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Help in Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes | April 6, 2018 | Author: Naturopath


Help in Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes is a name used to describe a group of conditions that result in too much sugar in the blood. The most common forms are type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellites—but issues maintaining blood sugars can occur during pregnancy and in people who have insulin resistance. The prevalence of diabetes is on the rise and if the condition is left untreated the complications can be very serious. Diabetes can be controlled with exercise, healthy diet, medication and supplements.

How diabetes affects the body

People with diabetes have issues with maintaining healthy levels of glucose in the blood. Glucose is a kind of sugar which our bodies use as a source of energy. When we eat a meal that contains carbohydrates our body will need to convert glucose into energy. Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas which helps to move the glucose from the blood into the cells. Diabetics can have impaired insulin production (type 2) or no insulin produced at all (type 1). In individuals with insulin resistance there’s decreased sensitivity to the way cells respond to insulin. All these forms result in blood glucose levels that are too high.

Diabetes complications

If high blood glucose levels are left untreated they can result in serious complications. These include:

  • kidney damage (nephropathy)
  • eye damage (retinopathy)
  • nerve damage to the feet and other parts of the body (neuropathy)
  • heart disease (for example, angina or heart attacks), strokes and circulation problems in the legs
  • sexual difficulties, including erectile dysfunction
  • foot ulcers or infections resulting from circulation problems and nerve damage

Types of diabetes

Type 1 diabetes

Approximately 10% of Australians with diabetes have type 1. It is common in children and adolescents but can develop in adults too. Classified as an autoimmune disorder, type 1 diabetics produce antibodies that destroy pancreatic islets which produce insulin. There is no cure, but type 1 diabetes can be successfully managed with insulin injections, nutrition and exercise. 

Type 1 diabetesIf a meal is skipped or too much insulin is taken this can lead to dangerously low levels of blood glucose (hypoglycaemia). Symptoms include tremor, sweating, dizziness, headache, hunger and in some instances loss of consciousness.

A small dose of sugar such as from glucose tablets or jellybeans can increase blood sugars quickly to healthy levels.

Type 2 diabetes

This form of diabetes has increased in prevalence due to the ‘obesity epidemic’. Risk factors include overweight or obesity, lack of physical activity and poor diet. It is strongly associated with high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, and an ‘apple’ body shape, where excess weight is carried around the waist.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes which affects 85 to 90% of all people with diabetes. While it usually develops in mature adults over 40, younger people are also now being diagnosed in greater numbers as rates of overweight and obesity increase. Healthy lifestyle factors can significantly reduce your risk of developing this form of diabetes.

Gestational diabetes

High blood glucose levels during pregnancy is diagnosed as gestational diabetes. During this time the body can’t cope with the extra demand for insulin production. After the baby is born, gestational diabetes usually disappears. However, women with gestational diabetes are at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

How to control diabetes

There is no cure for diabetes but methods to maintain healthy blood sugars will reduce complications. Some diabetics will need to take medication for blood sugar control. Many lifestyle factors contribute to the prevalence or severity of diabetes—especially type 2 diabetes. Here are some things you can do to reduce your risk or control your symptoms.

Monitor blood sugars

Monitor blood sugarsFor some diabetics it is important to monitor blood glucose levels at home by testing droplets of blood in a glucose meter. This is a method to check that management of your diabetes is keeping your blood glucose levels within the target range. This ensures appropriate treatment can be administered and changed as necessary.
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Being obese or overweight, especially around the abdominal area is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. It also increases your risk of serious complications such as heart disease, nerve damage and blindness.  Through healthy diet and exercise, aim for gradual weight loss to within the healthy weight range.


Being sedentary is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Regular physical activity in diabetics can help in weight reduction and in maintaining healthy blood sugars. Aim for 1 hour or more of mild to moderate physical activity each day such as walking, swimming, cycling or playing a team sport. Try to avoid watching TV and keep active throughout the day.


What you eat plays a huge role in diabetes prevention and management. The best diet to adhere to is the low glycaemic diet—where foods such as carbohydrates are slowly released into the blood stream to avoid sharp rises in blood sugars.

DietAll grains should be wholemeal for extra fibre and serves should be limited. Serves of fresh veggies are unlimited but at least 4-5 cups worth. Lentils and beans are great sources of protein and are low GI foods but animal proteins such as meat, eggs and dairy should amount to only 2 serves daily. Type 1 diabetics taking insulin should eat similar sized, low GI meals every 3-4 hours to avoid low blood sugars.
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The use of the following supplements should be used in caution in diabetics taking medications as they can make them more effective. In some cases this is beneficial but if blood glucose levels dip too low and medication hasn’t been adjusted this can be very dangerous. The following supplements have proven benecial for blood sugar balancing:

Gymnema: helps to restore pancreatic function and the production of insulin.

Alpha lipoic acid—an antioxidant which can lower fasting blood sugars, decrease insulin resistance and prevent complications.

Cinnamon—helps lower fasting blood sugar levels.

Chromium—an essential trace element which is necessary for carbohydrate metabolism.

B vitamins—many of which are involved in converting food into energy.

Magnesium—a common deficiency in diabetics which improves insulin sensitivity.

Common forms of diabetes include type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. Many lifestyle factors such as low physical activity, poor diet and obesity increase your risk. Healthy diet, exercise, medications and certain supplements can help in maintaining healthy blood sugars.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Lumb A. Diabetes and exercise. Clin Med (Lond). 2014 Dec;14(6):673-6

Vetter ML, et al. Nutritional management of type 2 diabetes mellitus and obesity and pharmacologic therapies to facilitate weight loss. Postgrad Med. 2014 Jan;126(1):139-52

Nahas R, et al. Complementary and alternative medicine for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Can Fam Physician. 2009 Jun;55(6):591-6

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