Diabetes is a disease that is caused by inflammation. Inflammation is a natural process that protects your body against harm, however when there is too much inflammation in your body for too long it can be very destructive. Studies in normal weight mice showed that when the mice were injected with inflammatory molecules they developed insulin resistance, which we know is what causes type 2 diabetes. Reducing inflammation has been shown to also reduce insulin resistance and improve type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle habits that contribute to developing type 2 diabetes are unhealthy eating habits, being overweight or obese, lack of exercise, and stress, and improvements in all of these cause improvements in inflammation.
Unhealthy eating that can cause diabetes is eating foods rich in sugars or lots of carbohydrates in excess. Some examples include eating desserts, breads, pastas, pizza, crackers, and even some sweet fruits. Eating these foods once in awhile is ok, but when eaten all the time they cause your blood sugar to spike. When this happens your body produces lots of insulin to bring the glucose from you blood into your cells. However, if your blood sugar, or blood glucose, is consistently high your pancreas is working overtime to produce insulin and your body becomes less sensitive to it. For more information on how diet can contribute to diabetes check out the next blog in the Diabetes Series on Diabetes and Nutrition.
Having excessive body fat also increases the likelihood of developing diabetes. One reason for this is in many cases having a high body fat content is a reflection of the unhealthy eating habits that contribute to diabetes. In addition, obesity increases internal inflammation which we know contributes to insulin resistance. Studies have shown that losing 7 percent of your body weight can reduce chances of developing type 2 diabetes by half.
Your muscles use glucose as one of their energy sources. So when you are exercising and you muscles are working hard they are going to want to bring in more glucose to burn. One study showed that a single session of moderate intensity exercise can increase the amount of glucose transported from your blood into your cells by at least 40%. This is great because it means that your cells are becoming more sensitive to insulin. However, these benefits do go away within 48 to 72 hours of the last exercise session, which is why it is important to maintain regular physical activity. Start a new exercise slowly and continue to gradually increase intensity as you get more comfortable with it. Aim to exercise 30-45 minutes daily. One exercise to consider is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Interval training has been shown to be very effective in reducing fat, increasing muscle mass, and increase aerobic power. In addition, it is more effective at protecting against heart attacks than endurance type training. Do 5 minutes of warm up followed by 6-8 repetitions of 30 seconds of high intensity followed by 90 seconds of low intensity recovery. (To learn more about HIIT check out the following article:
).This type of exercise is quite intense, so aim for 2-3 days per week, and the other days do something a little more low impact like briskly walking, yoga, hiking, pilates, etc. (To read more on the benefits of walking check out our blog here:
Although the effect of stress reduction techniques on insulin resistance has not been proven, stress is directly related in inflammation, and reducing stress may be another way of reducing inflammation. In addition, doing mind-body exercises can improve positive body image and help control binge eating behaviors, which will also help to reduce inflammation. If you are consistently stressed it is important to find a relaxing activity whether it is yoga, meditation, art, the sky’s the limit. At the very least make sure you have at least 30 minutes to an hour each day to drop all of your responsibilities and take time for yourself. In this time go on a walk, do some breathing exercises, do some comfortable stretching, meditate, do art, practice body positivity; whatever it takes for you to relax and focus on your wellbeing. Bonus points if your relaxing activity includes some form of exercise. (For more information on techniques to recognize and control emotional eating check out our
In addition to stress relieving techniques, getting an adequate amount of sleep will help reduce inflammation, and help balance metabolic hormones. The recommended amount of sleep for the average adult is 6-8 hours per night. Have you ever noticed that when you get very little sleep you are more hungry than you would be if you slept through the night? That is because your body produces more ghrelin than normal. Ghrelin is the “hunger hormone” which tells your brain “I’m hungry, feed me food!!” In addition, when your body is sleep deprived it produces less leptin, the hormone that tells your brain you have had enough to eat. The result is that you feel hungry even if you have already eaten. To make matters worse, lack of sleep causes your body to produce a large amount of cortisol, a stress and inflammation hormone causes your body to hang on to fat to use during your waking hours. If the happens frequently it may be hard not to gain weight.(to learn more on the importance of sleep read our post on