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Health- Sugar Rush

Health- Sugar Rush

With diabetes being one of the top ten killers of modern times, Noreen A. Kassem takes a serious look at the insulin injected world of today's sufferers and its effects during this holy month of Ramadan.

With Ramadan just around the corner, what we eat and the way we treat our bodies is of paramount importance in helping us to cope with the long hours of fasting that come with each day. As the option of ‘toppingup’ our bodies with the necessary nutrients is no longer available, the practice of denying ourselves food and water for hours on end can push even the healthiest of minds and bodies to their limits: which is why it’s even more crucial that diabetes sufferers take extra care whilst fasting.

Diabetes is a chronic, incurable disease which occurs when the body can no longer produce any or enough insulin. Insulin, a hormone produced by cells in the pancreas, converts glucose, or sugar, into energy that the body can then use. If the body is unable to produce enough insulin, its function is impaired. Similarly, if the body becomes desensitised to insulin, the glucose from food cannot be used as fuel for the body’s cells. Sugar then builds up in the bloodstream and is excreted in the urine as opposed to keeping the body healthy and energised.

As modern western lifestyles become ever more excessive, the rise of rich fatty diets and sedentary lifestyles has led to a staggering increase of obesity. This ensures that diabetes becomes such a devastatingly common affliction that it is fast becoming known as an ‘affluent cultural epidemic’. World statistics estimate that over 3.8 million deaths are caused by diabetes every year, making it the sixth leading cause of death. Once it develops, the disease has a severe impact on a sufferer’s health, their quality of life, and their life expectancy.

If left untreated, diabetes can develop into hyperglycaemia, a condition where the patient’s blood sugar level becomes dangerously high due to the excessive amounts of glucose in the blood. This can then lead to a variety of potentially fatal complications such as high blood pressure, heart and artery disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, sexual dysfunction, vision loss, diabetic skin and foot disorders, and even strokes.


The exact cause of diabetes remains unknown. However, certain factors are known to trigger the onset of the disease: hereditary genes, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, stress, pregnancy, or certain viruses. Type 1 diabetes occurs mostly in children, adolescents and young adults. The pancreas no longer produces insulin, making type 1 diabetics dependent on daily insulin injections in order to survive.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes are drastic and evident even in early onset. Type 2, or adult-onset diabetes, generally occurs later in life after the ages of 30 or 40. About 90% of diabetics have type 2 diabetes. In recent decades, this type of diabetes is more prevalent and occurs much earlier. In rare cases, even children have developed type 2 diabetes due to fatty sugary diets and lifestyle choices. Gestational diabetes occurs during 2–4% of all pregnancies, and normally dissipates after the birth of the child. For the mother, gestational diabetes increases the risk of infection, excessive fatigue and can cause complications during the delivery.


The signs and symptoms of diabetes do not present themselves in the same way or with the same intensity in all individuals. However, it is important to consult a physician if you have experienced any of the following symptoms: fatigue and drowsiness; frequent urination; extreme thirst; excessive hunger; weight loss; blurred vision; cuts and bruises that are slow to heal; infections; tingling or numbness in hands or feet; mood swings; sweetsmelling breath; urine with a distinct apple-like odour.

Prevention and Control

Although there is currently no cure for diabetes, there is good news: conditions can be effectively treated and managed by careful and regular maintenance. With early diagnosis, diabetes can be prevented or controlled thereby reducing its impact on your life.

There is no single approach to controlling diabetes. However, nutritional therapy, exercise, and weight control will all contribute to better health. Consistent changes to improve your lifestyle will help your body stay in peak condition and prevent complications and damages inflicted upon your body that are often associated with diabetes. Here are some of the things you can do: achieve a healthy weight and maintain it; exercise regularly; don’t smoke and avoid second hand smoke; eat regular and balanced meals; have your cholesterol and blood pressure levels checked to ensure they are maintained at normal levels. Other diabetics may also require the assistance of medications or insulin injections to control symptoms by lowering blood-glucose.

Diabetes and fasting 

The physiological benefits of fasting include reduced blood sugar levels, lowering cholesterol, and reducing blood pressure. Studies show that fasting can even improve medical conditions by cleansing your body systems. For diabetics in good health and controlled blood sugar levels, fasting does not worsen baseline medical conditions. However, individuals who are suffering from more severe, uncontrolled illnesses, whether it is diabetes, heart disease, or other diseases, it is not required that they fast. If individuals with diabetes are able to fast it is still important to monitor blood glucose levels stringently and follow a careful nutrition plan.

Recommendations and Remedies 

Although sugary foods give you a quick burst of energy, the effects are temporary. A sugar rush is followed by a quick dip in stamina leaving you fatigued. Refined sugars are considered mere empty calories since consuming it does not contribute nutritionally to your body and will lead to weight gain. Refined sugars are also a cause of a bevy of other health problems including type 2 diabetes. Also watch out for sugar that is added to foods such as ketchup, protein bars, and energy drinks. A 250ml bottle of energy drink contains approximately 27mg of sugar – only slightly less than the equivalent fizzy drink can.

People who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes often turn to natural food remedies to curb their need for medications and insulin. In India, Pakistan, the West Indies and China, the fruit of the bitter melon (or karela, as it is called in South Asia) is commonly used to help diabetics to curb their glucose tolerance. Other herbs and foods that have anti-diabetic properties are onions, garlic and fenugreek.

In Islamic Medicine, cumin seeds are said to aid in the health of diabetics. It is recommended to add half a teaspoon of crushed cumin seeds to food or to take with water daily. Another herbal treatment is the bay leaf. Eating food prepared with bay leaves can help boost the body’s ability to use and control glucose in the blood. Herbalists also recommend drinking two to three cups of bay leaf tea a day, which can be made by steeping several bay leaves in hot water.


Ten Tips for Diabetic Sufferers

1. Increase your fibre and complex carbohydrates intake with foods like oatmeal, bran, barley , beans,

and lentils.

2. Avoid simple carbohydrates in white breads, white rice, and potatoes.

3. Plan to eat meals and snacks the same time everyday. This helps keep blood sugar stable, and

helps the insulin work better.

4. Add more fresh fruit and vegetable to your diet.

5. Include onion, garlic, and ginger in your diet.

6. Avoid all simple sugars found in sweets, desserts, snacks, sauces and baked goods.

7. Avoid saturated fats and trans-fatty acids such as those in fried foods, fatty red meats, and margarine.

8. Increase omega-3 fatty acids by adding foods such as olive oil, oily fish like salmon, herring, mackerel,

and flax seed to your diet.

9. Avoid highly processed and canned foods.

10. Cut down on salt intake as too much can cause high blood pressure.



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