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Treatment Options for Diabetics

How advanced your diabetes may be affects how it is treated. Some diabetics may control their glucose levels with medicine.  Others may control it with insulin injections. Regardless of how glucose is controlled, effectively treating diabetes starts with a dramatic lifestyle change, including the following:

Diet and Exercise

The treatment of diabetes Types 1 and 2 diabetes begins with diet and exercise.  But…

  • It is not about what you cannot eat.
  • It is about eating a well-balanced diet to ensure that your body is well fueled.
  • It is not about having to go to the gym and exercise
  • It is about:

    • Getting into good physical shape,
    • Increasing activity,
    • Setting health goals for weight and nutrition.

A well-balanced diet combined with exercise helps your body work as efficiently as possible.

In some cases, changes in diet and exercise patterns are enough to take the extra stress off the pancreas.  When this happens, diabetes can be brought completely under control.

In other cases, a good diet and exercise go great lengths to bring glucose levels under better control.  The rest can be supplemented with drug therapies.


Learn more about healthy living!

Diabetic Diet

The American Diabetes Association recommends that diabetics break their diet into the following:

  • 50% carbohydrates
  • 20% proteins
  • Less than 30% fats

Other considerations in developing a diabetic diet include the following:

1. Consistency –  Eating regularly is key in a diabetic diet. Skipping or delaying meals can have drastic effects on blood glucose levels. Overindulging can have similar effects.

2. Having fun – You can enjoy the same meals, chosen carefully, as the rest of your family.

3. Balancing your food – A good diabetic diet is really no different than a good diet of a non-diabetic. It is complete with ample amounts of:

  • Fruits and veggies
  • Whole grains and beans
  • Dairy products
  • Lean meats, poultry, and fish
  • Magnesium is a useful vitamin to guard against the progression of Type 2 diabetes
  • Choose unsaturated fats found in oils over saturated fats in butter, lard, or red meats
  • You do not need to avoided sugary foods such as baked goods entirely.  Instead, reserve these foods for special occasions and always consume them in moderation.


Exercise for Diabetics

A reasonable exercise goal is 30 minutes a day of aerobic exercise. Exercise will have wide ranging effects across your body, including an increased ability to control blood glucose levels.

Although exercise is essential for health and well-being, often other activities are put ahead of it on the never-ending “to do” list. Common barriersthat get in the way of exercising are:

However, exercise can be worked into your daily life in the form of small bursts of time.  The good news is that it does not require lots of money to achieve good results. Some easy ways to get more exercise include:

  • time,
  • money,
  • child care
  • transportation.
  • parking further from the door at school or a shopping center
  • Doing a stepper or using free weights while watching TV
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator

Ideally, maximum benefit occurs with intensive, prolonged activity.  But more recent studies suggest that smaller amounts of less intense activity can lead to health benefits as well.

Diabetics must take care when changing exercise patterns.  A sudden change can destabilize blood sugar levels.

Be aware of glucose levels.  When starting exercise, monitor your glucose levels more frequently to observe responses to increased activity. Match your food intake, as well as insulin and oral medications, with current exercise levels.



Some Diabetics Do not Take Insulin Injections

There are medicines that help your body to manage glucose levels. These medicines can tell:

  • the pancreas to produce more insulin
  • the cells to respond better to the insulin.

But the problem is much more complex than taking a pill.

Just increasing insulin production with drugs does not solve the problem since, this treatment will only work for a limited amount of time. Eventually, your pancreas will wear out.  When it does, your body will require insulin injections to function.


Medicines for Diabetics Who Aren’t Dependent on Insulin

1. Insulin Secretagogues.  These medicines, also known as sulfonylureas, work by making the pancreas release more insulin. They are taken before meals and must be taken in proportion to the amount of food to be eaten. There is a danger of a hypoglycemic, or low blood sugar reaction, if too much medicine is taken.

Symptoms of low blood sugar include:

  • Shakiness
  • Sweatiness
  • Heart palpitations

If these symptoms occur, blood sugar levels should be tested, and if low, something high in sugar should be eaten to raise the levels before they become dangerously low.

Medicines in this group include:

  • glyburide (Diabeta and Micronase),
  • glipizide (Glucotrol),
  • glimepiride (Amaryl),
  • repaglinide (Prandin), 
  • nateglinide (Starlix).

2. Meglitinides.  These are similar medicines that signal the pancreas to produce more insulin. They act by a slightly different mechanism than sulfonylureas and are much faster acting. They:

  • are taken within a half hour of meals,
  • are usually taken three times a day
  • must always be taken with food.

3. Insulin Sensitizers are a class of drugs, also know as thiazolidinediones. They act by making the body cells more sensitive to insulin. Drugs included in this class include:

  • metformin (Glucophage)
  • glitazones, containing:

    • pioglitazone (Avandia)
    • rosiglitiazone (Actos).

Metformin can have a dangerous side affect called lactic acidosis brought on by dehydration. Patients prone to dehydration because of a current or chronic condition should not use Metformin

Glitazones can be very expensive, but tend to be very well tolerated by patients. They are not given to patients with congestive heart failure or active liver disease.

4. Glucose Absorption Inhibitors. These medications are also know as alpha-glucosidase inhibitors. They work in the digestive system to slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. This decreases the jump in glucose levels associated with meals. Side effects include:

  • gas,
  • bloating,
  • diarrhea.

These effects can be minimized by slowly increasing the dosage to reach an effective level.

5. Biguanides are taken several times a day with meals. These drugs work to decrease the amount of glucose produced in the liver.


The groups of drugs above can be used individually or in combination with one another.

When diabetes reaches a level where treatment with these medications is not strong enough to control sugar levels, insulin may be added to the treatment regimen.


Medicines for Diabetics Who Are Dependent on Insulin

In Type 1 diabetes and advanced Type 2 diabetes, insulin is required for glucose management. It is important to note that insulin treatment is not failure. Some Type 2 diabetics may feel as though they have failed by having to use insulin, but this is not the truth. Every case is different, and each patient responds in different ways to treatment.

The natural course of diabetes is for it to continue to get worse until the pancreas wears out and insulin is required. How fast the pancreas wears out is dependent on a variety of factors,including:

  • weight,
  • diet,
  • genetics,
  • glucose control


Learn how diabetic medications that replace insulin work below!

About Insulin

Insulin must be injected. There are various ways to achieve this.

  • Syringe – A needle injection, much like any other shot
  • Insulin Pen – A device shaped like a pen holding one or more pre-measured does of insulin.  This works much like a syringe
  • Insulin Pump – A pump similar in size to a cell phone and worn on the body that can be programmed to inject a precise amount of insulin at certain times of day according to the patient’s needs


Insulin comes in several varieties and is tailored to the specific needs of the patient.

  • Rapid acting insulin has a peak effect in 1-2 hours and lasts for 4-6 hours.
  • Short acting insulin has a peak effect from 2-4 hours and lasts for 6-8 hours.
  • Intermediate and Lantus insulins have an even longer effective time up to a stable insulin level for 24 hours after injection with lantus insulin.

How important is diabetic medication? Find out here!


Controlling Diabetes

Millions of Americans have managed to control their diabetes and live very normal lives. Working with a team of healthcare professionals and never being afraid to ask questions or discuss treatment options, someone with diabetes can make the most of the situation.

Diabetes is not just about surviving the disease. It can be a tremendous opportunity to adopt a healthy lifestyle and thrive.


Hope Through Research – You Can Be Part of the Answer!

Many research studies are underway to help us learn about metabolic syndrome. Would you like to find out more about being part of this exciting research? Please visit the following links:


More features about Diabetes:


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Go to the Diabetes health topic.