Is Counting Carbs Enough For a Diabetic

When you are diabetic, is it enough to simply count your carbohydrates out for each meal and snack you consume during the course of your day?

For some diabetics, yes this may be enough. But for others, there is far more to carbohydrates you need to concern yourself with than just the net total.

What is happening when you are not consuming more total carbohydrates than your doctor allows, yet your blood glucose continues to go up anyhow?

First, I advise you to work closely with your doctor on this issue. You may very well require a change to your medications. But, there is also a good chance that you need to adjust your diet too. It could be that despite your carbs being within their allowable limits as a total, you could be consuming foods that are too high on the Glycemic Index. When it comes to some fruits and melons, you might as well be eating spoonfuls of straight table sugar because of the manner in which the natural sugars just dump straight into your bloodstream. Some fruits and melons are low in fiber content which will causes your blood sugar to sky rocket when you consume them.

What is the Glycemic Index? 

Simply put, the glycemic index is a value assigned to foods based on how slowly or how quickly those foods cause increases in blood glucose levels. Foods low on the glycemic index (GI) scale tend to release glucose slowly and steadily. Foods high on the glycemic index release glucose rapidly. For optimum blood sugar control, those who are pre-diabetic or have full-blown diabetes, no matter the type, need to concentrate on consuming low GI foods . People with type 1 diabetes can’t produce sufficient quantities of insulin and those with type 2 diabetes are resistant to insulin. With both types of diabetes, faster glucose release from high GI foods will result in  spikes in blood glucose levels. The slow and steady release of glucose in low-glycemic foods helps maintain good glucose control.

Foods are classified as low, medium, or high glycemic foods and ranked on a scale of 0–100. The lower the GI of a specific food, the less it may affect your blood glucose levels.

Here are the three GI ratings:

Low: 55 or less

Medium: 56–69

High: 70 or above

Foods which are high in refined carbs and sugar are digested quickly and will have a high number on the Glycemic Index, Foods high in protein, fat, or fiber typically have a low number on the Glycemic Index, while foods that contain no carbs are not even assigned a number on the Glycemic Index. These foods that have no assigned “GI” number include meat, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and oils.

If you are diabetic, you also need to keep in mind that there are other factors that affect the GI of a food. These factors include the ripeness, cooking method, type of sugar it contains, and amount of processing it has undergone. When you consume a lot of high GI foods, you may very well find yourself having a difficult time in controlling your blood glucose, even with insulin and diabetes medications. By paying attention to the GI of the foods you consume, you will have a way to determine slower-acting “good carbs” from the faster “bad carbs.” You can use it to fine-tune your carb-counting and help keep your blood glucose more steady as it should be.

The natural control of blood glucose is very complex and can become unbalanced when you have diabetes. It is important to understand what is supposed to happen in your body, and what is different when you have diabetes.

Glucose is a type of sugar you get from the  foods in your diet,  your body uses it for energy. As it travels through your bloodstream to your cells, it’s called blood glucose or blood sugar.

Insulin is the hormone which transfers glucose from your blood into your cells for energy and storage. People with diabetes have higher-than-normal levels of glucose in their blood. Either they don’t have enough insulin to move it through or their cells don’t respond to insulin as well as they should. Either way, having high blood glucose for a long period of time can damage your kidneys, eyes, and other organs.

Glucose mainly comes from the foods you eat which are rich in carbohydrates, such as bread, potatoes, fruit and desserts. When you eat, food travels down to your stomach where acids and enzymes break it down into tiny pieces. During this digestive process, glucose is released. This glucose then enters your intestines where it’s absorbed. From there, it passes into your bloodstream. Once in the blood, your insulin, which is produced by your pancreas, helps this glucose get into your cells.

Our bodies are designed to keep the blood glucose level constant, it is not meant to fluctuate from high to low and all over the map at all. Beta cells in your pancreas monitor your blood glucose level continuously,  therefore when your glucose level rises after you eat, these beta cells release insulin into your bloodstream. Your insulin acts like a key that unlocks muscle, fat, and liver cells in order for glucose to get inside of them. As damaging as too much glucose in the blood can be, most of the cells in your body use glucose along with amino acids and fats for energy. It is the primary source of fuel for our brains. Nerve cells and chemical messengers there need it to help them process information. Without glucose, your brain wouldn’t be able to work.

Once your body has used all the energy it needs, the leftover glucose is stored in little bundles called glycogen in the liver and muscles. Your body can store enough of this glycogen to fuel you for about a day. Once you have not eaten for a few hours, your blood glucose level drops and your pancreas stops churning out insulin. At this time, Alpha cells in the pancreas begin to produce a different hormone called glucagon which signals the liver to break down stored glycogen and turn it back into glucose which travels to your bloodstream  in order to replenish your supply until you’re able to eat again. This is a continuous loop cycle that must be kept in balance through good nutrition for optimal health, especially if you are diabetic.

There are two types of diabetes:

In type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, your body doesn’t have enough insulin. The immune system attacks and destroys cells of the pancreas, where insulin is made. Different factors, including genetics and some viruses, may contribute to type 1 diabetes. Although type 1 diabetes usually appears during childhood or adolescence, it can develop in adults .Despite world wide, active research, type 1 diabetes has no cure. Treatment focuses on managing blood sugar levels with insulin, diet and lifestyle to prevent complications.

In type 2 diabetes, your body’s cells don’t respond to insulin as they should. Therefore the pancreas needs to make more and more insulin in order to move the glucose from your blood into your cells. With type 2 diabetes, your pancreas is eventually damaged and can’t make enough insulin to meet your body’s needs. Without enough insulin, glucose can’t move into the cells. The blood glucose level stays high which is a condition called hyperglycemia.

Too much glucose in your bloodstream for extended periods of time can damage the vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to your organs. High blood sugar can increase your risk for:

Heart disease, heart attack, and stroke

Kidney disease

Nerve damage

Eye disease called retinopathy

People with diabetes need to test their blood sugar often. Exercise, diet, and medicine can help keep blood glucose in a healthy range and prevent these complications. It is a sad fact, there are many people who are either ignorant, or apathetic in how to manage their diabetes and blood glucose levels. I personally know more than a couple whose idea of managing blood glucose is a matter of checking their level and then eating what ever they want, and then adjusting their medicine or insulin to adjust instead of  just eating the right foods to adjust their blood glucose in the first place. These people are fools gambling with their health!

Even if you are not diabetic, you are smart to still take your nutrition seriously in order to not become one sometime in the future. Once you have become diabetic, life takes a turn where you must become knowledgeable of your body and diet. It is not enough to think you can just manage your diabetes through medications, that is simply a method of hacking your way to still eating all kinds of carbohydrate laden crap you do not need. Simply counting carbs is not enough when your blood sugar is still rising despite your exercise and medications. You have to analyse everything you eat in order to avoid the condition in the pictures below,or even worse:


Diabetic foot ulcer
Diabetic retinopathy

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