Diabetes Diet and Tablets

Diabetes occurs when the pancreas, a gland which lies behind the stomach, fails to produce sufficient insulin. Insulin is needed by the body to handle the food we call carbohydrates (sugar and starches). These foods are normally broken clown to a sugar called glucose and insulin is necessary to convert this glucose to energy. Without sufficient insulin, the level of glucose in the blood rises and spills over into the urine causing large volumes of urine to be passed and as the body is unable to convert glucose to energy, excessive tiredness can also result. When diabetes occurs in middle age or later, there is usually only a partial deficiency of insulin. This is called maturity onset or type II diabetes (as distinct from insulin dependent or type I diabetes) and it can be controlled by diet or a combination of diet and tablets. If the person is overweight it is more difficult for the reduced amount of insulin produced to act on the cells of the body and so achieving and maintaining a normal weight is the corner stone of treatment.


Eating the right food is important for the health of the whole population but especially for those with diabetes.

Now that you have developed diabetes your body is unable to break down and use carbohydrate as it should. In order to control your condition you need to follow a few simple rules, whether you take tablets or not. In fact these simple dietary rules are the principles of healthy eating for everybody, they are: —

1) To avoid sugar in all forms

2) To eat less fat

3) To eat more fiber

4) To eat regular meals

Sugar, and foods containing it, will make your blood and urine sugar level rise considerably. Foods to avoid include sugar, glucose, jams/marmalades, sweetened fizzy drinks, sweets and chocolates.

Sugar free drinks and saccharin sweeteners are useful, but diabetic jams, biscuits and sweeteners are not necessary. They are expensive and most contain sorbitol which is fattening and can cause diarrhea.

Fats are high in calories and a large intake can lead to heart disease and circulatory problems, so try to avoid fried and fatty foods and cut down on butter and margarine.

Fiber is the part of the diet, which is not digested. It makes your diet more satisfying and helps to keep your sugar levels under control in addition to encouraging healthy bowel action. It is found in unrefined foods such as whole meal bread, whole meal flour, jacket potatoes, peas and beans, Branflakcs, Weetabix and digestive biscuits. Choose these instead of refined foods such as white bread, Cornflakes/Rice Krispies and white flour.

Being overweight does affect your diabetes and you should try to correct it. By eating less fat and more fibre and avoiding sugar you should find this relatively easy.

By making these long-term changes in your eating habits you will improve your health.


Your Doctor will advise you at what time and how often you should test your urine for sugar. Read and follow carefully the instructions on the container of your test strips. It is important that you empty your bladder completely half an hour before you do a test. You should then still be able to pass sufficient urine to test for sugar.

Keep a record of your urine tests and take it with you each time you visit your Doctor. Record diaries should be available from your surgery or clinic.

If your urine tests persistently show 1% sugar or more, seek medical advice.


Your Doctor may ask you to do finger prick blood sugar tests instead of urine tests. These are more accurate and some people find them more convenient. The Doctor


If dieting fails to control your diabetic symptoms and your blood and urine sugar levels, your doctor will most probably prescribe a diabetic tablet. There are 2 groups of diabetic tablets for which there are different medical indications.

The first group includes the following drugs:

(Company or Proprietary name in brackets)












(Diabinese Glymese Melitase)

(Daonil Euglucon Libanil Malix)



(Glibenese Minodiab)




(Glyconon Pramidex Rastinon)

These drugs are all very similar and they work by stimulating the pancreas to produce more insulin. They are safe but they can occasionally cause mild indigestion or skin rashes, and very rarely jaundice or anaemia. As they act by causing the pancreas to produce more insulin they can cause low blood sugar levels and symptoms of what is called a “hypoglycaemic reaction”. These reactions are extremely rare and are more likely to occur in elderly people, or when alcohol is taken on an empty stomach, or when strenuous exercise is taken after missing a meal. The symptoms of hypoglycaemia include weakness, drowsiness, confusion, difficulty in focusing, tingling especially around the lips and unsteadiness, and can be corrected by a sweetened drink, of sugar lumps in water, repeated if necessary. If it is left untreated it can progress to unconsciousness necessitating a hospital admission.

Chlorpropamide and to a lesser extent some of the other tablets in this group can cause an unpleasant flushing when alcohol is taken. If this is a problem a different tablet can be substituted.

