Span: personalized and continuous chronic care from home

6 steps to take control of your diabetes 💪

We think of daily life with type 2 diabetes as an empowering journey to understanding your metabolism and designing a lifestyle that you enjoy and makes you healthier at the same time 🧘🏾

Today, I’m describing the 6 steps of this journey that we’ve now experienced with hundreds of spanners 🚀

1/ Understanding your condition 🤔

Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body finds it difficult to manage elevated sugar levels entering the blood.

Your body deals with increases in sugar levels by producing a hormone called insulin. It drives sugar into cells and out of the bloodstream for it to be utilized or stored.

Over time, the cells of people who develop diabetes become less and less sensitive to insulin produced by their own pancreas, the body then responds by producing more insulin — it becomes more and more resistant to it.

Insulin not only drives sugar into the cells but it promotes fat storage and leads to weight gain and thus makes the problem worse.

If not dealt with, this spiral continues until the body runs out of capacity to produce enough insulin. At this stage, people with diabetes usually require regular insulin injections.

2/ Understanding how it developed 👩🏽‍🚀

What causes type 2 diabetes? you may ask. Many factors come into play, but it is not a coincidence that in many languages diabetes is called sugar disease.

Sugar in the blood is called glucose.

It mainly comes from the food we eat — more precisely, carbohydrates. All consumed carbohydrates are converted into glucose in the blood and are used by our cells for energy.

Carbohydrates are found in sugar-containing foods such as soda, candy or fruit juices. They can also be found in starchy foods such as bread, pasta, potatoes, as well as lactose from milk, carrots, cashew nuts etc.

The modern diet is full of these types of sugar.

Our bodies nowadays are constantly being loaded with sugar throughout the day. In ancient times, humans did not have access to sugar as readily as we do today. This explains why we have evolved to like sugar so much.

If a human living in ancient times came across a source of sugar, during the fruit season, for instance, they would innately gorge on sugar and consume as much of it as possible to prepare for the coming winter as they wouldn’t have another opportunity to do so in the near future.

But our western diet changed over the years as sugar has become cheaper to produce. In addition to being a great preservative, food producers have manipulated our innate hunger for sugar, and use it to get us hooked on their products, on a never-ending supply of sugary foods.

3/ Identifying a goal 🎯

You may say your goal is to reverse your diabetes. But what does that look like? To reverse your diabetes naturally, the only way is to tackle the source of the condition: sugar.

Our bodies are now trained to only use sugar as fuel.

But as mentioned earlier, our bodies originally evolved in an environment where sugar was scarce. Under these conditions, you might be surprised to know that our bodies can run on a different source of energy: fat.

Fat is broken down in the liver to produce ketones. These small molecules are used by the body as a source of energy in the absence of sugar.

When you eliminate sugar from your diet, with a moderate amount of protein, you allow your body to use fat from your diet and fat stores as a steady supply of energy.

This fuel source doesn’t fluctuate blood sugar levels, thus keeps you alert and energetic without being dependent on a constant sugar supply.

So ultimately, your goal boils down to overcoming your body’s addiction to sugar and retrain it to activate its ability to use fat for energy production.

4/ Understanding yourself 🧘

In order to change our behaviour, we must understand our habits. Most of what we do throughout our day to day lives is governed by habits.

This may seem counter-intuitive: the key to changing our behaviour is not to try to change our habits but to understand our habits and work with them in mind to find suitable replacements that serve similar objectives. Otherwise, even the most motivated among us will eventually succumb to temptation.

Most people who try to change their diet revert to their old eating habits as soon as they get stressed, bored or simply lose motivation with time. Motivation is great but relying on it alone is not a good way to change our behaviour in a sustainable way.

Observe your own actions throughout a typical day. From what you eat in the morning to what you snack on while you watch TV.

Identify your daily habits, then think of what purpose these habits serve.

For example, When you have a smoothie while driving back from work, think of what purpose that smoothie is really serving.

It might be to give you that pleasant sensation of slowly drinking a thick substance that sits in your stomach until you have dinner. Or perhaps it’s just something to do on the boring drive back home.

What if you substitute that sugary smoothie with a low carb alternative? It serves the same purpose while not changing your habits too much.

The less drastic a change to your habits the less motivation you need to stick to them.

With time you will develop new and healthier habits and it will become difficult to go back to your old ways.

Another key issue to changing your behaviour is identifying and being mindful of the triggers that push towards certain actions. One of the most common triggers is boredom. It is a major trigger for many of our bad habits. The inhibition from drinking alcohol is another major trigger for unhealthy behaviour.

Once you are mindful of these triggers you can start to either keep away from them or find ways to alleviate these triggers while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

5/ Design strategies to reach your goal 👨🏾‍🍳

After you start to understand your own habits, triggers and behaviour, start to experiment with different strategies that will change your behaviour until you find what is suitable for you.

You might find that preparing your meals in advance suits your lifestyle. Or not.

You may find that you are more motivated when you have support from your friends and family. Seek expert advice to help you design these strategies, then test and learn quickly.

Experts in diet, nutrition and health can help you find alternatives to the foods you like and the habits you have without drastically changing the way you live your daily life.

6/ Enjoy, track and share ❤️

Track your progress by regularly measuring your blood glucose levels and regular follow-ups with your health professionals.

There are many tools you can use nowadays to help you better monitor your progress. For instance, you can use mobile applications that can help you understand your past behaviour.

Don’t forget to share your progress with your loved ones and others who share your condition — it will help your social circle to understand what you’re going through and align themselves with your goals.

And never hesitate to ask others for advice if you are struggling with one thing or another.

Ready to get started? 🤩

Next up, a deep dive into the details of what is your metabolism exactly and how it works so that you have even more knowledge to leverage along this journey.

Meanwhile, we’re looking for ambassadors of our mission to help us eradicate type 2 diabetes by 2030:

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  • You want to beta test? You’re a doctor or an investor? You simply want to chat? Email us at team@span.health

Stay tuned 🙌🏽
Adam

I’m sure you’re curious about the science behind all this 🔬 Here are some recent medical publications about this topic:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12108472
http://www.dafne.uk.com/downloads/structured_patient_education_diabetes_report.pdf
https://www.nutritionjrnl.com/article/S0899-9007(14)00332-3/abstract