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Fatigue is Constant Challenge for Many with Diabetes


Diabetics have many daily challenges, but for most, their top concern is chronic fatigue. Unfortunately, many turn to unhealthy ways to try to combat their feelings of low energy, such as high carbohydrate food or beverages with caffeine. The best way for diabetics to tackle the fatigue that makes it difficult to get through the day is to maintain good self-care and a healthy lifestyle.

Diabetica Research Solutions Inc, a private consumer health product company based in Boca Raton, Florida, commissioned a survey of over 8000 people with diabetes. 85% of the respondents stated that fatigue is their number one daily challenge. To obtain energy, many turn to sugary caffeine-containing beverages such as soda and energy drinks, which rank third behind potato chips and French fries on a recent Harvard School of Public Health weight gain study. Weight gain compounds the health problems that diabetics face and add significant cost to their health care.

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Fatigue, defined as a lack of energy and motivation, can be a normal response to physical exertion, emotional stress, or lack of sleep. However, it is also a symptom of high blood sugar. When carbohydrate foods are consumed in an effort to gain energy, blood sugar continues to rise, causing several other concerns such as blurry vision, excessive thirst, and continued hunger. Prolonged hyperglycemia can result in long-term complications such as infections, slow healing cuts, and nerve damage.

People with diabetes are also at a greater risk for depression. The chances of becoming depressed increase as diabetes complications worsen. Depression and apathy can lead to poorer physical and mental functioning, so a person is less likely to follow a healthful diet or take their medication.

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Living with diabetes is a constant challenge, and fatigue can make it even more difficult to control the symptoms. Here are some tips for reducing fatigue:

  • See your doctor. New-onset fatigue should be evaluated for its cause. Conditions such as hypothyroidism or depression can be treated with medication.
  • Follow a healthy, well-balanced diet. Consuming high-sugar foods may seem to provide a short-burst of energy, but will ultimately compound the fatigue symptoms and could cause further diabetic complications. Eat plenty of whole grains, fruit, vegetables and nuts for complex carbohydrates and lean protein for long-term energy.
  • Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can cause fatigue as well. Caffeine-containing beverages can be diuretics and cause the body to lose excess fluid. High blood sugar can also dehydrate the body. Aim for at least 8 8-ounce glasses of water per day.
  • While you may not feel like exercising, physical activity can actually be very good for combating fatigue. Start off with a 5-10 minute walk, outdoors if you can, and you may soon feel like you can work up to the recommended 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity.
  • Practice stress-management. Yoga, meditation or prayer may help as well as ensuring adequate sleep. Also, take a look at events that are causing stress in your life and take steps to make changes.
  • Avoid alcohol and nicotine. Alcohol can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) for 8 to 12 hours after drinking, which can ultimately lead to overconsumption of calories. Smoking and tobacco use may seem to bring a burst of energy, but ultimately the nicotine damages cells and leads to greater glucose intolerance.
  • If you are overweight, just a 10% loss of body mass can greatly decrease health problems and lower personal health care costs. Fewer diabetic complications and less stress about finances can go a long way toward combating fatigue and depression.