By taking care of your body and your mind
What’s the secret to living well and happily with diabetes?
You’re already checking your blood sugar several times a day. You’re diligent about taking your medicine, following a good diet and exercising, but you’re stressed because you’re grappling with a chronic disease. What else is there to do?
Maybe it’s time to adjust your attitude.
A great deal of patients’ experience with disease depends on how they look at it, says Betul Hatipoglu, MD, a staff member in the Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism within the Endocrinology & Metabolism Institute.
She tells the story of a 76-year-old patient of hers who has had type 1 diabetes since he was about 5 years old. “One time I asked him, ‘Do your sugars go up when you’re stressed out?’ He answered, ‘I never stress out.’ His wife was there with him and she confirmed what he said.”
The patient went on to explain to Dr. Hatipoglu that he looks at life as an ocean. “I move with the waves,” he told her. “There’s no point to worry.”
Dr. Hatipoglu encourages people with diabetes or any chronic disease to look at the disease the way her patient looks at life. “Be positive,” she says, “and not let it block the way to enjoying your life.”
Lighten Your Burden
She doesn’t make light of the disease. It’s imperative that patients take care of the physical aspects. “Diabetes is already a burden on your shoulders,” she says. “I’m not underestimating the burden. But as with anything in life, when you look at your burden as a feather you are carrying, then even if it’s very heavy, your mind will make it a feather.”
The body-mind connection is that strong, she says. Because psychological stress adversely affects blood sugar control, Dr. Hatipoglu often suggests that patients walk in nature or employ some other method to de-stress, such as t’ai chi, yoga, meditation or prayer. “It depends on the person,” she says. “The right thing for that person can improve hemoglobin A1c sometimes more than my drugs.”
Individuals should always check with their physicians before making dietary changes, but Dr. Hatipoglu often recommends that her patients take a B complex supplement. “The B vitamins are very important to glucose metabolism and nerve conduction,” she explains. And she’ll often suggest that patients with high blood sugar levels try a gluten-free diet. A few have had great success on the diet while others simply report less mental fog. “I’m not sure why it works,” Dr. Hatipoglu says. “It could be because they’re eating more healthfully, with more fruits and vegetables. Or there’s something in the gluten that disrupts diabetics in some way.”
Making any big change, whether it’s in your diet or the way you look at having a chronic disease, isn’t easy, but it can be done, Dr. Hatipoglu says. “It’s all about attitude. There is the truth: You have diabetes. How you look at the truth and handle it makes a very big difference.”
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