There is only one tablet in the second group and this is called Metformin (Glucophage). This tablet is usually used to treat very overweight people whose diabetes is poorly controlled on diet alone. It does not stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin and cannot therefore cause a hypoglycaemic reaction. It acts by altering the way the body deals with sugar. Side effects include mild indigestion or diarrhea or a metallic taste in the mouth.


Very occasionally these tablets fail to control maturity onset diabetes and then insulin treatment is advised.


Whenever your Doctor prescribes a new tablet or medicine remind him that you have diabetes or that you are taking a diabetic tablet. Some medicines can aggravate diabetes and result in high blood sugar levels whereas others can increase the effect of diabetic tablets and cause too low a blood sugar level.

Steroids and to a lesser extent, certain diuretics (‘Water’ tablets) can aggravate diabetes. Certain anti-angina and blood pressure tablets, some anti-depressants, some antibiotics, an anti-fungal tablet, some tablets used to treat joint conditions and some tablets used in the treatment of high cholesterol levels may increase the effect of diabetic tablets. Remember also that some cough medicines have a high sugar content.


As there is an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes among people with diabetes it is important for your diabetes to be well controlled and for you to achieve and maintain your normal weight and to take regular exercise. Brisk walking is a very good way to exercise, If you wish to undertake a more vigorous exercise programme ask your doctor’s advice first.

Smoking and high blood pressure also increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes so it is vital for you to STOP SMOKING and advisable for you to have your blood pressure checked once a year by your clinic or family doctor.

You should also have your eyes checked once a year by your doctor or an Optician. Diabetes can affect the blood vessels at the back of the eyes and although it is rare for such changes to cause any deterioration of vision in people with your kind of diabetes it is obviously best for serious changes to be recognised and treated before they can do any harm.


People who have diabetes are more likely to be troubled with corns; blisters or infections and they need to take special care of their feet. Wash your feet regularly and dry carefully between the toes. Cut your toe nails straight across preferably after a bath when the nails are soft. Do not cut them too close to the skin. If you do not sec well or your hands shake ask someone to help you. Very thick or in growing toe nails should be treated by a Chiropodist.

Do not walk barefoot. Always wear shoes that fit well and do not wear new shoes for more than half an hour at a time.

Avoid excessive heat or cold. Keep the feet warm and wear soft roomy socks or stockings, preferably woolen or cotton. Do not use hot water bottles. If you have cold feet wear bed socks instead. Do not put plasters on corns or try to cut them yourself - see a Chiropodist.

Report any sore places, blisters, discolored areas or callouses, however trivial, to your Doctor.


Any illness is likely to cause a deterioration in the control of your diabetes.

If, when you are ill, your urine tests show persistent 1% sugar or more, or your blood tests 13 mmol/per litre or more, seek medical advice.

If you become increasingly thirsty and start to pass more urine than normal, or if you rapidly lose weight and feel unwell or if you vomit, contact your Doctor.


Diabetes is specifically mentioned on the driving license application form and people who have diabetes must mention it when completing the form. If you hold an existing driving license when your diabetes is first diagnosed you should write to the D.V.L.C. at Swansea and inform them. You should also declare your diabetes to your Insurance Company.


Like the rest of the population you should be sensible a flout the amount of alcohol you drink. Do not drink more than a couple of ‘shorts’ or 2 glasses of dry wine, or 2 dry sherries, or 2 pints of ordinary beer a day. If you drink spirits, e.g. gin, whisky etc., choose a slim line mixer. Beer or lager drinkers should be aware of carbohydrates and calories. Diabetic lagers (low in carbohydrate) are available, but remember that they are high in alcohol and calories, and tend to be expensive.

Liqueurs, sweet wines and ordinary mixers should be avoided. Never drink on an empty stomach. For those taking diabetic tablets, remember too much alcohol could have the effect of lowering your blood sugar and make you feel unwell.



You should carry some form of identification card with you. Identification cards are available from your Doctor or Diabetic Clinic and should contain details of your name, address, Doctor and tablets.


People with diabetes are exempt from prescription charges. Get a form from your Family Practitioner Committee for your General Practitioner to sign in order to receive your Prescription Charge Exemption Certificate.

If you have any questions concerning anything in this booklet please ask your Doctor, Nurse Specialist or Dietitian when you next visit your Diabetic Clinic.

Boehringer produce Diabur Test 5000 for urine glucose testing and BM Test Glyccmie 20-800R for blood glucose testing. Readers are invited to write to B.C.L.. Boehringer Mannheim House, Bell Lane, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 1LG, for diabetic diaries, pocket guides and other useful literature for use with these tests.






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