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Health Corners
Lifestyle changes

If your doctor told you that you have diabetes, you are sure to be concerned. Diabetes is not something that can be ignored. It is not going to go away after a few days of medication. You have to be on guard constantly.

The good news is that diabetes can be controlled and when it is kept under control, there is much less chance of it leading to any complication.

Whether it is Type I or Type II diabetes you can still lead an active life. Apart from eating chocolates, candies and substances containing refined sugar, you can eat most foods in the right measure.

You need to make some small but sure lifestyle changes:

Meal Plan - Follow your doctor’s advice and avoid certain foods. Eat planned portions at regular times. Carry some snack with you in case you hit the other extreme due to excess activity or medication and reach low blood sugar levels (Hypoglycaemia).

Exercise - Exercise is recommended for all. It keeps us good looking and healthy. If you are a diabetic exercise acquires greater significance. It saves you from putting on excessive weight and keeps a check on blood pressure as well. These two factors could lead to severe complications in a diabetic.

Medication - If you have been advised insulin injections or other medication take them regularly. When you go on trips, weddings, or stay late at work, don’t miss your medicines.

Check ups - Go for them regularly. If you are highly diabetic and are not able to control it efficiently, it is better to get your blood sugar and related test done every month. In other cases the doctor may advise quarterly tests.

Planning travel - Take your medicines. Just check if you could get a low sugar and preferably low fat diet en route and at your destination. Of late, low fat meals are served on aeroplanes too.

Stress management- An injury or overwork results in physical strain. Unhappy marriage, financial problems, fast paced urban lifestyle can cause mental stress. It doesn’t help anybody to live with stress, physical or mental. If you are a diabetic it aggravates your condition. There are two reasons for this:

  • The physical - Under stress, the body’s defence mechanism gears up to fight or flee the situation. Hormonal levels shoot up and release extra sugar to provide energy. But a diabetic already has problems in using the sugar in the blood. Now with extra sugar in the blood, his condition is worse, not better.
  • The psychological - Many people succumb to neglect when they are under stress. They don’t exercise, forget to take medicines, drink or smoke more (if they have the habit) in an attempt to escape stress.

Therefore the trick is to combat stress. This is done either by confronting and solving the basic problem or learning to live with it. Relaxation techniques help.

Avoiding smoking and drinking - Smoking is addictive and it increases your chance of cancer and heart diseases. Smoking also narrows down the peripheral blood vessels and makes it difficult for wounds on the hands and legs to heal quickly. Drinking affects your liver. These are complications a diabetic can do without.


This is the key to well being in a diabetic.

When and how much to eat?

The basic rules are:

  • You do not have to change your basic food type in any drastic way.
  • Keep to regular meal times.
  • If you are on medication the meal should be taken in tune with that. For instance, if you are taking rapid action insulin, you should have your meal within half an hour after taking the shot. Otherwise insulin will have nothing to work on and it might lower the sugar in your blood, leading to hypoglycaemia.
  • Eat less quantity of food with short intervals in between. You can have a breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner schedule. You can take plenty of fluids like soups and buttermilk in between. Vegetable salads are also recommended.as inbetweeners.
  • Just how much to eat depends on your activity level. You have to work it out with your doctor or nutritionist. For someone who does not do much physical activity, 1400 calorie diet will be adequate.

The types of food a diabetic needs

High Fibre foods - Sprouted legumes like channa and green gram and green vegetables.

High protein foods (unless specifically advised due to complications)- sprouted legumes and so on.

Starch - Even a diabetic needs carbohydrates for energy. It is a myth to believe wheat or ragi is good while rice is bad for a diabetic. All cereals contain 70% starch. The diabetic should limit the intake of starch to small portions.

Vegetables - These are very important. Apart from tubers like potato, carrots and beets most other vegetables can be taken in big helpings. They provide nutrition also roughage. They supplement the volume you will have to cut down on cereal and make for fulfilling meals.

The foods that can be eaten in small portions

Starches - These are essential for the body. But when insulin is insufficient, there is a problem in reaching the energy from these foods to the cells. A diabetic can work on this type of food only in small quantities at a time.

Citrus fruits - Once there is reasonable control over your blood sugar you can take citrus fruits like lime, orange and melons in small quantities. Apples and guavas can also be taken.

Veggies unlimited

The following vegetables can be taken in unlimited quantities:

  • Bean varieties like cluster beans, broad beans, beans.
  • Greens- Spinach and other greens, mint, coriander and curry leaves.
  • Leafy vegetables like cabbage and lettuce.
  • Common Indian vegetables like ladies finger, brinjal, chow chow, tomatoes, tindly ( Kovakkai) and capsicum.
  • Gourds like bitter gourd, snake gourd, ash gourd and bottle gourd (avoid pumpkin).
  • Among root vegetables you can take radish (white), onion, ginger and garlic.
  • While bananas should be avoided, banana stem and flower can be taken.

Banned foods

These are an absolute no-no:

  • Sweeteners - Sugar, honey and jaggery.
  • Nuts - Pista, badam and cashew etc.
  • Soft drinks and beverages - Fruit juices, drinks like Bournvita or Horlicks and tender coconut water.
  • Fruits - Banana, chickoo, mango, jackfruit or any other sweet fruits.
  • Tinned or preserved fruits: Dates, sultanas and so on.

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