Medicines for diabetes
There are many medicines that are used for diabetes. There are tablets and injections that lower blood sugar levels or help our body’s to use our own insulin better as well as injectable insulin itself.
Alcohol and diabetes medicines
Alcohol lowers blood sugar levels. When alcohol is combined with other things that lower blood sugar levels there is a danger of the levels dropping too low which is known as hypoglycaemia. Symptoms of hypoglycaemia can range from feeling clammy and dizzy to death. Therefore alcohol should be avoided if diabetes medicines are being taken.
Vitamin D and diabetes medicines
Vitamin D is commonly taken as it is important in preventing and treating osteoporosis. Vitamin D can help our body to use insulin better and so blood sugar levels can be lower than anticipated. It is a good idea to monitor blood sugar levels if you are being treated for diabetes and start taking vitamin D. The amount of diabetes medicine needed may decrease.
Herbs that lower blood sugar levels
As is the case with commencing any herbs, vitamins, minerals etc it is important to discuss whether this is suitable with your health care professional. If you start taking a herb that lowers blood sugar levels there is a risk of your levels getting too low. Prescription medicines may need to have their dosages lowered in this case.
Examples of herbs that can lower blood sugar levels are:
- Aloe vera
- Stinging nettle
- Gymnema sylvestre
Fibre supplements and diabetes medicines
As fibre supplements decrease the absorption of many medicines it’s important to have these at least two hours away from diabetes medicines and insulin.
Appetite suppressants and diabetes medicines
These may reduce appetite and blood sugar levels. They may, however, have an effect on the heart. If blood sugar levels drop too low it can affect the beating of the heart.
Reference Drug Muggers by Suzy Cohen
If you are not intolerant of gluten and do not suffer Coeliac Disease there is no benefit to avoiding gluten in your diet and in fact it may be detrimental to your health.
Those who need to avoid gluten do so to avoid symptoms that can be severe. These people must be careful to not only avoid gluten but also to eat healthily so that their overall health does not suffer because of this.
What is gluten?
Gluten is the name given to a group of proteins that are found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. Gluten acts like a glue in the foods that it is in so that they hold their shape.
Gluten can also be found in things such as sauces, lollies, supplements, medicines and many more things you might not expect.
Why avoid gluten?
Only those who have been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease or those who have been diagnosed with gluten intolerance should avoid gluten.
In those with these diagnoses even a very small amount of gluten can cause severe stomach upset, sometimes with pain and diarrhoea lasting for days. The gastrointestinal lining also gets damaged leading to the inability to absorb nutrients so these people can suffer with deficiencies. Other health issues can result also.
Interestingly it is not always gluten that causes the digestive symptoms it is blamed for. It may, in fact, be FODMAPs (a group of carbohydrates) that cause the symptoms. FODMAPs and gluten often occur in the same foods and so gluten gets the blame.
Problems with avoiding gluten
You can’t avoid hearing about the importance of the gut microbiome lately. What this means is that it is important that there is a wide range of healthy bacteria in our digestive system to ensure that we have good general health.
Gluten free diets lower our microbiome diversity which can be detrimental to our health.
If gluten containing foods are avoided there can be a problem with low fibre in the diet so fibre needs to be consumed in other ways.
Gluten actually lowers cholesterol.
There are many gluten free products available now in supermarkets and restaurants. Many of these are very unhealthy!
What should I eat?
If you have been diagnosed as being unable to tolerate gluten, as I have, then avoid it but don’t just avoid it because you think it’s healthy.
Gluten free foods from the supermarket and restaurant are great as treats but it really comes down to eating real food and avoiding “food” from a package as much as possible.
A lot of diets that have been studied and found to be good for overall health and longevity are actually high in carbohydrates (such as the Mediterranean Diet) however they contain unrefined carbohydrates that are good for our health and microbiome.
Reference Food as Medicine lecture Sydney Health (The University of Sydney)
Low fat vs low carb
Tonight may not be the best night to discuss dietary habits as many of us are ready to eat “footy food” and watch the final State of Origin match however I’ll go ahead anyway.
A recent study conducted over a year looked at weight change in those who followed a healthy low fat diet and those who followed a healthy low carb diet.
The study had 609 participants and was very well run with instruction by dietitians regularly over the course of the year.
Aspects other than weight were also measured such as the effect of people’s genes on their ability to lose weight.
There was NO difference in weight loss between the low fat and low carb groups.
There was NO difference in weight loss between those with certain genes that can affect metabolism or fat and carbohydrates.
What does this tell us?
What these results tell us is that of the very many different diets that are around there is not a one size fits all way of eating to lose weight.
There are different eating plans that suit different people. There are also different plans that may suit us at particular times.
In addition to this losing weight does not necessarily mean improvements in health (though often it does). More on this next week.
Reference JAMA 2018;319(7):667-679.