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Take care, diabetics

Diabetics do not have to suffer at festival time, as there are ways to indulge the sweet tooth without damaging health. And that applies to all others as well

The festive season brings a deluge of sweets which are difficult to resist. But those who have learnt to listen to their bodies will not over-indulge. Develop the habit of mindful eating and take preventive steps so that your health does not suffer. To begin this column, here’s a hot tip: Herbal tea scotches food cravings that develop when one sees so much of sweet and savouries around.

First, give yourself a clean start every morning with lemon in hot water. Even during festivals, take the time out to exercise.

Plan a healthy balanced breakfast and lunch. When you feel like snacking, reach for vegetable sticks and nuts. Opt for fruits with low glycemic index (GI) like cherries, grapefruit, apples and oranges. For those with a sweet tooth, so many healthy options are available nowadays — like jaggery coconut barfi, honey, flax seed and peanut chikki. Try and eat a healthy, light home-made meal before going to weddings and dinners, so as to avoid all the fried snacks and sweets being served.

As for diabetics among your family and friends, go back to your roots and use organic whole foods to make healthier treats for them. Limit their alcohol intake. It’s not as if all of them have to be strictly off sweets, advises Dr Roopak Wadhwa, Consultant, Department of Endocrinology and Diabetes, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh. “For diabetic patients, if their blood sugar is well controlled, i.e. 90-120 mg/dl when fasting and below 160 post-prandial, sweets made with ‘sugar free’ sweetener can be taken but not more than 50 gm per day.” Non-khoya traditional sweets are a good choice.

These days a lot of people have been declared pre-diabetic (fasting 101 and post-prandial 141-200 or HbA1C 5.7-6.4%). “Pre-diabetics have a chance to delay their need for medication may be for years with lifestyle modification as warning signals have occurred for them in very early stage of the disease,” says Dr Wadhwa. “Healthy diet and exercise can bring Ideal Body Weight as ‘first-line treatment’ for pre-diabetes.”

He has seen many disciplined patients achieve these goals in his practice. “In such patients, the need for diabetes medication is reduced as good glycaemic control is achieved due to decreased glucotoxicity with lifestyle modification, and same goes with need for insulin in type 1 diabetes,” he says. “Once started it’s not compulsory that the drugs and insulin will be permanent or compulsory for patients with type 2 diabetes.” In type 1 diabetes, insulin is not being produced in sufficient quantity by the pancreas.

What if a patient ignores doctor’s advice and continues as if nothing has happened? The beta-cell mass of pancreas, which is responsible for insulin production, is reduced with increased duration of illness. This leads to complications such as vision loss, heart disease, nerve damage and kidney disease — in short, some organ or the other becomes dysfunctional.

What about media reports that suggest the medical profession is declaring too many people diabetic with an eye on profiteering? I suggest you trust your doctor, as levels of blood sugar were decided after lots of research, meta-analysis, trials by multiple agencies in the field of health and diabetes such as WHO, IDF American Diabetes Association and European Society for Diabetes. And nobody can mint money from your disease if you take preventive steps and modify your lifestyle. That would be the sweetest choice you can make for yourself.

Dr Reshma is an advocate of wellness, prevention and holistic health. Instagram handle: dr.reshmakhattarbhagat