5 Things to Limit or Avoid When Living with Diabetes

Jake Newby

| 5 min read

All patients with diabetes must carefully manage what they put into their bodies. This applies to diet and medication. It can get easier over time to find a good groove in balancing diet, exercise and medication, and everyone can use a refresher from time to time. Because For those living with diabetes, occasional missteps can be cause for concern. Management of diabetes is possible with lifestyle modifications.
Here, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Internist Dr. Lynne Carter walks us through some habits to avoid and some best practices to remember as you manage your diabetes.

I would avoid missing meals.

Persons with diabetes should try to avoid skipping any meals. It is common for people to eat three meals a day. It’s especially important for people with diabetes to avoid missing any meals. This is recommended to prevent any abrupt fluctuation of your blood sugar levels. Sudden onset of low blood sugars may put you at risk for hypoglycemic unawareness which could limit your ability to function properly and possibly put you at a risk for harming yourself or others (when operating machinery or driving a car with your blood sugars being too low). Eat no fewer than three, as missing a meal can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate.
If you find yourself eating less due to an illness or another factor, talk with your primary care provider (PCP) about making potential adjustments to your medication. Also, remember to tell your PCP that you skipped a meal(s) because you weren’t feeling well so that adjustments can be made to your insulin regimen for that occurrence.

I would avoid exercising without monitoring my blood sugar before, during and after each period of exercise.

We all benefit from exercise. Getting up from your desk or chair and walking around your office, home or to the driveway is not a bad thing to do regularly. When you participate in more strenuous activities, like working in your home on a treadmill or going to the gym, you should check your blood glucose before each workout and carry fast-acting carbohydrates with you (The American Diabetes Association suggests glucose tablets, gummy candy, or juice) whenever exercising in case you experience low blood glucose.
Then, as soon as you’re done working out, check your blood sugar. Repeat this several times over the next few hours. Exercise draws on reserve sugar stored in your liver and muscles, and as your body rebuilds these stores, it takes the sugar it finds in your bloodstream. Also, it is a great idea to have identifying items like a bracelet or ID on you at the gym. This lets someone know that you are diabetic in the case you cannot communicate that yourself.

I would limit my use of sugar drinks and read the labels of the products to determine their sugar content.

Try to avoid sugary drinks, including diet sodas. Reviewing of the label of a soda or juice, may reveal that there is a high sugar concentration, although the label may say “diet." Sixteen-ounce bottles of many popular brands of soda contain upwards of 50 grams of sugar. Some even have significantly more than that. So, pay close attention to your beverages, including coffee and teas. Consider swapping out those sodas, sweet teas, iced coffees, sports drinks and juices with water and low-sugar and sugar-free options.

I would avoid taking over the counter (OTC) medications that tout weight loss, testosterone level benefits, thyroid support. I would never take over the counter (OTC) medications that tout weight loss, testosterone level benefits, thyroid support, etc.

As women and men age, they experience hormonal changes that can affect blood sugar levels. Women with diabetes may notice low blood sugar levels more acutely as they approach menopause. Also, men may experience low testosterone levels, which can cause cells in the body to resist insulin. In both of these scenarios, don’t be tempted to explore over-the-counter medication options. It is best when these concerns develop, that you address them with your practitioner before consideration of the highly commercialized over the counter hormonal home remedies. The same goes for meds that tout weight loss or thyroid support treatment. The side effects they could cause could negatively impact blood sugar levels, and that’s if they even work at all. Plus, many of them are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or testosterone therapy are different stories, and have proven to benefit people with diabetes, but these therapies only happen if your PCP gives you the greenlight. For any OTC medications you consider taking, first consult with your PCP to see if a certain prescription is right.

I would avoid skipping regular appointments with my PCP/health care team.

Even if you’ve made proper lifestyle adjustments, are taking your medication as prescribed and you feel great about where you are at with your diabetes management, you should never skip an appointment with your health care team. If you cannot make your appointment or forgot an appointment, be quick to reschedule.
Regular visits are an essential part of your treatment plan. For instance, you may not be aware of the development of a diabetes-related health complication because you could be asymptomatic. Following your regular appointments, preventive measures, and wellness checkups can help you catch complications early when treatment is most effective.
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Photo credit: Getty Images

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