Diabetes: A layman’s Survey [Archives:1999/29/Health]

July 19 1999

By: Yosuf Abdulhameed,
Thousands of people in Yemen suffer from diabetes. My wife is one of those who suffers.
My range of information on the above subject is quite limited and I am not a qualified person to discuss it. However, I ventured some personal research about the causes and treatment of diabetes, and narrate my findings for the benefit of our ordinary citizens of Yemen.
I learned that there are many factors influencing the development and progress of diabetes, Hereditary factors play an important part for genetic reasons. Obesity due to excess consumption of carbohydrates and fats induces diabetes. Grief due to loss or sudden illness of a loved and dear one can also be the cause of it. Infection, stress and strain and physical disorders may be reasons for diabetes. Finally, I read that wrong diet is an important factor in the growth and advancement of diabetes.
The symptoms indicating an oncoming attack of diabetes include Polyurea, polydipsia, polyphagia plus headache, weakness, giddiness and body aches. Other symptoms of uncontrolled diabetes are double vision, loss of memory, paralysis, unconsciousness and convulsions. There may be other symptoms of an attack, like trembling of the body, pins and needles and numbness of the hands and feet.
I understand that juvenile-onset diabetes develops in childhood, and is characterized by complete lack of insulin in the body, while maturity-onset diabetes usually appears in middle-aged people or elders who are often obese. I have taken interest in the older group because of my age and the diabetes of my wife. I feel that diabetes of this group can be completely controlled by proper diet. That is how my wife is successfully controlling her diabetes. Thus I stress that diet is the prime element or fundamental source for its control.
Let me first deal with the hereditary factors which cause diabetes. I read that if one of the parent has diabetes, one third of the offspring may develop diabetes in later life. If both parents have diabetes, one-half of the children may develop diabetes later in life. This is not a hard and fast rule, and there are families where no such development has taken place. My personal feeling is that children follow the same pattern of eating and drinking as their parents. They normally prefer the same foods which their parents had taught them to eat. As a result, they inherit some of the rights and wrongs committed by their parents. If we realize these mistakes and correct them, we could then delay the onset or hopefully altogether avoid the “Hereditary Factor.” It is sometimes necessary to break with old discredited feeding traditions, and go for modern principles.
My wife didn’t inherit diabetes. No one in her family has or had diabetes. Her diabetes was detected when she had repeated toothaches, headaches and giddiness. A lot of tea with sugar, potatoes, rice and other fatty foods were the cause of it. The doctor told her to avoid starchy and oily foods, but she didn’t take it seriously at an early stage, and thus developed Diabetes. Her blood sugar reached 300mg%, and sugar appeared in her urine because the kidney’s couldn’t cope with the high concentration of blood sugar.
I read and consulted some doctors before suggesting to her some curative principles, exercise, etc. which was adopted by her. Her FBS is now between 80-120mg%.
The curative principles are mentioned as follows:
a) Our body needs protein, which is a body builder. High protein products includes meat and most products, fish, eggs, cheese, lentils, etc. We should take a very limited amount of protein, and concentrate more on lentils, which are second class proteins.
b) Carbohydrates found in white bread, sugar, rice, pot toes and other starchy foods are harmful to a diabetic. They are also a necessary part of anyone’s diet. I think a diabetic should change over the whole wheat flour products (take khubz bur with little or no oil), vegetables, and plenty of salads. They have a lower carbohydrate content.
c) Exercise plays an important role in controlling diabetes. Regular daily walks up to two and four kilometers or more is necessary for better control. But don’t exercise if your diabetes is not under control. Don’t lift weights or try to carry heavy objects. They raise blood sugar.
d) A vitamin rich diet is very good for diabetes. Vitamins are available in the foods that we eat. But these are also available in tablet and capsule form. Vitamins A, B, C, D, and E are all essential for the body. A complex is a tablet with many vitamins which should be consumed daily by diabetics.
e) Diabetics should take food punctually at regular times of the day for the proper control of this disease, as the anti-diabetic drug works only for a limited time.
f) Wounds and sores of diabetics, especially on the feet and legs, don’t heal and get infected easily, and a little sore can become gangrenous leading to amputation. Diabetics should inspect their feet regularly to check if cuts, swelling, infection and bruises are there. Keep feet always clean and dry, and don’t be barefooted. Take Vitamin C, which fights infection and heals wounds.
Science and technology have advanced stupendously during the twentieth century. There has been advancement in the treatment of diabetes. The science of nutrition now believes that diabetes, and for that matter many other diseases, are both preventable and curable provided that the diseases have not reached an incurable or advanced stage.
My advice to diabetics who have not been able to control their trouble is that they should consult their medical specialists early and consistently. They should know the drugs that they are taking, their effects and side effects, when to adjust the doses, what other drugs to take or not to take in order to avoid hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia attacks.
In conclusion, I can say that diet control can reach a stage when a diabetic will feel that there is no need for drugs anymore. He should consult a Medical Specialist, and should not go off the drugs on his own.
Diabetics can live the rest of their normal lives without any further attacks.