Type 2 diabetes affects approximately 3.5 million people in this country and is thought to cost the UK around £20bn per year in both direct and indirect costs.
This is a staggering amount of money spent on a condition largely caused by our lifestyle choices and environment.
Type 2 diabetes is often viewed as a dietary illness. That is partially true as diet is a big contributor.
However, other lifestyle factors such as insufficient sleep, long-term stress, and inappropriate physical activity all contribute, as well. For many of my patients, addressing these factors can be as important as their food choices.
Most cases of type 2 diabetes are caused by a condition called insulin resistance.
Insulin is an important hormone and one of its functions is to keep your blood sugar tightly controlled. If you are in optimal health and not insulin resistant, a sugary bowl of breakfast cereal will cause your blood sugar to go up. Your body will then release a little bit of insulin to bring it back down again.
As your health deteriorates and you start to become insulin-resistant, you need more and more insulin to keep your blood sugar under control. Your body has become deaf to insulin’s sound.This raised level of insulin can itself cause many problems. And when the insulin can no longer keep your blood sugar under control – at that point, we give you a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
There is a problem with blood sugar in type 2 diabetes, but it is not a blood sugar problem. By the time your blood sugar goes into the diabetic range, things have been going wrong in your body for many years.
Problems in these areas can all contribute to the development of insulin resistance.
The main change I made with La-Vern’s diet was to cut out highly processed junk food. Because of her insulin resistance, she was unable to efficiently process foods that quickly converted to sugar in her body, so I advised her to eliminate refined carbohydrates in her diet such as sugary breakfast cereals, white rice and bread.
- Light – The blue light emitted from smartphones is not seen in nature in the evening. This blue light can suppress your body’s melatonin levels, a critical hormone that gets you to sleep.
- Switching off – An inability to switch off is one of the biggest causes of sleep disruption. Staying “on” while mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds and emails is a sure-fire way to keep your mind active. This in turn can affect your sleep.
Exercise and stress
La-Vern is a very typical case of what I see in my practice. She’s extremely busy – a single mother working two jobs and highly stressed.
La-Vern was simply doing too much and her exercise regime was actually putting more stress on her body. This is a common problem these days – we have been conditioned to think that more exercise is always better.
I persuaded La-Vern to swap these intense workouts for yoga, a more restorative practice. This was life-changing. At the end of her yoga session, La-Vern not only felt as though she had worked out but also felt rejuvenated and energised. Plus, it was the only “switch off” time she had all week.
By addressing these four areas of health – food, movement, sleep and stress – I not only helped La-Vern feel significantly better, but, just as importantly, I’ve reduced her risk of following her mother down the road towards type 2 diabetes.