Basics, Day To Day

Fight diabetes: the importance of education

As diabetes is you and you are your diabetes, managing your diabetes is a personal thing. It’s up to you and you only to do what’s needed. That management can only be done through understanding. Education is the key.

A lot of people ask questions that show that they want recipes. For example “if my BG is 200, what do I need to do?”, or “how much insulin do I need in the morning?”. But that doesn’t work. Your body is unlike others. The progress of your diabetes is specific to you. Statistically, you can derive general rules, but you can’t apply them blindly.

Also, your diabetes needs to be managed all day every day and you can’t have someone to ask questions to constantly. You need to understand it. Understanding is the first step of your journey. Before you even make changes to your life.

When I was diagnosed, I read several books immediately: “The glucose revolution“, “The diabetes code“, “The end of diabetes“, “Mastering diabetes“, and “Reversing diabetes”. These books gave me the bases to understand how diabetes develops, how it works, and how it affects me. They also gave me pointers to decide how to manage it. I then switched to research papers (thanks PubMed! When I did my PhD in the late 90s, it was so much harder to get your hands on current research) to understand more in detail and deepen my understanding of the condition with the latest findings.

With all that, my wife and I devised a new diet and daily life hygiene (e.g. exercise time allocated within our day).

I also tested a lot to confirm our choices. You can’t make the right decisions if you don’t know the effect of what you do. But numbers aren’t everything. On their own they’re meaningless. You need to understand them and their cause. It’s one thing for example to discover that your post meal glycemia is 150mg/dl, but unless you understand that it’s because you ate chickpeas at lunch, it’s not helpful.

What is shocking is how the vast majority of people I’ve seen discussing it, said that they got no useful advice from their doctor or even endocrinologist. No explanation that lifestyle changes could help them manage their diabetes (we’re talking T2) and no explanation as to what “lifestyle changes” might be. People are left with no idea what to do and eventually rely on medication through lack of alternative.

Education should start with health professional at diagnosis time. Patients should get a leg on the ladder from them so that they at least know where to start their journey. Even if they have to continue their own education since doctors don’t have time to handhold everybody. The basics of diet and exercise should be explained before you leave the doctor’s office. So much pain, anguish, time, and money could be saved.

So follow guidelines, but the only way to effectively manage your diabetes is to become your own expert.

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