I have Type 1 Diabetes – what can I eat to control my blood sugars?
In a word, people with Type 1 Diabetes can eat anything. What is vitally important is that you eat a healthy balanced diet and you manage your insulin doses correctly. This can be complex and the more information you have, the more control you will gain. Let’s take a step back first…
What is Type 1 Diabetes?
- Type 1 Diabetes is an auto-immune disease. This means that the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the cells that make insulin in the pancreas. Without insulin production there is no control over blood sugars leading to multiple organ problems.
- Type 1 Diabetes is NOT caused by lifestyle factors such as overweight or a badly balanced diet. There is a genetic tendency in some families and the disease is thought to be triggered by various types of viruses or trauma that the person experiences.
- A good diet can help hugely with good control of blood sugars. What that ‘good diet’ is depends on the person we a talking about – is it a child with a perfectly normal body weight and healthy activity level? Perhaps an overweight or underweight adult? A keen sportsperson? Type 1 diabetes affects all kinds of people who have different dietary needs.
What do I need to do to improve control of my Type 1 Diabetes?
Dr Tony O’Sullivan, a GP living with Type 1 says: “It’s a very personal challenge… I see the effort at controlling blood glucose as similar to walking down a long corridor in the dark, trying not to hit off the walls on either side; we need to turn the lights on”.
In Type 1 Diabetes, the aim is to contain blood sugar (glucose) levels within a certain band. You can manage this by eating a healthy diet and using the appropriate quantity of insulin.
- Choose a variety of carbohydrates, proteins and fats with plenty of vegetables and fruits.
- A good routine is vital to help maintain good blood sugar control.
- Exercise also affects blood sugars, so this should be part of the routine.
- Some factors that can affect blood sugars are less controllable, for example, infections and stress.
- With a good routine, your immune system will be in better shape to help you fight away illness!
Several clients who have come to me with Type 1 are confused about what they should and shouldn’t eat. They often have misconceptions about the amount of carbohydrates they need and may even be avoiding healthy foods like fruits. Here’s what one of my clients, Rita, had to say:
“I’m a Type 1 diabetic for the past 4 years, I was managing the diabetes very badly with big swings in my blood glucose levels. Also I was overweight, stressed and lacking in energy. I had my first consultation with Anna where she explained how I could improve my glucose control, she gave me a plan that was easy for me to follow with meals, snacks and tips on timing of food and insulin. I feel so much better now, my energy, sleep and concentration have all improved and my blood sugars are much better controlled. It’s not perfect but I’m learning so much with Anna’s help I feel much more positive about my future health.”