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October 18, 2009

Meal Planning, Food and Diet, Mental Health

Question from Queretaro, Mexico:

My 22-year-old was recently diagnosed with diabetes. I want to know what type of food I should cook for him and what kind of care I need to give him for him to recuperate. He is suffering from depression and does not want to get medication, nor does he want to see someone for this. This is the reason I am sending this question, seeking help to aid him in his handling of the situation. He was diagnosed one month ago. He has two children, a two-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy. Please let me know how I can help him. I know that there are a lot of people feeling like I do.


From: DTeam Staff

I am sorry you have to address this. Being diagnosed with a serious illness can be associated with some depression. However, after a reasonable time, the proper direction is to get on with life. There is no going backward. The most important thing is to treat the condition so that it has the least impact on your son’s health.

First, I would make sure he is working with a diabetes educator at his clinic or hospital. Second, I would have him take a class that he can go to so that he can get a large amount of information in a fairly short period of time. This takes a great deal of the myth away from the condition. He will need to accept that he has the condition in order to decide to carry out the necessary self-care functions it takes to treat the diabetes successfully. He may have to lean on some people in the process. The best feeling I have had as a diabetologist is the feeling that I have gotten someone up on their two feet and living well with a chronic disease, such as type 1 diabetes.

With regard to meals, the first thing you will both have to learn is what to eat. Similar to people with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, people with diabetes need to have a nutritionally sound diet. In your son’s case, he will have to learn how to count carbohydrate servings so he knows how much insulin to give to match the food he eats. Fat should be eaten in limited amounts. Protein foods with low fat content are preferred. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always best. Whole grain cereals are good. Regular soda pop is out. There will have to be limits to sugar splurges. Weight gain should be discouraged because it can increase the amount of insulin needed. A meeting with a dietitian will go a long way to spelling out the amount of food servings that make up a usual diet. It takes getting use to at first, but it becomes second nature. People successful at treating their diabetes learn how to adapt and how to compensate for changes in schedule and situations.

Finally, having a chronic medical condition means you see a physician regularly. This is hard to do. It is not natural to do this. However, the alternative is not acceptable. If he has type 1 diabetes, he is going to have to have his control monitored and his insulin dose evaluated, he will need to be monitored for complications from diabetes, and he will need basic wellness care over his lifetime. Having the resources to pay for his care is also a problem.