Diabetes is not a death sentence

CHANGING your eating habits after you have been diagnosed with diabetes can be difficult without family support in a world where food is a big part of many cultures.

Counselling psychologist Angelo du Plessis shared these words of warning ahead of his talk with the Gelvandale Diabetes Support Group yesterday on dealing with the psychological effects of the disease.

He said because eating had become a social activity, most people found it hard to change their ways after diagnosis.“When a person is diagnosed with diabetes, for some people it is like they have been told of a death in the family or a death sentence,” Du Plessis said.

“They will go through the normal phases of disbelief, denial, anger and depression. So there are a lot of negative emotions attached to the diagnosis.

“You will find that when they are diagnosed, they will revert back to their eating habits because of the negative emotions like frustration at not being able to eat what they want, hopelessness and guilt . . . it’s like emotional eating because they are in denial.”

Du Plessis, who has a private practice in Arcadia, has been giving talks to groups in the Northern Areas on diabetes and mood disorders for the past two weeks.

With it being World Diabetes Day today, he says emotional eating or being in denial about the diagnosis contributes further deterioration of diabetic’s health.

He added that social support was needed to make the change to the to healthy eating.

“Support from family and friends is essential. You need to educate the people around you to help you accept the fact that you are diabetic. Eating and other habits are in our cultures . . . whether it’s having a braai, or at a family celebration and there’s a lot of spicy foods or smoking a hookah. Being diagnosed means a change of lifestyle for a lot of people.

“They often say they will die anyway or being diabetic is not a big deal, but it is.

Check regularly for diabetes

REGULAR check-ups and looking after your health are the keys to managing diabetes, a lifelong condition which affects nearly 6.5 million South Africans.

Type one diabetes affects more people owing to the increase in obesity in the country, said a spokesman for Diabetes South Africa, who added type one diabetes occurred when the pancreas stopped producing insulin.

“It usually starts in young people under the age of 30, including very young children and infants, and the onset is sudden and dramatic. People who have type one diabetes must inject insulin to survive. Insulin dosages are carefully balanced with food intake and exercise programmes,” the spokesman said. Type two diabetes is caused when the insulin produced by the pancreas is “either not enough or does not work properly [and] approximately 85 to 90% of all people with diabetes are type two, and many people who have this condition are undiagnosed”, said Diabetes South Africa. Dr Dominique Stott, the medical standards and services executive of the Professional Provident Society, says that testing for diabetes is essential to keeping it in check.

“The treatment of any form of diabetes requires lifelong medication which must be taken regularly in order to prevent any long-term and expensive complications such as coronary artery disease, nerve damage, poor circulation, vision problems and kidney disease,” she said.

“Diagnosis of diabetes is a simple blood glucose test which can be done by any doctor.

“However, regular follow-ups and medical checks are vital to ensure that if complications do develop, they can be addressed early enough to prevent more serious implications, resulting in hospitalisation.

“Anyone who has a family history of diabetes or is obese must discuss the possibility of regular testing for diabetes. This is a simple blood test which indicates if someone is diabetic or even in a pre-diabetic state. If an obese person is pre-diabetic it is possible for them to revert to normal if they maintain a normal weight.”

Muesli bar packs a healthy punch

EATING the right foods with a low glycaemic index (GI) can seem like a daunting task for diabetics, but these foods release glucose at a slower, steadier rate and prevent blood sugar spikes.

Whole food makers Pouyoukas Foods offers nutritious products, as well as healthy, easy-to-make recipes from breakfast foods to dinners and snacks.


Ingredients: 1 cup unsalted butter 1/2 cup honey 2 cups whole rolled oats 1 cup All Bran flakes finely crushed 1/2 cup desiccated coconut 1 cup almonds 1/2 cup dried pears and apples finely chopped 1/2 cup sultanas roughly chopped 1/2 cup dried cranberries roughly chopped Method: Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line a small baking tray with baking paper and spray with non-stick spray.

Microwave butter and honey together until butter has melted. Pour over the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Spread mixture onto the tray and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Cut into squares or bars. Cool in the tray, break and store in an airtight container.

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