Updated: Nov 23, 2022
The importance of a healthy body and brain is important to your longevity and quality of life. November is Canada Diabetes month to bring awareness to this health condition, end the myths and misinformation and raise awareness around the importance of self-care. Despite popular belief, diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar and people don’t “give themselves” diabetes. That is not permission to eat sugar. There are lots of studies that document the harmful effects of sugar to your body and brain and kicking the sugar habit should be a goal for most people.
What is Diabetes
Diabetes is a disease in which your body either can't produce insulin or can't properly use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas and its role is to regulate the amount of sugar in your blood. Your body needs insulin to use sugar for energy. Too much sugar over time can cause damage to blood vessels, nerves and organs. Someone with Diabetes is required to take medication to help reduce their blood sugar levels and are at risk for developing low blood sugar. Too little sugar in your blood is a medical emergency requiring you to ingest a fast-acting sugar.
The Causes of Diabetes
Eleven million Canadians are living with diabetes or prediabetes. Chances are that diabetes affects you or someone you know. Popular media often depicts the disease and people with diabetes in an inaccurate and harmful light. There are several different reasons why someone may develop diabetes.
The cause of diabetes depends on your genes, family history, ethnic background, and other factors such as the environment and your health. It also depends on the type of diabetes you have. There is no common cause that fits every type of diabetes. The reason why someone will develop Type 1 diabetes is very different from the reasons why another person will develop Type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes is often referred to Juvenile Diabetes because it often is diagnosed in childhood. However, it can occur as late onset and develop in youth or early adult hood.
Researchers suspect that our genes and our environment play a role. Only 10% of people with diabetes have Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes. Having a parent or sibling with type 1 diabetes slightly increases your risk of having Type 1.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes is often referred to "non-insulin dependent". You can have type 2 diabetes without any obvious warning signs or symptoms. Some risk factors are manageable, such as diet and lifestyle, and other factors may be beyond your control. ie, you have a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes if you are over the age of 40 or have a parent or sibling with diabetes. Ethnic background can also play a role. Being of African, Arab, Asian, Hispanic, Indigenous or South Asian descent can increase your risk of living with Type 2 Diabetes.
Having a history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, being overweight, prediabetes, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (POS) psychiatric disorders, obstructive sleep apnea or being prescribed a glucocorticoid medication can increase the risk for Type 2 Diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs during the second or third trimester of pregnancy and is usually temporary. Between 3 – 20% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes. During gestational diabetes, your body cannot produce enough insulin to handle the effects of changing hormone levels and a growing baby.
Many women with gestational diabetes are able to control their blood sugar levels with lifestyle changes, including diet and physical activity; however, some women will need to inject insulin for better control.
Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but are not yet high enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 Diabetes. Although not everyone with Prediabetes will develop Type 2 Diabetes, many people will. Managing your diet and lifestyle can reduce your risk.
The Role of Insulin in Diabetes
Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas that acts like a key to let blood sugar into the cells in your body for use as energy. Diabetes is a disease in which your body either can't produce insulin, known as Type 1 or can't properly use the insulin it produces, known as Type 2.
Blood sugar must be carefully regulated to ensure that the body functions properly. Insulin's role is to regulate the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Too much blood sugar can cause damage to organs, blood vessels, and nerves. Insulin was discovered in 1921 by a Canadian team at the University of Toronto and saved lives around the world and revolutionized treatment for the once-fatal disease of Diabetes.
Signs, Symptoms, Treatment & Complications of Diabetes
Common symptoms of Diabetes include unusual thirst, frequent urination, weight changes, fatigue, blurred vision, frequent infections, slow healing wounds, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet or difficulty getting or maintaining erection. Your doctor or nurse practitioner can test for Type 1 Diabetes by testing your blood.
Management for Type 1 Diabetes includes injecting insulin via a syringe or an insulin pump. Insulin cannot be taken orally as the digestive track destroys insulin. Monitoring your blood sugar levels regularly using a home glucose meter, managing your lifestyle with healthy food choices and exercise and managing your stress levels and weight is important to reduce long term complications.
The short-term complication of Type 1 Diabetes is low blood sugar known as hypoglycemia (not enough sugar in the blood) and requires immediate attention. Symptoms of low blood sugar include increased heart rate, excessive sweating, tiredness, feeling dizzy or weak, blurred vision, confusion, irritability or nervousness or being pale.
Long term complications of poor blood sugar management include kidney disease, eye damage, heart disease & stroke, high blood pressure, mental health issues, nerve damage and amputation.
The symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes are the same as type 1, however many people with Type 2 Diabetes may not notice any symptoms. The management of Type 2 Diabetes includes eating healthy meals & snacks, enjoying regular physical activity, aiming for a healthy body weight, managing stress effectively and taking medications as prescribed. Antidiabetic medications are aimed at lowering blood sugar to prevent diabetes from leading to other health problems related to blood vessel and nerves. Some people with Type 2 may be prescribed insulin if oral medication and lifestyle changes are not effective.
Gestational Diabetes results when hormones made by the placenta prevent the body from using insulin effectively. Glucose builds up in the blood instead of being absorbed. Gestational Diabetes is a concern for both baby and mom. Hight blood sugar levels can result in high blood pressure and the baby growing too large causing difficulties during delivery. Symptoms of high blood sugar can include excessive thirst, frequent urination and blurred vision as the sugar molecules enter the eyes. Your health care team will monitor you for Gestational Diabetes and it is important to seek good prenatal care.
Prediabetes is a precursor for Type 2 Diabetes, where your body can't make enough insulin, or your body is unable to properly use the insulin is makes. If your body can't use its insulin properly, glucose (sugar) builds up in your blood instead of being used for energy. This excess sugar in your blood causes problems and can lead to serious health complications. The key to prediabetes is a healthy lifestyle.
Symptoms, treatment, and complications from prediabetes may vary from person to person. Many people exhibit no symptoms, while others will exhibit the same symptoms of high blood sugar as in Type 1 & 2. Taking steps now to improve your lifestyle and diet can prevent the onset & complications of Type 2 Diabetes. Making healthy changes will take some time, and that's okay. It's best to start with small changes instead of trying to change everything all at once.
The Role of Stress Management in Diabetes
When we talk about preventing Diabetes, we are usually talking about Type 2 Diabetes. Decreasing your risk involves making healthy lifestyle choices. Eating healthy, moving more and maintaining an ideal weight is important. Learning to reduce stress levels in day-to-day life can help people with diabetes better manage their health and reducing stress levels can help regulate your hormones more efficiently.
Diabetes cannot only affect your physical health but your emotional health as well. Diabetes management can leave you experiencing emotional highs and lows. You cannot plan for every scenario that you will encounter. However, meal prepping, planning for eating out, monitoring your blood sugar levels, keep moving, taking your medication as prescribed and reducing stress levels with meditation, exercise and relaxation techniques can improve your life.
How Can UR Wellness Help You with Your Diabetes Management and Prevention?
Stress alone does not cause diabetes. However, your physical response to stress, as well as the habits that are often associated with stress, can contribute to a higher risk for Type 2 Diabetes.
Studies show that emotional stress in the short term can raise blood sugar levels. The body's fight or flight response is a natural response that is elicited during both physical and emotional stress. As a result, your body then releases stress hormones that will increase your blood glucose so that you have energy to survive.
When stress is persistent or chronic, this alarm system happens again and again, which can reduce your immune system and can increase your blood sugar. Many self-soothing behaviours that are common in stressed Indvidual's such as comfort food eating, poor sleep, skipping exercise, consuming coffee & mind-altering substances, and increased sugar intake are all risk factors for developing Type 2 Diabetes and Prediabetes.
UR Wellness provides a comprehensive approach of mind-body training & education for developing the brain's capacity to create physical, emotional and mental health. Services are suitable for people at any age, or those who are looking to create a happy, healthy, peaceful and purposeful life.
Neurofeedback Brain Training can be effective in helping people manage their stress levels as the brain recalibrates itself. During Neurofeedback Brain Training, you are training through the relaxation response and enhancing your body's ability to regulate your emotions and body processes.
UR Wellness incorporates elements of brain training, mindful eating, meditation, somatic therapy, energy healing work, and education to help you live in health, happiness and peace without the overwhelm.
Kicking Your Sugar Addiction
When we eat sweet foods as a coping mechanism to emotional stress, the brain's reward system is activated. Repeated activation of the reward pathway by eating lots of sugary foods causes the brain to adapt to frequent stimulation, leading to a sort of tolerance. This means that we need to eat more sugar to get the same rewarding feeling, which is the same behaviour of addiction. The result is your brain wants sugar, then more sugar.
Part of our UR Wellness Diabetes Awareness Month is educating people about brain health and Kicking the Sugar Habit! It’s important to educate yourself on how sugar can affect your brain & body and how truly addictive it can be, so that you can make educated choices on what you consume. Join our "Kick Your Sugar Habit" in January and to learn ways you can break your addictive sugar tendencies and learn how to support your brain health. You can join us online for education and support, as well as in office to train your brain for better stress management.
For more information contact about Penny Hyndman and UR Wellness visit: