy for helping her control her diabetes. She exercises religiously. She inherited a fifty percent chance of developing diabetes as a Pima Indian.

Keep in mind that you do not have to be a triathlete to earn the benefits of exercise. Triathlon training is the extreme. Your goal should be to spend 4-5 days exercising for about 30 minutes. If you can eventually extend one or more weekly exercise sessions to more than 45 minutes, the benefits will multiply.

One misconception is the myth that insulin causes misery. Michelle Reina-Long expresses a fear of insulin because she thought that it made her grandmother miserable. There is a small chance that she suffered side effects from insulin. My Diabetes Information is not familiar with her grandmother or her health history. Nevertheless, we can tell you that very few people have misery because of insulin. We often see that people are miserable because of diabetes, but they blame it on the insulin, or associate the misery with the insulin.

Insulin is not a perfect solution for diabetes. However, it is immensely helpful. My Diabetes Information suspects (which implies that we could be wrong) that many people delay insulin therapy for too long, and fail to take advantage of its ability to lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risks and complications of diabetes.

Of course your doctor will be able to give you the best answer. We just hope that this is good food for thought. Insulin lowers blood sugar, whether you use your body's own, or insulin that you inject or pump into your body.

We applaud Reina-Long for her commitment to exercise. It is probably the most powerful or helpful of all diabetes strategies. We do wonder if she may win a little more of a health advantage if she were to introduce some insulin therapy. It may not be time for her, yet. Furthermore, we would be thrilled if she never needed insulin. Too bad the story did not report her A1C scores or blood sugar levels.

The Most Advanced Health System in the World

The United States has the most advanced health system in the world. Patient access to medical specialists, pharmaceuticals and technology is unmatched. Our search for cures is also unparalleled. But why then is our care for diabetes — a disease whose complications can now be easily offset, postponed and even prevented — so far behind the rest of the world? Why is our knowledge of current standards in diabetes care so low that it ends up being the single greatest expense of an HMO? Isn't the objective of an HMO to prevent more serious health conditions in an effort to reduce more costly care?

No one can match the power of the managed care professional to make the simple, but sweeping changes necessary to control diabetes and its costs. Only you can hold the physicians accountable for remaining in the forefront of treatment advances. Only you can effectively lobby the legislature so that an epidemic like diabetes, which causes more harm and costs more money than AIDS and breast cancer combined, gets the proportional support and resources it deserves. And, only you are in a position to work toward reducing diabetes complications and therefore improving outcomes. It will do more than save lives. It will save your bottom line.

Comparing treatment options: pills, shots and pumps

When your body stops producing or using its own insulin, you need to find another way to get insulin into your bloodstream in order to keep the transfer of sugar to energy going. Unfortunately, insulin cannot be taken in a pill form because it would be broken down during digestion. Therefore, insulin must be injected to reach your bloodstream. Many Type 2 diabetics are able to avoid injections by taking pills that lower blood sugar. Both types of treatments will be discussed here.

Medication stimulates insulin release or makes it work better

Medication (pills) can only be successful if you have Type 2 diabetes and still produce some of your own insulin. This kind of therapy also works best when combined with diet and exercise. There are three types of diabetes medications:

Drugs that trigger the release of more insulin

Medication that stimulates the pancreas to release more insulin has been around since the 1950s. If you're able to produce insulin, just not enough to control your blood sugars, these kinds of medications are helpful.

Drugs that sensitize the body to existing insulin

If you're producing insulin that your body does not respond to, this class of medications can help your insulin work better. Currently, these drugs accomplish this goal by improving the way the liver, muscles and fat use insulin in their conversion of sugar to energy.

Drugs that slow the breakdown of food

Another way to control blood sugar through medication is to control the rate in which the body breaks down sugars. Drugs in this category block the breakdown of foods rich in starches that turn to sugar, such as bread, potatoes and pasta. By reducing the amount of sugar entering the blood stream, people with Type 2 diabetes can reduce their total blood sugar levels.

Insulin injections (shots) provide the insulin your pancreas doesn't

Injections deliver specified amounts of insulin to the body. Using a syringe, you administer insulin into the fat under your skin, which ensures that the insulin is slowly absorbed for a longer-lasting effect. Standard insulin injection ("shots") therapy is usually two injections and one blood sugar test each day. For better control and consequently better results, "intensive therapy" involves three or more insulin shots throughout the day, or use of an insulin pump, to keep blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible.

