When it comes to managing diabetes, what advice comes to mind? Most have heard the advice to eat right, exercise more, and lose weight, but what other factors may be impacting blood sugar?
Could insufficient sleep be increasing your risk of Type 2 Diabetes, abdominal obesity, and high cholesterol? Yes, sleep appears to matter. Short duration, fragmented sleep, and obstructive sleep apnea all have the potential to interfere with our health. Too little sleep, or less than 6 hours per night, enhances our hunger by increasing the hunger hormone Grehlin. Inadequate sleep also decreases how full we feel (even after a full meal) by decreasing the satiety hormone Leptin. These hunger and satiety hormones begin to work against us when we are sleep deprived. The desire for food goes up and consequently food intake tends to follow. More normal levels appear when adults sleep between 7-9 hours. Inadequate sleep also increases inflammation, causes fat cells to function abnormally, and ultimately can interfere with the ability to make insulin and to use that insulin to control blood sugar. To improve health and lose weight, we may actually need to sleep more.
Could unhealthy gums be raising your blood sugar? The answer is yes. The relationship between oral health and diabetes is felt to be a two-way street—meaning high blood sugars are a risk factor for periodontal disease and periodontal disease raises blood sugar. Periodontal disease has been proposed as a sixth clinical complication of diabetes and tooth loss is up to two times more frequent in people with diabetes than people who do not have diabetes. There are a number of other diabetes-related oral complications. Be sure to see a dentist for regular dental exams and discuss how your diabetes may be affecting your teeth and vice versa.
Are the bugs in your gut making you sick? Maybe. There are a plethora of researchers looking at the role bacteria play in diabetes and obesity, as well as many other diseases. The gut is lined with bacteria that help digest food, make vitamins, communicate with the immune system, and many other critical roles that are essential to our heath. For every human cell we have, there are an estimated 10 microbial cells. You might be surprised to know you carry around an estimated 2-5 pounds of bacteria. Studies are finding that the type of bacteria housed in our guts may play a bigger role in our health than previous understood. Researchers are concluding that by examining a patient’s gut bacteria they can predict which patients are at risk for developing diabetes. In weight and gut bacteria research, it is also being found that lean people and obese people have different bacterial diversity and higher prevalence of different microbes. Diet (eating high fiber and limiting sugar, fried and processed foods) plays an important role in supporting the good bacteria in the gut now associated with leanness. The old saying “no guts, no glory” may ring true in the battle of obesity and diabetes.
Erin Browder is a Diabetes Education Specialist with Valley Medical Center’s Diabetes Education & Nutrition Clinic.