The Connection between Diabetes and Your Metabolism
If you have diabetes mellitus, you may already know what a huge impact diet and exercise have on your metabolism, blood glucose levels, your need for medication, as well as how you feel. A disruption in the action of the hormone insulin is responsible for this feeling.
But by being conscious of what you eat, getting exercise, and having regular check-ins with a physician, you have the power to control your diabetes and reduce complications.
Track glucose levels
A day in the life of a carbohydrate is different depending on whether you have diabetes. But your body’s first goal is always the same: to break down the carbohydrate you eat into glucose so that your body can start using it for energy.
Your body wants to work as fast as it can to break down larger carbohydrate molecules into smaller ones so that it can use them for energy. Carbohydrates can begin digestion even before you swallow. Once you eat a slice of toast or a baked potato, starches from those foods immediately start getting broken down in your mouth by the enzyme amylase in your saliva.
The breakdown continues through your digestive tract until the food hits the small intestine, where glucose molecules are absorbed by the bloodstream.
The next step is where having diabetes makes a difference to the metabolism of carbohydrate. It’s the step where insulin takes the stage. This hormone does the following:
Helps glucose get absorbed by the cells of your body for energy
Promotes glucose to be linked up with other molecules to create glycogen, which is how carbohydrate is stored in your muscles and liver (for later use for energy)
Slows the breakdown of fat and promotes fat storage
Stimulates the creation of proteins from amino acids, which helps promote muscle growth
But when you have diabetes, your body can’t do all that on its own.
Getting the right kinds of carbohydrates is key to losing weight and keeping your energy levels high while doing so. Getting too few carbohydrates, especially if you’re on medication, can result in low blood glucose with not-so-pretty side effects like heart palpitations, anxiety, and hunger. When you’re brain isn’t getting the glucose it needs, you can feel confused, and you suffer from headaches or more seriously, seizures.
Insulin sensitivity and glucose levels are directly impacted by diet, exercise, and your stress. When you get stressed, your blood glucose levels are even more elevated.
Go consistent with carbohydrates
Probably the most effective way to keep your blood glucose levels under control with diet is to count the carbohydrates you’re taking in at every meal. Once you understand the science, it just may seem like common sense. Monitoring your carbohydrates and spreading them more evenly throughout the day helps your body best use them for energy without becoming overloaded.
A consistent carbohydrate diet means to have the same amount of carbohydrate servings at every meal. Doing this doesn’t just help those with diabetes — it can help anyone trying to lose weight to boost their metabolism and help keep cravings under control, because your blood glucose levels are tried into cravings.
A serving of carbohydrates is 12–15 grams. If you’re reading the Nutrition Facts Label for how many total carbohydrates there are in a food package, you must multiply the total number of carbohydrates by the number of servings in the package to arrive at the total in the entire package (assuming you’re eating that much). Or dole out the allotted serving you need for that meal or snack.
Counting carbohydrates may seem like a daunting task at first, but by making changes to your diet, you can improve your insulin sensitivity within days, and over time, reduce your need for medication. If you have diabetes, it’s definitely worth it to become a carbohydrate-counting master.
It’ll help you keep portions in check, which will be good for weight loss as long as you’re choosing foods that are also high in fiber, contain lean protein, as well as heart-healthy fats.
Learn what a serving of your favorite food is by reading the food label, especially for foods like sweets and snacks.
When checking out a food label, look at total carbohydrates. Just because a product contains sugar alcohols doesn’t mean it’s sugar-free. Some of those alcohols (it’s estimated about half) are actually absorbed like sugar into your bloodstream. However, a product with more fiber will work to minimize any blood glucose spikes.
Add a tablespoon of vinegar and a dash of cinnamon to your day. Research shows that these two condiments have benefits for blood glucose control. Vinegar may inhibit the digestion of starch so that blood glucose is less likely to spike after eating a meal. In addition, one study found that a gram of cinnamon per day can, over time, result in a 24 percent decrease in blood glucose levels.
You may find your blood sugar is more difficult to control at a specific time of day. In that case, be extra cautious about the foods and servings that you eat at that time to optimize control. Getting exercise can also help clear glucose from your bloodstream because your muscles use it up for energy and your cells decrease their insulin resistance.
Aim for about 30 minutes of exercise on most days. The Diabetes Prevention Program study found that people with pre-diabetes (higher than normal blood sugar levels but not yet qualified for diabetes) were able to delay developing Type 2 diabetes with 150 minutes of exercise per week and diet changes.