Living with Diabetes

By Isagenix Nutritional Sciences

By Sonja Schoonenberg, RD, LD, CDE

Whether you are newly diagnosed or a “diabetic veteran,” staying on top of current and accurate diabetes information can be a challenge. As the population of people with diabetes grows, so does the confusion about what to do to cope with the disease. 

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 23.6 million U.S. adults have now been diagnosed with diabetes. In addition, nearly six million are undiagnosed, and another 57 million are considered as having prediabetes.

Understanding Diabetes 

Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. People with diabetes have problems converting food into energy. After a meal, carbohydrates in food are broken down into a sugar called glucose, which is carried by the blood to cells throughout the body. Cells use insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas, to help them get the blood glucose into cells where it can be converted into energy.

People develop diabetes because the pancreas does not make enough insulin or because the cells in the muscles, liver, and fat do not use insulin properly, or both. As a result, the amount of glucose in the blood increases while the cells are starved of energy. Years of elevated blood sugars can lead to complications such as heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve problems, gum infections, and amputation. A good indicator of how well glucose is used is measurement of glycosylated hemoglobin.

Type 1 diabetes accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all diagnosed cases. Insulin injections are required for life as the body can no longer manufacture its own. Special attention to meal planning and insulin management is critical.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90-95 percent of diagnosed cases. It is often associated with genetics, aging, obesity and lack of physical activity. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance and insulin deficiency. Effective therapy to lower elevated blood glucose levels is essential to decrease the risk of health related complications. Medical nutrition therapy and, in some cases, medication management are indicated.

10 Ways to Live a Healthy Lifestyle with Diabetes or Prediabetes 

  1. Know your numbers: Hemoglobin A1C, blood sugar self checks, blood pressure and blood lipid values. 
  2. Monitor your blood sugars regularly as directed by your physician or CDE. 
  3. See your doctor every 3-6 months or as recommended. 
  4. Participate in a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity five days per week to increase metabolism and help your body become less insulin resistant. 
  5. Have regular eye, dental and foot exams. 
  6. Inspect your feet daily and make note of any visual changes. 
  7. Follow a healthy eating plan (see “10 Diet and Nutrition Tips for People with Diabetes or Prediabetes” below). 
  8. Keep a journal on how certain foods affect your blood sugar. 
  9. Take your medication and or insulin as prescribed by your physician. 
  10. Stay current with your knowledge by working with a certified diabetes educator (CDE).

10 Diet and Nutrition Tips for People with Diabetes or Prediabetes

  1. If overweight, lose weight. Modest weight loss improves insulin resistance and blood sugar control.
  2. Decrease your intake of saturated and trans fat, and intake of sodium. Choose low-fat, low-sodium dairy foods and lean proteins.
  3. Decrease your carbohydrate intake, especially simple sugars. Reduced carbohydrate, reduced calorie meal plans can be effective in weight loss and blood sugar management. Monitoring carbohydrates is a key strategy in achieving blood sugar control.
  4. Consume balanced meals. Eat a minimum of three times per day and include high-quality protein and carbohydrate at each meal.
  5. Try meal replacements. Use of a quality, nutritious meal replacement shake or bars high in protein once or twice daily can help control the amount of protein and carbohydrate in the diet.
  6. Practice smart snacking. Snacks that emphasize fiber and protein can help stave off hunger. Avoid “junk foods” high in sugar, fat and sodium.
  7. Eat a fiber-rich diet. Strive to consume 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber daily from fruits, vegetables, legumes, bran, whole oats and other whole grains.
  8. Use a low-sugar fiber supplement if needed to increase fiber intake. Start low and slowly add to diet.
  9. Consume more mono- and polyunsaturated fats  from fish, olive oil, walnuts, almonds, and flax seed. Increase consumption of fish oil. Studies have shown that long-chain omega-3s from fish are especially beneficial in promoting heart health (hear thealth is an important factor in diabetes).
  10. Get enough of the “sunshine vitamin.” Recent studies show that vitamin D is helpful for optimal heart health. 

Sonja Schoonenberg, RD, LD, CDE is a practicing Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator in Minnesota.

It’s important for people with diabetes and prediabetes to know that these conditions are very manageable. Living a healthy lifestyle does require knowledge, understanding, commitment and dedication, but the reward of staying well is worth the effort!

  1. American Diabetes Association. Standards of Care Nutrition Recommendations and Interventions for Diabetes. Diabetes Care; January 2010.
  2. American Diabetes Association. 2007. Diabetes Statistics.
  3. American Dietetic Association. 2010. Nutrition Care Manual.