The insulin used for shots comes in four types. They vary by timing:

  • Rapid and short acting
  • Intermediate acting
  • Long acting

Your doctor will work with you to determine the best schedule for your shots, as well as the right types of insulin to take during that schedule. For example, your schedule might include a morning shot of rapid-acting insulin to immediately reduce the night's accumulation of blood sugar, and then throughout the day you might take intermediate-acting insulin.

Injection alternative — insulin pumps that operate like a healthy pancreas

Pump therapy is designed to imitate your body's own natural insulin delivery processes, with the pump itself performing like a healthy pancreas. Unlike shots, insulin pumps deliver small amounts of insulin consistently throughout the day and night to keep blood sugar as close to normal as possible. At the same time, pump therapy also allows users to administer extra insulin (such as after eating a large meal) and slow or stop the delivery of insulin as needed.

Pumps use only the faster-acting insulin (like a pancreas), so its effects are more immediate. This type of insulin is also associated with fewer daily variations in blood sugar because the time it takes the insulin to work and the period of time it lasts are consistent with every dose.

Because an insulin pump is about the size of a pager, it's worn in the same way, either on a belt or discreetly tucked in a pocket. A tiny, flexible tube instead of a needle delivers insulin just underneath the skin. Insulin pumps are not implanted in the body. Disconnecting is easy for changing clothes, showering or swimming, so you don't have to worry about physical or cosmetic inconvenience. Many active kids and young adults prefer pump therapy because of the freedom it allows them. There's no need to plan your activities or meals around a shot schedule with the pump because insulin delivery is continuous. As Nicole Johnson (founder of Take the LEAD and a pump user) describes it, "you control the insulin, it doesn't control you." Both pump therapy and a very well regimented shot schedule offer the short- and long-term benefits of better blood sugar control as demonstrated in the DCCT study. However, many people choose the pump over shots to achieve these health benefits because of the schedule flexibility.

Understanding blood sugar

Sugar is the basic fuel for the cells in your body. This section will help you understand how sugar works and doesn't work in the body, starting with the pancreas — the organ most commonly associated with diabetes.

What does the pancreas do?

The pancreas is a digestive gland found behind the lower part of the stomach. It is about 8 inches (22 cm) long, and keeps your body healthy by producing enzymes and hormones. The most important of these is insulin, which regulates blood sugar.

How does insulin control blood sugar?

After digestion, sugars broken down from food (also called "glucose") enter the bloodstream where they can be absorbed by the body's tissue (i.e., muscles and organs) for use as fuel. Insulin's job inside the body is to enable this process by helping sugar leave the bloodstream and enter the cells that need fuel.

Why does my body need to control my blood sugar?

Your body, especially your brain, needs sugar as its fuel. If there is too little sugar in the blood, your cells are starved for energy. The symptoms of this condition (also called "hypoglycemia") include tiredness and disorientation similar to intoxication. If the amount of sugar in the blood becomes extremely low, a coma can occur.

On the other hand, if there is too much sugar in the blood stream (also called "hyperglycemia"), it's a sign that the body hasn't been able to convert that sugar into energy. The unused sugar accumulates in the blood and then passes through the kidneys, causing frequent urination and thirst (the body's way of making up for fluid lost in urination).

If the body continues to buildup sugar in the bloodstream, it tries to find another energy source — fat. The process of breaking down fat into energy has by-products called "ketones." Excess sugar and ketones in the blood are toxic. Symptoms of this condition (called "ketoacidosis") include nausea, headache, drowsiness and "fruity-smelling" breath. This is a very serious condition that can end in a coma or death.

What makes diabetes harmful?

If your blood sugar remains high for extended periods, the resulting disease is called diabetes mellitus. As explained above, high blood sugar means your body hasn't been able to use sugar as fuel. The reason for this "system malfunction" is a lack of insulin. Without the insulin to make sugar leave the bloodstream, there is a build up of sugar as your cells starve and your blood becomes toxic. Cells and tissue are destroyed, eventually damaging the kidneys, eyes, heart, blood vessels and nerves. These short- and long-term effects are the reason treatment is so important. A controlled diet, drugs, insulin injections or pump therapy can significantly reduce complications.