Diagnosis of type 2 diabetes: tips from a nutritionist
Almost 500,000 people in Switzerland live with the diagnosis of diabetes. This corresponds to about one in twenty. What does this mean for their everyday life?
Type 2 diabetes: what is it?
Diabetes is a metabolic disease in which the body's own insulin is non-existent, in short supply or insufficiently effective. The result is higher sugar levels in the blood.
There are different forms of diabetes, including the following:
- type 1 diabetes
- type 2 diabetes
- gestational diabetes
- other rare forms of diabetes
Type 2 diabetes as a warning signal
People with type 2 diabetes don’t usually feel ill on a daily basis. However, if their metabolism isn't correctly adjusted in the long-term, i.e. their blood sugar values are too high over a long period of time, they risk suffering subsequent effects later in life with massive lifestyle limitations. A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for other diseases and therefore a warning.
Do I now have to inject insulin my whole life?
Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes doesn’t always require insulin injections. Even medication isn’t necessary in every case, since a balanced diet and plenty of exercise can have a significant impact on the course of the metabolic disease.
Living with type 2 diabetes: what’s important to know?
These practical tips show you how you can take your health into your own hands:
Focus on complex carbohydrates
Because carbohydrates raise blood sugar, they often play a key role in dietary recommendations for type 2 diabetes. Carbohydrates are found in starchy products such as bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, pulses, breakfast cereals, sugar and sweets, and also in fruits, milk and dairy products. People with type 2 diabetes are generally allowed to eat these foods.
However, because blood sugar levels usually rise less quickly and less high after eating “complex” carbohydrates, it makes sense to focus on complex carbohydrates. This means, for example, choosing wholemeal bread over white bread; or brown rice, buckwheat and pulses over white rice.
Avoid sugar-laden foods
As a general rule: sweetened drinks and fruit juices are laden with sugar, don’t fill us up and contain many calories. Highly processed products such as ready-made meals also often contain a lot of carbohydrates. It’s therefore advisable not only for people with type 2 diabetes, but for anyone wishing to follow a healthy diet, not to consume an excess of highly processed, carbohydrate-rich foods. It’s better to combine fibre-rich, unprocessed carbohydrate sources with high-quality fat and protein sources. This leads to optimal levels of satiety, during which blood sugar levels usually rise more slowly and less high.
Keep a check on body weight
Obesity often occurs in combination with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. A normal weight is beneficial for various health aspects and is particularly desirable for people with type 2 diabetes. Firstly, there are indications that this can improve the effect of insulin; secondly, high blood pressure in people who are overweight can be lowered with weight loss. Since not only type 2 diabetes but also high blood pressure can cause cardiovascular problems, controlled weight reduction makes sense on both accounts. Depending on a person’s age, life situation and any other medical conditions, recommendations on body weight differ, which is why it pays to seek professional help before losing weight.
It all comes down to exercise
Being physically active doesn’t have to mean practising sport like a professional athlete. The Federal Office of Public Health recommends that adults get at least 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week. In addition to sports, this can include everyday activities such as working in the garden, shovelling snow, brisk walking or cycling – anything that gets you breathing a little faster. If you like to work up a sweat during sports, you can do 1 ¼ hours of high-intensity sports (for example biking, tennis or cardiovascular training on fitness machines).
Get professional help
Personal nutrition counselling is highly recommended for people with type 2 diabetes and their relatives. Find competent and highly qualified professionals in your area on the website of the Swiss Association of Registered Dieticians (SVDE).
What's more: with a doctor's prescription, the costs for nutrition counselling are covered by your basic insurance from your health insurance company.