Dietitians form part of the healthcare team that provides help to individuals of any age who might have type 1, type 2, or even gestational diabetes (high blood sugar during pregnancy). How much your blood sugar is controlled would depend on the amount and type of carbohydrates that you eat, your insulin, if any, and also your daily activity levels. Dietitians can help you manage your diabetes by helping you to achieve a healthy diet and lifestyle. They would make sure that your diet is well balanced, by including foods from all the main food groups, including carbohydrates. A dietitian would also make sure that the diet is adequate for the medications you are taking (which might include insulin) and also any physical activity that you might be doing, and vice versa.
The aim of a consultation with your dietitian would be to improve your blood sugar levels. Together with your dietitian, you would be able to review your blood sugar readings and discuss target levels. In the short-term, good blood sugar levels will mean more energy, more restful sleep, improved physical performance and concentration, more stable moods and emotions, and healthier skin and gums. In the long-term, achieving blood sugar control will reduce the risk of developing complications later in life that can affect your eyes, heart, kidneys, and feet.
The most talked-about topic with regards to diabetes is of course the infamous carbohydrates. Many however forget that carbohydrates are in fact very important since they are our main source of energy. Carbohydrates can be in the form of simple sugars added to food e.g. biscuits and sweets, they can be in the form of naturally occurring sugars e.g. in fruit and milk, and they can also be in the form of complex carbohydrates as those found in for e.g. bread and pasta. All types of carbohydrates will increase your blood sugar level, however, people with diabetes don’t need to avoid them. Rather, the dietitian will be able to guide you on the type and amount of carbohydrate you need and when you need to eat it, depending on your age lifestyle, and possibly insulin regimen. By doing this, the dietitian would be helping you to balance your carbohydrates so that your blood sugar is maintained as close as possible to the normal range, avoiding high (hyperglycemia) or low (hypoglycemia) blood sugar levels.
This is especially important in type 1 diabetics where the number of carbohydrates you eat would need to be balanced with the amount of insulin you take. In fact, a dietitian can offer you education on carbohydrate counting. This would enable you to either eat similar amounts of carbohydrates every day or else learn to adjust your insulin dose to match the number of carbohydrates you wish to eat. In the case of children and young people, the dietitian would make sure that carbohydrates are being taken in sufficient amounts to support normal growth and development.
Throughout the consultations, dietitians will help you to improve your knowledge about diabetes and help you to actually understand how your diet is affecting diabetes. Together with your dietitian, you would be able to consider options available to you based on your current eating habits. You would also be able to formulate a plan so that you can make the changes needed to achieve your goals. A dietitian will therefore empower you in your diabetes journey and will give you the confidence you need to manage your condition.
If you feel that you require support or a consultation to help manage better your diabetes, you can book a consultation here.
Justine Parnis Ignjatovic is a dietitian at Willingness Team. She specializes in the use of food and nutrition to promote health and manage disease.