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  • Tina Turbin
    Tina Turbin

    Controlling Blood Sugar and Nerve Damage: Understanding the Connection

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 04/04/2011 - Having been diagnosed with celiac disease, I know from having to follow a strict gluten-free diet that monitoring one's diet and health can be inconvenient, time-consuming, and challenging. Similarly, keeping one's blood sugar level under control for diabetics can be tough, but studies are showing how important this is, as it has been shown to prevent diabetic neuropathy, that is, nerve damage peculiar to diabetics, and its devastating effects.

    According to Tedd Mitchell, M.D., President of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, there are two types of diabetic neuropathy, peripheral and autonomic. Peripheral neuropathy is "a degeneration of the nerves in the feet and hands," according to Dr. Mitchell, which, as it occurs "slowly but progressively," reduces sensitivity to touch while heightening sensations of pain and itching. The second type is autonomic neuropathy, which is, Dr. Mitchell says, "damage to nerves that control bodily functions, such as digestion, urination, heart rate, blood pressure, sexual function and even sweating." Some of the symptoms of this type are digestive problems, urinary problems, and reductions in blood pressure.

    The longer one has been diabetic, the higher one's risk for neuropathy. Thankfully, evidence supports that long-term blood sugar control can reduce this risk. It may seem like a challenge for some diabetics to control their blood sugar, but with some determination and effort, it can successfully be achieved.

    MedicalMoment.org, a website developed by Columbia St. Mary's, an organization of hospitals and clinics, offers various ways to get started controlling your blood sugar. First, in liaison with your health care provider, test your blood sugar and keep a record of your results and pertinent information, on a daily basis. Follow your doctor's prescribed diabetes medicine plan while eating foods low in fat, sugar, and sodium and high in fiber on a regular basis, aiming for the same caloric intake every day. It's important to get regular exercise, starting slowly if need be, such as swimming and walking. Your diet and exercise routine should be geared toward maintaining your ideal weight, which should be determined by your health care provider. You'll want to stay aware of signs of possible nerve damage such as sores that won't heal, blisters, swelling, and ulcers.

    MedicalMoment.org also offers several tips for keeping blood sugar under control. Low blood sugar should be treated quickly with the use of special glucose gel or tablets. Smoking, which harms the heart and the circulatory system, should be avoided. Next, learn as much as possible about your diabetic condition and treatment; knowledge is power in this case, as I know from being a celiac disease patient. Lastly, avoid stress and get support by staying connected with friends and relatives or a support group who can help you keep your blood sugar under control.

    It isn't unusual for me to focus some of my work as an author, researcher, and gluten-free and health advocate, on the area of diabetes; after all, according to Celiac.com, evidence is growing which supports that people with Type 1 diabetes are at high risk for celiac disease. In this research, the necessity of maintaining blood sugar is clear. With the help of your medical practitioner and other resources, you can achieve proper self-care in controlling blood sugar level and lower this risk of nerve damage.

    Resource:
    Mitchell, Dr. Tedd. "Nerve damage: One more reason to keep blood sugar under control." USA Weekend: July 9-11, 2010.


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    I have gluten sensitivity, peripheral neuropathy and type 2 diabetes (I am not overweight). When I stopped eating gluten, my peripheral neuropathy pain went from a 9 to a 0 and I don't feel like it is progressing. I still have some residual foot numbness and I am hoping that this will improve by getting my blood sugars into the normal range (80-90). I follow a grain free, sugar free, low carb, primal/paleo-like diet to keep my blood sugar in this range. I will admit that my postprandial blood glucose goes to 110 at times if I eat too many carbs. Before I went low carb, my blood sugar would shoot up to 200 and above.

     

    I highly recommend Dr. Richard K Bernstein's book "Diabetes Solution" and Jenny Rhul's book and website "Blood Sugar 101" if you really want to get normal blood sugars.

     

    I could find medicalmoment, but many of its links were broken.

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    I'm not sure if this article really relates to most people reading it. Type 1 diabetes is the only form of diabetes related to celiac disease (they are both genetically related autoimmune disorders). Type 1 diabetes is the "severe" form of diabetes that is not related to lifestyle or weight. Type 1 diabetes is very, very, very hard to control and is immediately life threatening if not managed 24/7. There can be severe swings in blood glucose levels daily, even hour to hour. Even with insulin pumps, testing your blood glucose 12 times or more a day, and/or injecting 7+ times per day, a strict diet, weighing your food, etc. the disease is still impossible to manage for many. It's not that simple. You can do everything "right" and still have variable control from day to day. I do agree that some T1s do well low carb, but high fibre diets do NOT suit the new fast acting insulins and can cause low blood glucose in a T1 diabetic (but not a Type 2 diabetic) It's not just low carb. I cannot eat ANY soy, rice, buckwheat, or potatoes without severe swings for days in my blood glucose and insulin needs. Soy is by far the worst for me. Because T1 is an autoimmune disease, it is very possible that some are reacting to food proteins, much like Celiac. These antibodies to insulin (not just any residual beta cells) can complicate control in a T1. We really need a cure for both diseses, all autoimmune diseases, really. Also, T1 diabetics need MORE "good" fats in their diet.

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  • About Me

    Tina Turbin is a world-renowned Celiac advocate who researches, writes, and consults about the benefits of the gluten-free, paleo-ish, low carb and keto diets, and is a full time recipe developer and founder of PaleOmazing.com. Tina also founded and manages the popular website, GlutenFreeHelp.info, voted the #2 .info website in the world. Tina believes that celiacs need to be educated to be able to make informed decisions and that Paleo needs to be tailored to the individual’s physiology to obtain desired results. You can reach her at: INFO@PaleOmazing.com.

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