Diabetes Q and A

By Janis Roszler, MSFT, RD, CDE, LD/N

Q I recently heard that people with diabetes can develop nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy) in their feet if they wear colored socks. This sounds really off the wall. I’m embarrassed to ask, but is this true?

A This is absolutely NOT true. Diabetic neuropathy develops when nerves become damaged from exposure to high blood glucose levels over an extended period of time, such as months or years. Wearing colored socks is one of many false diabetes rumors I’ve heard floating around. I was recently asked if chicken causes insulin resistance, which is not true either. Chicken is a healthy protein-rich food that is good for you. It is so important to always check out information with a reliable expert before you act on it.

Q Can diabetes cause hair loss?

A It isn’t a common side effect, but diabetes can cause hair loss in some individuals. People with diabetes often develop skin problems and have poor blood circulation. Diabetes can also lead to hormonal imbalances that may lead to hair loss. There are also many other reasons for hair loss, including stress and other medical issues. Do what you can to maintain your blood sugar level within a healthy range. If the problem continues, discuss it with your health care team and see a dermatologist (skin specialist), if needed.

Q I feel weird and uncomfortable when my blood sugar level drops below 200. I know that having a blood sugar level of less than 180 at two hours after a meal is a healthy goal for people with diabetes, so why don’t I feel better at that level? I want to keep my blood sugar as low as possible and be as healthy as I can be.

A Our bodies get used to the environments we live in. If you work all day in a chilly, air- conditioned building, you will probably feel very hot when you walk outside at the end of the day. If your blood glucose level always runs high, “high” will feel normal to you. As your numbers improve, you may feel uncomfortable at first, but should feel better soon.

Q I’d like to become a vegan. I want to eliminate all animal products from my diet, but I’m worried that all the carbohydrates I eat will harm my diabetes control. Is it possible to be a vegan with good control?

A If you wish to eliminate animal products from your diet, you must become educated so that your food choices are well-balanced and meet your personal health needs. If you choose your foods wisely, you should be able to enjoy good diabetes control. Dr. Neal Barnard, associate professor of medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine, created a medically-supported vegan program that has helped many people do the following:

  • Improve their diabetes control87508973
  • Reduce their need for diabetes medications
  • Lower their risk for diabetic complications
  • Lose unwanted weight
  • Lower their cholesterol and blood pressure levels

In his book, Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes, Dr. Barnard encourages readers to keep their intake of vegetable oils to a minimum and to choose foods that have low ranking on the glycemic index, a list that rates foods by the effect they may have on the body’s glucose level. A vegan diet is not for everyone, but for those who wish to follow his plan, it may be very helpful.

*This article originally appeared in 2008
**please consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diabetes regimen.

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