This month for Diabetes Awareness Month, we are breaking down the top ten diabetes myths.
1) If I eat well and exercise every day, my diabetes will go away.
There is currently no cure for diabetes however, if you make lifestyle changes such as eating healthy and exercising regularly, you may be better able to control your blood sugar levels. It’s also important to know that due to the progressive nature of type 2 diabetes, sometimes the body isn’t making enough insulin. So even with lifestyle changes you may still need help from medications and/or insulin to bring your blood sugar levels into the target range. We recommend making sustainable lifestyle changes that are comfortable and practical for the long-term rather than drastic changes that you cannot maintain. What to learn more about living a healthy lifestyle? Click the button to join us for our nutrition & lifestyle workshop: Join Workshop
2) I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes but now that I am using insulin, I have type 1 diabetes.
People with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can take insulin and starting insulin does not change the type of diabetes you have. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the pancreas makes little to no insulin. Type 1 diabetes is always treated with insulin, either through injections or continuous infusion with an insulin pump. Type 2 diabetes is often caused by a combination of insulin resistance (cells are not responding to the insulin) and insulin deficiency (the pancreas is making insulin but not enough). Type 2 diabetes can be treated with lifestyle changes, oral and injectable medications as well as insulin.
3) Starting insulin means that my diabetes is severe and that I am going to develop complications.
Starting insulin is a natural part of taking care of your diabetes, and may actually help lower your blood sugar levels and prevent complications. Diabetes complications (including eye, kidney, nerve and blood vessel damage) are often caused by long periods of high blood sugars. It’s important to speak with your physician and diabetes care team about what your blood glucose targets and recommended treatment options are. Visiting your pharmacist, optometrist, chiropodist and other specialists at least annually can help with screening to help prevent and treat complications.
4) Artificial sweeteners are not safe to use.
Unlike regular sugar (including brown sugar, honey, maple syrup etc.), artificial sweeteners will not raise blood glucose levels. Health Canada regulates the use of artificial sweeteners in our food to ensure safety. There are upper limits to the amounts of sweetener that you should not exceed, but most people do not come close to consuming above the upper limit unless they are having sweeteners many times in their day. Using artificial sweeteners is a personal choice, and you do not have to use them, but they are an alternative to consider if you want to satisfy your sugar cravings without raising your blood sugar. If you are interested in learning more, click the button: Sugars & Sweeteners
5) If I eat a low carb diet, my blood sugar levels will stay within the target range.
Reducing your carbohydrate intake may help you lower your blood sugar levels, but for many people, reaching their blood glucose target may not be possible with just diet changes alone. People living with diabetes should still include healthy sources of carbohydrate, such as whole grains, fruits, and dairy products in their diet. Portion control is key! So try to keep carbohydrate portions to the size of your fist or one quarter of your plate at meal times. Cutting out carbohydrates altogether may lead to a lack of nutrients and fibre in your diet. Lastly, many people are not able to sustain a low carbohydrate diet so it’s important to choose a reasonable diet that you can follow long term.
6) If I’m doing well, I am wasting my health care providers’ time by having a visit.
We want to see you, even if you’re doing well! Even if your diabetes has been well controlled, there are many preventative screenings that are recommended for people living with diabetes. For example, it is recommended to have your eyes and feet checked at least once per year. As well, your physician will be monitoring your blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol a few times per year to help you prevent diabetes complications.
7) I can’t drink alcohol because I have diabetes.
The recommendations for alcohol intake are the same, regardless of whether or not you are living with diabetes. Men should limit their alcohol intake to less than 3 standard drinks per day, and less than 15 per week. Women should limit their consumption to less than 2 standard drinks per day, and less than 10 per week. Many alcoholic beverages contain sugar or carbohydrate and can increase blood glucose levels, however they can also cause hypoglycemia, or a low blood sugar for up to 24 hours later. It is recommended to have your drinks with a meal or snack and check your blood sugar more regularly when drinking, especially if you take insulin or medications that increase you risk of hypoglycemia. And remember – if you don’t already drink, it’s not recommended that you start!
8) I have borderline diabetes.
Borderline diabetes is referred to as prediabetes, which really means “at risk for diabetes.” Making lifestyle changes such as healthy eating, exercise and reducing body weight by about 5% can reduce your risk of diabetes by almost 60%! If you have been told that you have prediabetes, consider joining the Canadian Diabetes Prevention Program to support you in your lifestyle modifications. Click the button to learn more: Canadian Diabetes Prevention Program
9) Fruits and some vegetables such as baby carrots should be avoided because they contain too much sugar.
Although it is true that fruits and some vegetables contain natural carbohydrates, this is not a reason to avoid them! Fruit contains lots of fibre and nutrients and is part of a healthy diet. Stick to no more than 2-3 fist sized portions of fruit per day, with no more than 1 serving at a time. Having your fruit with some protein, such as nuts or cheese can help slow the rise in your blood sugar. Vegetables, with the exception of corn and potatoes are generally considered “free of carbohydrates” and won’t contribute much to blood glucose levels. If you’re interested to learn more about how much carbohydrate is in different types of fruits and other foods, join us for our carbohydrate counting workshop! Join Workshop
10) I don’t need to check my blood glucose because I can feel if it is high or low.
While it is true that you may feel symptoms of high blood glucose (such as fatigue, headache, thirst, and frequent urination) and low blood glucose (such as feeling shaky, weak or sweaty) you may also experience high or low glucose levels without any symptoms at all. Sometimes the symptoms may feel very similar and it may be difficult to tell if levels are high or low. Checking regularly will help you take action in the moment and also help you and your diabetes team identify patterns that you can use to make treatment decisions. Speak to your diabetes pharmacist or educator if you aren’t sure how often or when to check.