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Did you at any point feel that even though your diet seems adequate you still end up feeling hungry and tired? Or is your body weight dwindling? Do you worry about the nagging foot injury that refuses to heal? And what about the feeling of numerous pins and needles pricking your limbs? If any of these symptoms are markedly obvious, it is time to spare a thought for its perpetrator – Diabetes Mellitus.

What is Diabetes Mellitus?

The word Diabetes Mellitus is derived from the word ‘diabetes’, which means ‘honey’, and ‘mellitus’, which means ‘flow’. This disorder was considered to be a result of excess flow of honey or sugar into the blood. Diabetes Mellitus is a metabolic disorder of the body where its ability to make insulin is reduced or is absent. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and is required to transfer glucose, obtained from digestion of food, into the cells from which they derive energy. In this disorder, glucose is not used up and hence remains in the blood. Excessive glucose may spill out in the urine.

Main types of the disorder

Type 1 or Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus or Juvenile Diabetes
It usually occurs at a younger age. This requires the use of external source of insulin.

Type 2 or Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus or Adult onset Diabetes Mellitus
It is seen among individuals in the middle ages though cases have been reported earlier too. Obesity has been identified as the main perpetrator. Usually a well planned meal and exercise helps to control it.

Gestational diabetes is a type seen during pregnancy and is usually transient.

Causes of Diabetes

Causes of Diabetes

Heredity has been implicated as a causative factor for Diabetes, but there are other reigning facts that have come to light.

An inactive lifestyle coupled with a faulty diet is the perfect recipe laid out to invite Diabetes Mellitus. Research has now conclusively pointed out a relationship between obesity and the risk of diabetes in both men and women.

Complications of Diabetes

Hypoglycemia and Ketoacidosis: This indicates that the blood sugar has gone down to dangerous levels. With no carbohydrate available there is breakdown of body fat and accumulation of its metabolic products. This results in the person slipping into coma.

Heart disease: Diabetes affects the blood vessels and the heart. Death rate due to heart diseases are two to four times higher in diabetic adults than adults without diabetes.

High blood pressure: Due to altered blood lipid profile chances of arteriosclerosis (narrowing of the blood vessels) is more and hence a raised blood pressure.

Blindness: Uncontrolled blood sugars affect the delicate blood vessels of the eyes leading to diabetic retinopathy or blindness.

Kidney disorders: Very high blood sugar levels affect the kidneys, whose function is to filter the blood.

Nervous system: Since the uncontrolled blood sugar levels affect the nerves, there is frequent loss of sensation in the hands and feet and impaired digestion.

Ulcers of the feet: Since the wounds do not heal easily, injuries aggravate quickly if blood sugar levels are not checked and hence frequently require amputations.

Complications during pregnancy: A poor dietary management of a diabetic woman during pregnancy translates to a greater risk for the baby. A high blood sugar would mean that the baby is getting more food, making the baby larger and the subsequent delivery is difficult for both the mother and the child.

Exercise and Diabetes Mellitus

Exercise is the most potent weapon to combat the effects of Diabetes Mellitus and keep it in check. It is noted that exercise improves the body’s ability to utilize the available insulin and also makes the cells more receptive to insulin. For obese diabetic individuals, exercise has to be a part of the regime as weight loss translates to the better management of diabetes.

Tips for a Diabetic person

Avoid fasting or feasting. The key to effective management lies in striking a balance with your dietary habits.

Maintain a proper schedule for your meal times as well as medications.

Exercise helps in the proper utilization of the sugar and should compulsorily be a part of the lifestyle.

Before launching into an exercise programme, eat some carbohydrate rich food e.g. an apple. Exercise causes the glucose to be used up soon causing a dip in the blood sugar levels.

Time your meals with the diabetes medications for ensuring its effectiveness and warding off complications like hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia.

Since calories in excess of one’s requirement translate into obesity, every effort should be directed to plan one’s meals carefully and shed the weight gained. Getting a personalized diet planned by a dietician would be very helpful.

Avoid great fluctuations in the blood sugar levels. Poor management makes way for complications involving the kidney, eyes and the nervous system thereby hampering the normal lifestyle.

The use of artificial sweeteners like saccharine can be made instead of sugar.

Alcohol is a contributor of calories. The dietary regulation is hampered. The foods generally chosen to be had with alcohol are fried and with a greater salt content. Moreover it may mask the effect of lowering blood sugar to dangerous levels. It would pay to practise abstinence from alcohol.

A meal rich in fibre should be incorporated since fibre helps to prevent the rapid rise in blood sugar levels.

What should the diet for a Diabetic be?

Nutritional management becomes very imperative in the life of a diabetic. Does this mean he will have to weigh every ounce of the food that he eats? Not at all. Paying attention to the right foods and their requirement helps but one need not be paranoid about it. A diabetic person should aim to plan a meal that is good in proteins and complex carbohydrates but low in fat.

Food to eat
High fibre foods such as:
Whole wheat flour
Broken wheat or Dalia
Semolina (Sooji, Rawa)
Oats
Ragi
Pulses like chana dal, soyabean
Leafy vegetables
Vegetables (especially cluster beans)
Whole fruits

Foods not to eat
Sugar, jaggery, sugarcane juice
Fruit juice
Candy
Sweets
Sago
Potato
Sweet potato
Refined flour (maida)
High fat foods
Cream
Mayonnaise
Aerated drinks

Sample menu for a daily diet of a diabetic person

Breakfast:
1.Ragi Malt or Tea or coffee with skim milk and artificial sweeteners
2.Oat porridge or Vegetable upma or idlis with mint-coriander chutney or Egg white sandwich

Mid-morning:
Fruit chaat

Lunch:
1.Salad: Sprouted and boiled moong / chana with chopped onion, tomato.

2.Dal paranthas or Methi rotis or Vegetable pulao or Khichdi

3. Steamed Fish curry or Palak with soya paneer

Evening:
1.Soya cutlets or Brown bread upma or Sprouted moong bhel

Dinner:
1.Salad
2.Soup
3.Ragi / Bajra rotis or Dalia with vegetables
4.Mixed vegetable curry
5.Rajma curry
6.Fruit in yogurt or Apple kheer with artificial sweetener

Did You Know?

Fenugreek seeds (methi seeds) is said to be beneficial for a diabetic. Owing to its soluble fibre content and an alkaloid trigonelline, it aids in checking the blood sugar levels. To use it, soak a handful of fenugreek seeds in water and let in remain overnight. The seeds are to be had on an empty stomach in the morning. The seeds can be added to the dosa batter or chapattis or made a part of a tasty salad.

Bitter gourd or karela has been identified to keep the sugar levels checked. They can be had either as a juice or be served as vegetable preparation.

Guar Gum – a component of cluster beans is a source of fibre that aids in controlling blood sugar levels and the insulin requirement.

The glycemic index of a food i.e. the extent of rise of blood sugar after the consumption of a particular food is related to the form of the food, i.e. raw foods show lesser rise in blood sugar level than cooked foods.

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