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November 14th sees World Diabetes Day, a leading awareness campaign created in response to the growing health threat posed by diabetes.
This article will concentrate on type 2 diabetes, with one in ten people in the UK aged over 40 diagnosed with this condition. Its incidence is increasing, and it’s affecting younger and younger people. At least a million more people in the UK are thought to be unaware they’re living with type 2 diabetes. This is worrying because if it’s allowed to progress, the disease can damage the heart, nerves, arteries, kidneys and eyes.
Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease, meaning it’s largely preventable by adopting healthy lifestyle habits. Read on to learn about how to reduce your risk.
The underlying metabolic imbalances causing type 2 diabetes include blood sugar imbalance, insulin resistance, and obesity.
When you eat, food is broken down in your digestive system and sugar is released to provide energy for your cells. Although sugar is crucial to your cells, your body has adapted to function best if its level is relatively steady in your blood. Unfortunately nowadays society loves sweet and processed foods. These release sugar into your bloodstream very quickly.
The amount of sugar in the blood shouldn’t be allowed to climb too high because it can damage nerves and blood vessels. So your body has developed a mechanism to keep sugar levels relatively stable using the hormone insulin. When your brain senses sugar in your blood, it asks your pancreas to release insulin to escort the sugar into your cells where it can be used for energy, meaning blood sugar levels fall again.
But if large amounts of sugar keep rushing into your bloodstream your cells often become insensitive to insulin’s message. A bit like someone bombarding you on a social media chat, eventually your cells turn off the notifications. This is known as insulin resistance. Although there’s plenty of insulin around, it doesn’t have the effect it should have, blood sugar remains high and your cells are starved of the energy they need.
These imbalances in blood sugar will typically have been occurring for many years before type 2 diabetes develops. Cells don’t turn off their notifications from insulin all in one go, they gradually become less sensitive to it over time.
Tell-tale early signs of unbalanced blood sugar include sugar cravings, energy slumps between meals, headaches, waking in the middle of the night and feeling jittery and ‘hangry’ if you go too long without a meal or snack.
Obesity is strongly linked with type 2 diabetes, but a certain type of fat is especially dangerous, and you might have no idea you’re walking around with it. Called visceral fat but often simply known as belly fat, it lurks around your internal organs. This kind of fat emits chemical messengers encouraging inflammation and interfering with the ability of your body’s cells to listen to insulin. Even skinny people can tend to deposit fat here. If your waist measures more than 40 inches for a man and 35 inches for a woman, you may have accumulated visceral fat.
Stress, a poor diet, hormonal imbalances, lack of sleep and excess alcohol all contribute to increased belly fat.
You can take positive steps to balance your blood sugar, reduce insulin resistance and so protect against type 2 diabetes. Here are some suggestions:
Simple dietary and lifestyle changes can very effectively prevent type 2 diabetes from occurring or even reverse it if it has already developed, but sometimes making these changes can seem daunting. They needn’t be with the help and support from a therapist. I’ll assess your personal risk and recommend achievable dietary and lifestyle measures to fit in with your goals.
Are you concerned about sugar imbalance and diabetes? Why not book a free 15-minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you?
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