Diabetes is a complicated subject! I think what confuses a lot of people in regards to diabetes management is that it is 100% individualized. No one living with diabetes treats and manages their diabetes in the exact same way. Everyone takes a different combination of medications, tests their blood sugar at different times and for different reasons, takes a different kind of insulin in a different way and eats different foods at different times. There is no one size fits all approach to diabetes as it’s management has so much to do with our lifestyle, and everyone’s lifestyle is greatly different. This is why it is so important to work with your diabetes educator to find the right balance for you!
I have seen hundreds of people living with diabetes, newly diagnosed and those who have been living with the disease for many years and each day I get to learn something new. Sometimes what I learn is what type of misinformation is out there and what advice is being passed down from generation to generation (because diabetes has a genetic component).
Here are 4 diabetes myths I’ve busted!
Myth 1: Snacks Are a Must
I hear this time and time again from clients, that they must eat three meals and 3 snacks each and every day. I think these recommendations come from a variety of different sources, but mostly just outdated advice. Often, people say “well, that’s what my grandma did when she was living with diabetes”. Previously, we had some old insulins that worked better at different times of day, this meant that eating consistently was of the uttermost importance to prevent a low blood sugar. We have newer more predicable insulins now along with newer more predictable medications, so snacks are not a written rule to diabetes. If you are experiencing low blood sugars throughout the day, be sure to talk to your primary care provider, dietitian or diabetes educator to discuss what may be causing this and how to prevent it.
Myth 2: Sugar Causes Diabetes
Sugar, in fact, does not cause diabetes. There are many people who eat loads of sugar daily who will never develop diabetes, and many people who limit sugar intake who will develop diabetes. Diabetes can develop for a number of reasons, we have modifiable and unmodifiable risk factors that increase our risk of developing diabetes. The risk factors are as follows:
- First degree relative with type 2 diabetes
- Age >40
- Member of a high-risk population (Aboriginal, African, Asian, Hispanic or South Asian)
- History of pre-diabetes
- History of gestational diabetes
- History of a delivery of a macrosomic infant (>9.0 lb)
- Presence of end-organ damage associated with diabetes
- Presence of vascular risk factors such as elevated cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, high blood pressure, overweight, abdominal obesity
- Presence of associated diseases such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, Acanthosis nigricans, psychiatric disorders, HIV infection.
- Medications associated with diabetes such as corticosteroids and atypical antipsychotics.
- Secondary causes such as a genetic defect of beta cell function, genetic functions in insulin action, a disease of the exocrine pancreas, drug or chemical induced, infections, immune-mediated diabetes and effects from surgery.
So, you can see, there are a lot of risk factors that contribute to someone developing diabetes and not one of them mentions sugar!
Myth 3: People living with diabetes cannot have sugar
This one hurts. For anyone who has ever tried to cut sugar out of their life completely understands how truly challenging this is! Yes, sugar raises blood sugar, but there are many ways we can still include sugar in our diet and maintain living within a healthy blood sugar range. If you’ve ever heard of carbohydrate you should know that when digested it breaks down into sugar. Carbohydrate-containing foods include fruits, some vegetables, pasta, chocolate bars, candies, ice cream, milk and milk products, whole wheat whole grain bread, brown rice, couscous, quinoa and the list goes on and on. Does this mean people living with diabetes cannot eat any of the above? Of course not! It just means that we have some strategies for people living with diabetes to help them maintain blood sugar that is safe while consuming delicious, and nutritious foods, and sometimes enjoying a dessert or sweet. Diabetes is enough of a burden on people, let’s not stigmatize someone for eating a cookie occasionally!
Myth 4: Water or Lemon + Water helps lower blood sugar
This one I not only hear in regards to diabetes management but also cardiovascular disease, weight management and a slew of other health conditions. First of all, water is wonderful. It is true we are mostly water and thus we need water to survive. Water unfortunately though, does not cure all, it really does just hydrate us. For those who love a good detox, keep drinking plain ol water, it will make you pee and there is your most cost-effective and evidenced-based detox!
There are only a few things that will bring blood sugar down and drinking a big ol glass of water is not one of them. If your blood sugar is elevated we want you to evaluate why it may be higher than expected? (food, insulin, activity, sleep?) Going for a walk will bring your blood sugar down as your muscles need sugar to work, so it will use sugar in the bloodstream and thus decrease your blood sugar. Insulin is the only other thing that can bring your blood sugar down, and since we can’t tell our pancreas to make more insulin, we need to go for a walk and think about what we could do differently the next time to ensure a safe blood sugar.
Lemon + Water is no magical cure either… it really is just flavourful acidic water. If it helps you drink more water, please, by all means, enjoy some lemon water.
On that note: there are also no foods which help lower blood sugar.
** For someone living with T1DM or someone who is living with T2DM but takes bolus insulin, taking insulin is an option to bring blood sugar back to a safe level, however, this needs to be individualized and discussed with your primary care provider.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me!
Leave a comment with some more diabetes myths or facts that you need busted!