While the use of prescribed medication is an important factor in helping to control diabetes, Nutritionist and Diabetes Educator, Djamilsa Lambert, has underscored that the importance of one’s diet cannot be downplayed.
Even as she described an appropriate diet as “fundamental”, Lambert explained that diabetes is a condition whereby the glucose in the food eaten does not enter the blood stream swiftly enough to allow the pancreas to make insulin that creates energy. The pancreas, as one of the organs of the digestive system, is found in the abdomen.
Offering a simplified version of how food is processed in the body, Lambert explained that “It goes into your mouth, is digested through your stomach, and in the stomach it has to be transformed into liquid form in order to travel from the blood to the cells.”
But persons with diabetes, Lambert informed, are encouraged to eat more, and this she disclosed could translate to them eating every three hours.
However, “if you eat a large amount of food it means there will be a larger amount of sugar that you are adding in your system. The foods need a transporter to go from the blood to the cells, and this is what we call insulin.”
Insulin is a hormone that helps to ensure that an individual’s blood sugar level does not become too low or too high.
“If your body is only making a certain amount of insulin and you are eating double and triple times, a large amount of that food (in its broken down form) will not enter into the cells,” Lambert asserted. The resulting state of affairs, she noted, will be that the kidneys will have to do more work to get rid of these foods, and the heart too will have a more tedious task to pump blood that has a “heavier” concentration of unprocessed sugar.
“At some point, if all of this sugar doesn’t get into the cells, the kidneys will have to eliminate it through the urine, so we are exposing the kidneys to hard work; your heart is exposed to hard work to circulate this ‘heavy’ blood, and you are exposing your optic nerves too, to not having the necessary vitamins, oxygen and nutrients, because the processed foods never reach those areas,” Lambert outlined, as she stressed that diet plays a fundamental role.
She moreover asserted that people with diabetes should seek to stay away from foods that offer them no nutritional value.
“For example ice cream, cookies and aerated drinks…these have no vitamins, no minerals; just sugar. By taking these, you are exposing yourself to higher blood sugar without getting any of the effects of what foods should really be about,” said Lambert. As such, she noted that diabetics are instead urged to consume more peas, beans and healthy grains.
Lambert also recognised the importance of physical activities to persons with diabetes. She pointed out that if the pancreas is not making enough insulin to be taken to the cells, physical activities could in fact help to make the blood free of too much accumulated sugars. This by extension would reduce the work of the kidneys from filtering the blood and reducing the work of the heart from pumping the heavy concentration of sugar.
She however asserted that “We are not telling all the patients to join a gym, but add a walk for at least 45 minutes.” On this note, Lambert expressed her hope that persons will come out in their numbers tomorrow to be a part of a walk to observe International Diabetes Day. The walk, according to Lambert, will start at the Square of the Revolution and culminate at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation. At the end of the walk persons can have their blood sugar levels checked and Lambert, who functions out of that hospital, is convinced that they will be pleasantly surprised.
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