Diabetes is a strange dichotomy. While it warrants that you follow a healthy diet and watch your food intake, it also makes you hungrier. That’s right, excessive hunger is a certified diabetes symptom, and is referred to as polyphagia. In this article, we talk about polyphagia in diabetes and also tell you how to stop diabetes hunger (polyphagia).
Polyphagia, also known as hyperphagia, is a medical condition characterised by excessive hunger. Although it can occur in non-diabetics as well, it is more common in diabetes. The most recognisable symptom of diabetes is polyphagia, which is not relieved even after eating.
It is one of the three main symptoms of diabetes, besides polydipsia (excessive thirst) and polyuria (excessive and frequent urination).
Polyphagia and as a result, excessive eating, can lead to uncontrolled blood sugar levels and increase the risk of diabetic complications.
After you eat, your body breaks down the food into glucose units. A hormone called insulin is responsible for getting these glucose units from your bloodstream to your cells, where they can be used for energy and body functions.
When you have diabetes, your body either cannot produce insulin (Type 1 Diabetes) or does not use insulin properly (Type 2 Diabetes). Therefore, the glucose stays in your blood (hyperglycemia) and is removed through urine instead of going into your cells. The cells do not have the energy they need to function properly and will signal your brain to continue to eat so they can get the glucose they need. This results in polyphagia or excessive hunger in diabetes.
In diabetes, hypoglycemia or abnormally low blood glucose levels may also cause excessive hunger. When individuals with diabetes take insulin or medications to control their blood sugar levels, there can be instances when there is too much insulin in the bloodstream and too little glucose. This is called hypoglycemia. Instances of hypoglycemia often occur at night and may lead to extreme cravings.
Let’s look at some important tips to manage polyphagia or diabetes hunger:
The first step towards managing polyphagia is to manage the underlying cause, i.e., diabetes. The treatment for diabetes depends on the type of diabetes you have. Type 1 Diabetes requires insulin therapy. Type 2 Diabetes may not require insulin or oral diabetes medication and could be managed with lifestyle habits.
Both types of diabetes need to be managed with healthy eating, regular exercise, stress management, and blood sugar monitoring. When your blood sugar levels are regulated, there are fewer chances of feeling extreme hunger.
Regularly monitoring your blood sugar levels is essential for diabetes control. It also helps you to assess the effect of various foods on your glucose levels.
If you observe that your blood sugar levels are low, consume fast-acting carbohydrates to normalise the levels.
You should eat foods that are low in carbs and high in fibre content. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains make you feel fuller for a long time and you tend to eat less.
A low-carb diet will keep your blood sugar levels controlled and prevent spikes in glucose levels.
High-protein diets are associated with better weight management, especially in diabetics. You should opt for breakfast with high-protein content, such as eggs, greek yoghurt, low-fat cheese, and beans.
A high-protein breakfast will keep you full for longer and reduce cravings. It will also help you get regulated blood sugar levels, leading to reduced hunger.
You should drink plenty of water between meals as it keeps you feeling full and you tend to eat less. You can drink water before your meals to reduce your food intake and prevent cravings.
Exercising regularly reduces blood glucose levels due to energy consumption. Moreover, exercise reduces insulin resistance. Increased levels of insulin will help normalise your blood glucose levels and suppress any cravings. Exercise also helps to manage weight, which further helps in gaining better control over diabetes and is a cornerstone in polyphagia treatment.
Stress is a major factor associated with a variety of chronic diseases including diabetes. Stress directly increases blood sugar levels, and can also increase comfort-eating and binge-eating, which can cause increased blood sugar levels in turn. Thus, stress can lead to polyphagia directly or indirectly.
You should take steps to control your stress levels, such as practising yoga, meditation, regular exercise, or spending time with your loved ones.
Keep healthy snacks handy as it may not always be possible to avoid your cravings. Healthy snacks such as unsalted nuts, fresh and dried fruits, low-fat cheese, and whole-grain crackers are rich in nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, and fibre. These snacks will satisfy your cravings, stabilise your blood sugar levels, and prevent extreme hunger episodes.
Try to immerse yourself in the experience of enjoying your meal. Eat slowly and without any distractions such as the TV or your phone. When you enjoy the smell, taste, and flavour of your food, it gives your brain a chance to get the message that you are full. You can also use more herbs and spices to enhance the flavour of your food, as strong aromas tend to satisfy hunger more.
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