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Diabetes Doesn't Have to Put a Damper on the Holidays


WebMD Health News

Dec. 20, 1999 (Atlanta) -- A holiday that highlights visions of dancing sugarplums is not exactly ideal for a diabetic. But when everybody else is feasting on the season's excess, it's hard not to climb on board. Whether a diabetic is worried about waistline, sugar intake, or both, making some resolutions before New Year's may be all it takes to keep the holidays healthy and fun.

Diabetes is a disorder that affects about 16 million people in the United States. There are two types, type 1 and type 2. The first is what's generally known as insulin-dependent, meaning the patient must self-regulate the amount of insulin in the body, generally by injecting it. Insulin is a hormone that the body uses to break down sugar, or glucose. Type 2 diabetics produce insulin, but not enough to properly convert food into energy. Both types of diabetes can be dangerous.

A key to enjoying the holidays, according to many experts, is not a matter so much of what is eaten, but how much; in other words, moderation, not denial. If there is a certain food a diabetic craves, go ahead -- indulge, live a little. But that person should stay aware of his or her glucose level and regulate it as necessary.

And remember, food is not always the 'be-all and end-all' of the holidays. Johns Hopkins Diabetes Center nutritionist Gloria Elfert, MS, RD/LD, tells WebMD, "The whole thing is to enjoy the holiday, but don't go to great excess. No one expects perfection. And people can look for other ways of enjoying [the holidays], and not always with food."

Elfert says holiday or not, a diabetic should stick to their schedule. "[They] can't expect perfection during the holidays, they're going to be off a little bit, but if they test their blood sugars, they're going to be a little more aware. If they're going to take something they know is high in sugar, just take small amounts, so they don't overdue it. Keep to a routine as far as timing of ... meals and ... medication are concerned; the routine is important," she tells WebMD.

Of course, minimal sugar intake is important, but not just for the obvious reason. Less sugar means fewer calories consumed. Maintaining weight is a problem for some diabetics but is vital to managing diabetes because excess body weight can promote insulin resistance. It's not necessary for a diabetic to avoid all sugar, of course; just use moderation.

Foods digest at certain rates. An excess of calories will eventually put extra sugar into the blood. But some foods result in a much faster spike in blood sugar. These include bread, pasta, potatoes, and most starchy foods. Experts recommend staying away from foods that are high in fat, such as dark turkey meat, fried foods, rich and creamy foods, and nuts. High-fiber foods like beans, raw vegetables, and whole grains are much better.

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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