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Five Common Myths about Diabetes Debunked

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By Donna Moodie, RD CDN

We have all read and heard many exaggerated health claims through friends and the media. At some point most people realize they are probably not true. For example, treatments that claim to miraculously cure a chronic condition or help us lose a large amount of weight in a very short time.

As a practicing diabetes educator, I hear many of these comments from patients with diabetes over and over again and work hard with patients to clarify perceptions and present the information. Here are 5 common statements/myths debunked.

1. Herbal remedies can cure diabetes.

The real story: Although there are some supplements and herbs that are being researched and have shown some positive results in treatment of diabetes; it is important to remember that herbs and supplements are made of chemicals just like medicines and can interact with other medicines and treatments and cause potentially serious side effects. Always discuss any supplements and herbs you are going to take with your provider to discuss their safety first.

  1. People with diabetes have to avoid all sweets and eat a very low carbohydrate diet.

The real story: People with diabetes should focus on a heart healthy diet with healthy carbohydrate choices. About 50% of our calories should come from carbohydrate which is the body’s major source of fuel. Carbohydrate choices like beans, sweet potatoes and brown rice are complex carbohydrates which break down slowly in the body and cause a gradual rise in blood sugar and also a great source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Portion sizes are important as large amounts of these foods can elevate your blood sugar. And yes you should also be able to have small amounts of sweets sometimes, you just have to count them as part of your carbohydrate budget. Make an appointment with a certified diabetes educator to learn more about carbohydrate counting and eating healthy for diabetes.

  1. If I go on insulin, this means I am getting sicker and my diabetes is getting worse.

The real story: If your provider decides you need to take insulin, all that mean is that your diabetes can no longer be controlled with oral medicines. The most likely reason for this is that your body is no longer making the hormone called insulin and needs to be replaced. Healthy little children with type 1 diabetes also have to take insulin all the time because their body does not make it at all. The most important thing is that your blood sugar is in control so you can prevent the complications and illness that accompany uncontrolled diabetes.

  1. Complications from diabetes are inevitable.

The real story: Complications from diabetes are not inevitable and you can do a lot to prevent them by eating healthy, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and keeping your blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure in control. It is a good idea to frequently keep in touch with your diabetes team to have regular lab tests and check-ups to monitor your health status. 

  1. I always know when my sugar is too high or too low.

The real story: There is no way you can absolutely know when your blood sugar is too high or too low. Symptoms of high and low blood sugar are often similar and after you have diabetes for a long time it gets harder to feel the symptoms of high and low blood sugar. This belief can be dangerous and you can actually pass out or become unconscious before you realize what is happening. The only way to know what your blood sugar is, is by testing your blood sugar.   Check with your diabetes team, your provider or schedule an appointment with a certified diabetes educator to learn how to use a glucometer and learn more about treatment of high and low blood sugar. You can also visit the American Diabetes Association website at diabetes.org for more information. The American Diabetes Association also has a hotline available Monday to Friday 8:30 to 8pm Eastern Time, 1-800-342-2383. Call your doctor or 911 if you are really not feeling well and have any unusual symptoms.

Donna Moodie is a Registered Dietician and Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at dm258@cornell.edu

Comments

2 Responses to “ Five Common Myths about Diabetes Debunked ”

  • Suresh

    Hi Donna,
    Although I think I don’t have diabetes but sometimes I feel I have diabetes. I really don’t know why am I feeling this illusion. I have history of hepatitis b illness. I often feel weak and can’t eat meat or I don’t feel like eating those stuff.
    I often go for pee for several times in a day. May be 10-15 times a day.
    Can you suggest me what could be the cause? or what action should I take regarding this problem?
    Thanks

  • jsj79

    Hi,

    You recently responded to a blog article that I had written about diabetes. Just wanted to let you know that I am not a doctor and can’t answer medical questions. Please contact your doctor right away or to the ER regarding your symptoms. The blog articles written at the Cornell Website are not meant to take the place of medical advice.

    Thank you,
    Donna

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