Integrative Approaches for Diabetes Education


1. Food is the best medicine for diabetes.

Almost everyone is aware that food has a big impact on our health, particularly a person with diabetes. Food is so impactful in this chronic condition that it can even help delay the progression of diabetes.

Diabetes and nutrition goes beyond eating too much carbs and sugar. It’s also about digestion and absorption of food, feelings and thoughts about your meals, having complete meals, and many other metabolic conundrums.

People with diabetes benefits the most from seen a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist when both the practitioner and the person create an individualized plan, because nutrition is not a one size fits all.

A person with diabetes can eat rice, bananas, and tortillas, but it must be tailored to their needs. To begin using food as medicine for diabetes, a good way to start is by incorporating the healthy plate method and adding more fiber to the diet.

2. Lifestyle management is the key to lower blood sugar.

There is a huge push for weight reduction for diabetes prevention and management. The first thing a person hears upon diagnosis of prediabetes or diabetes is to lose weight, if they have a high body mass index (BMI).

While it is certainly helpful to shed the extra pounds to lower blood sugars, it is also important to focus on lifestyle changes that are attainable and enjoyable. Stress reduction and avoiding long periods sitting is at the core of lifestyle change.

During physical activity, the cells of the body become more sensitive to insulin (a body’s hormone that helps lower blood sugar) so it lowers blood glucose. Noticing how much time is spent sitting is a good step to initiate changes that will lead to positive changes in blood sugar.

Incorporating a mix of aerobic and strength training exercises will aid in the prevention and management of diabetes.

3. Evaluate the need for medication.

There are two different types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.  Some also develop gestational diabetes, or diabetes during pregnancy, and LADA, a subtype of type 1 diabetes.

An integrative evaluation for the need for medication in diabetes is patient/team centered and  health/healing oriented. Medication adherence is achieved when there is consensus between the recommender and the patient.

There are many diabetes medications available and each work in different ways to help the body control blood sugar. The physician, Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), and the person with diabetes must work together to make decisions about the medications that are a good fit.

4. Explore your body daily.

Understanding how the body changes when having highs and lows in blood sugars is fundamental for good diabetes management. A person’s teeth, feet, and eyes must be checked daily for noticeable changes such as cuts, dark spots, or unusual discomfort.

5. Have an honest conversation with your healthcare provider, and yourself.

Health is not linear, it has its ups and downs, and having an honest conversation with oneself is going to help the person understand how to live with diabetes. It takes practice, patience, and self-love.

An honest conversation starts by accepting the diagnosis of diabetes. Diabetes does control the person, instead the person controls the diabetes.

Many people lie at medical visits because they don’t want to upset the doctor or nutritionist, or are afraid of being judged. It’s important to understand that in the healthcare team, patients are the most important member and they need to talk from the heart to obtain good guidance from providers.

Talk to a doctor, nutritionist, and diabetes educator to seek proper guidance to live with diabetes. Most health care providers want their patients to take an active role in their care. It predicts positive outcomes and adherence to treatment. 

Note from Naz

I do diabetes education integratively – meaning, using both conventional and mind-body modalities to facilitate the patient’s belief in their ability to “heal” in this area and to succeed with lifestyle change.

P.S. I am accepting patients online on a limited basis. For in person nutrition/diabetes counseling contact my office at Elmhurst Digestive and Liver Diseases located in Elmhurst, NY.

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