November is American Diabetes Awareness Month. Diabetes is a chronic disorder that affects the body’s ability to process sugar. The resulting high sugar content in the blood can cause a number of health problems all over the body, including your mouth!! It is so prevalent in our country today that there is a reasonable chance someone at your Thanksgiving dinner table will be a diabetic. So, whether you want to calm one of your guest’s nerves on Thursday, or indulge in some of the traditional favorites yourself, we’ve got your back and want to help you do that so that you and your company can relax and fully enjoy the holidays…carbs, sugar and all!
But first, lets start this article off with some quick facts about diabetes from the American Diabetes Association:
- Nearly 26 million children and adults in the U.S. have diabetes.
- Another 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
- Recent estimates project that as many as one in three American adults will have diabetes in 2050 unless we take steps to stop diabetes.
- The American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $245 billion.
Pretty scary stats. But how does that stuff pertain to your mouth, you ask? Well, diabetes can drastically lower your resistance to infection and can slow the healing process, and this can have an affect on your oral health. Here are the most common ways diabetes can affect your mouth:
- Gum disease. Recent research suggests that the connection between gum disease and diabetes goes both ways. On the one hand, because of lowered resistance and a longer healing process, gum disease appears to be more frequent and more severe among those with diabetes. Conversely, it appears that treating gum disease in people with diabetes can help improve blood sugar control.
- Fungal infections. Since diabetes compromises your immune system, you may be prone to developing fungal infections. Symptoms include painful sores and difficulty swallowing. If you develop a fungal infection, see your dentist.
- Infection and delayed healing. If you are having extensive oral surgery, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to minimize the risk of infection. To help the healing process, keep your blood glucose levels under control before, during and after surgery.
(These bullet points were taken from the www.mouthhealthy.org, brought to you by the American Dental Association)
Don’t worry, there are ways to protect yourself. Each person is different, so make sure to consult with your doctor and map out a plan that is right for you. Here are some tips that anyone can put into practice this Thanksgiving, but would be especially beneficial to diabetics:
1.) Think about the timing of your meal. Many families eat large meals at odd times on holidays. Plan in advance for how you will handle making changes if your meal does not line up with your regular meal schedule. If you take insulin injections or a pill that lowers blood glucose, you may need to have a snack at your normal meal time to prevent a low blood glucose reaction. Check with your health care team about this.
2.) Be physically active! The best way to compensate for eating a little more than usual is to be active. Start a new tradition that involves moving around away from the food. Take a walk with the family or play Frisbee, soccer, or touch football with the kids.
3.) Have foods to nibble on while you are cooking or waiting to eat. Make sure the foods you choose won’t sabotage blood glucose levels before the meal.
4.) Make selective food choices. Many traditional Thanksgiving foods are high in carbohydrates so don’t feel like you have to sample everything on the table. Have a reasonable portion of your favorites and pass on the rest. For example, if stuffing is your favorite, pass on rolls.
5.) Eat smaller portions. Because high carbohydrate foods are plentiful at most Thanksgiving feasts, watch your portion sizes. If you can’t decide on one or two carbohydrate foods to eat, take very small portions or “samples” of several dishes. Overall, try to keep your total carbohydrate intake like a regular day.
6.) Eat your vegetables. Vegetables are important for everyone! Non-starchy veggies are low in carbs and calories and are particularly nutritious. They will help fill you up and keep you from overeating other high-calorie and high-fat foods on the table.
(these tips were taken from the American Diabetes Association article)
There are also ways to revise your dishes to fit a diet that is healthy for someone with diabetes. Check out these recipes from Diabetic Gourmet Magazine
The bottom line is that even with dietary restrictions, everyone can still enjoy the holidays just the same. It shouldn’t be a stressful, worrisome time, but rather a time to relax and enjoy good food, and more importantly good company.
All of us at Falmouth Dental Arts would like to extend our warmest wishes to you and your family as we begin this holiday season! Happy Thanksgiving!