Diabetes is an incurable condition that affects more than 34 million Americans by limiting their ability to transform food into energy. To educate people around the country about this disease – including the estimated 7 million persons unaware that they suffer from it – the month of November has been dedicated to Diabetes Awareness.
According to the CDC, most of the food you eat is broken down into sugar and released into your bloodstream. Elevated blood sugar levels signal your pancreas to release insulin. If you have diabetes, you either can’t make enough insulin, or your body struggles to respond to insulin. All of this leads to excess blood sugar in your bloodstream. If unchecked, this can lead to health problems over time, including heart and kidney disease and vision loss.
While a cure has not been identified yet, losing weight, eating healthy, and staying active can limit diabetes’ impact on your life. Seeing a provider to identify treatments, proper medication, and receiving education and support can alleviate the disease’s impact on your daily life.
Traditionally, Southeast Alaskan diets were comprised of natural foods from the forests and ocean. Not only did these sources provide the nutritional value of pure proteins and vitamins our bodies need, but the activity of hunting, gathering, foraging, and harvesting was beneficial to our body, mind, and spirit. The practice involved us doing these things together, giving us a strong sense of belonging to a community and feeling connected.
The lifestyle that came from our traditions has been altered. Many have become accustomed to the readily available food containing additives that our bodies weren’t designed to digest easily. Facebook Groups like Alaskan Harvesters or Food Sovereignty is Tribal Sovereignty are places of shared knowledge to help return to these practices and work to reduce or remove foods with unhealthy fats, sugars, and bleached ingredients from our diets.
Always remember that movement is medicine! Whether you’re walking, cleaning, playing with children, dancing, chopping firewood – any activity helps our bodies and reduces the impact of diabetes.
There are several early warning signs of diabetes; hunger and fatigue, increased thirst and urination, dry mouth and itchy skin, and blurred vision. Detecting the condition can help you avoid other complications, including nerve damage and heart trouble. If you’re over 45 or have any risk factors for diabetes, speak to your provider to get diagnosed.
There’s no better time than Diabetes Awareness Month to change your habits and find a new path to avoid or minimize the effects of diabetes.