Non-Medication Treatments for Diabetes Mellitus
Did you know that how you live could influence the outcome of your Diabetes, and success is not just relying on taking your medication? Some people think it’s all about insulin or other medicines – but what is the real deal? Read more …
What is Diabetes Mellitus?
In Diabetes mellitus, there are high levels of sugar in the blood.
It happens because of a lack of insulin, a hormone, that is responsible for the uptake of sugar for use by body cells.
This lack happens either because the pancreas, an organ within your abdomen is producing no insulin at all, not enough insulin or it produces insulin but it doesn’t work properly.
How is Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus different from Type 1?
There are different ways we classify Diabetes. One way is based on insulin and this is grouped into Type 1 and 2.
In Type 1 (Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus, IDDM), there is little or no insulin production.
In Type 2 (Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus), the pancreas produces insulin but there is a problem with its action.
Therefore, treatment of Type 1 Diabetes is mainly with the use of insulin since the body produces insufficient amounts – as well as lifestyle adjustments.
And, the management of Type 2 Diabetes involves combination therapy of drugs that lower blood sugar levels – in addition to diet and exercise.
Successfully Treating Diabetes Mellitus
The management of Diabetes largely involves lifestyle modification and the use of certain medications.
Lifestyle modification is an aspect of treatment that is very crucial to the overall health outcome of the individual.
What is “Lifestyle Modification”?
It involves a joint effort between an individual and their primary care provider with a dietician to come up with a customized plan that works bests for them.
This is very essential – because each individual is different and therefore, a personalized and simple plan that is easy to adhere to is the goal.
Lifestyle modifications are non-medication treatments that target changes to one’s lifestyle or habits.
- Healthy diet
- Weight loss
- Regular exercise 
The importance of a healthy diet cannot be overemphasized because not only does it help with weight loss; it facilitates regulation of blood sugar as well.
Despite the popular opinion that there is a particular type of diet called the ‘diabetic diet’, this is not true.
The best diet for a diabetic is one that is a balanced diet but generally contains fewer calories and is timed adequately according to the individual’s needs.
Therefore, people with Diabetes should consume less of refined carbohydrates but increase their fibre intake.
Green leafy vegetables like spinach and fruits with lower sugar content like apples, guavas, watermelons and oranges are recommended.
Working with a qualified dietician helps to come up with a sustainable meal plan that is best suited to the individual’s lifestyle, pocket and personal preferences.
Using a practical example, the size of the carbohydrates on the plate should not be more than ¾ of their fist.
This means for a typical Nigerian ‘swallow’ meal (e.g. made from yam or plantain flour, ground cassava or oatmeal fufu which contain a higher carbohydrate content), the size of the fufu should be less than the individual’s fist (at least by one-quarter); while the rest of the dish can contain the soup/sauce e.g. seafood okra with green vegetables prepared without oil.
Weight loss by as little as 5% of total body weight has been demonstrated to help regulate the blood sugar and slow down the progression of Type 2 Diabetes mellitus.
This could delay the development of complications which eventually leads to improvement in the quality of life and decreases the risk of death from Diabetes problems.
Portion control while eating a diet that is rich in fibre and vegetables while restrictive in refined carbohydrates is key to maintaining weight loss.
A sustainable exercise plan is to engage in physical activities that you love more often and incorporate them into your daily routine.
Target 30 to 60 minutes about 5 times a week.
For example, if you love dancing, dance whenever and wherever you can.
This is a win-win situation as you get to do something you love while reaping health benefits from it.
Also form a habit of taking breaks every 30 minutes in between prolonged sitting or sedentary activity like watching TV to stand for a while, walk around and basically get moving.
Having a diagnosis of Diabetes Mellitus may seem overwhelming at first because of the seemingly daunting lifestyle changes you need.
The key to overcoming this feeling is to plan ahead.
Planning ahead would give you a sense of control which can be reassuring.
Remember that it is important to make goals that are realistic and you can easily achieve them.
Also, check with your doctor before commencing any changes to your activities – intense workouts or meal changes.
Other practices that can improve DM care are stopping smoking and cutting down on alcohol consumption.
Are you Diabetic – or do you know someone who is? What lifestyle modifications have helped the most or been harder to achieve while trying to keep blood sugar control? Share in the comments below.
Read More about this topic:
- Non-Pharmacological Treatments of Diabetes
- What to Know when Travelling with Diabetes
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Non-pharmacological Treatment Options in the Management of Diabetes Mellitus
Editing by AskAwayHealth Team
All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
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