Is it a coincidence that November is National Diabetes Awareness Month? There are many reasons to associate elevated blood glucose levels with the 11th month of the year.
Perhaps the most obvious is the birthday of Dr. Frederick Banting, a Canadian medical scientist and physician. He is the co-discoverer of insulin and its therapeutic potential. He was born on Nov. 15, 1891. Dr. Banting was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for his work with insulin and diabetes.
November marks the beginning of the overeating season. It starts on Oct. 31 with Beggar’s Night and ends halfway through the month of January. This is two-and-a-half months of accepted and encouraged overindulging.
The association with insulin and overeating is the hallmark of uncontrolled blood sugars. Intentionally allowing elevated blood glucose to run rampant throughout blood vessels is an invitation to damage of many organs. It is a flood of sweetness that satisfies the palate but destroys the body.
The Autumnal Equinox that occurs at the end of September continues to shorten daylight hours until the Winter Solstice at the end of December. During fall, the sun’s rays decrease and nighttime increases, and this difference becomes more noticeable during November. The body and its metabolism slows down and cortisol levels increase as the stress of environmental changes intensify.
The rise of this internal hormone can lead to weight gain and an imbalance of blood glucose levels. The desire for comfort food skyrockets. November is historically a stressful month, it is not quite autumn while it offers a preview of winter.
Outdoor activities decrease in November. It is too cold to water ski and too warm to snow ski. Planting and harvesting is over. Sports teams prepare to take an open-air break. It becomes a bother to bundle up to enjoy the activities that are associated with warmer weather. Activities that burn up excess glucose in the body are stunted, allowing blood sugar levels to increase.
A desire to make the upcoming holiday better than the previous year’s events is a strong motivator for added stress and over spending. The addition of social media adds expectations and guilt if the most perfect holiday season is not achieved. Family losses and new births intensify the sentimental emotions. Both of which can increase mindless eating and decreased activity.
Knowing a problem is half solving it. Being aware of the pitfalls of the eleventh month can help to alleviate falling into the pit of uncontrolled increased blood glucose levels. A barrage of holiday cheer and cookies, the stress of less sunlight and Christmas preparations, plus less activity and exercise in November sets up higher blood sugar levels.
Being more mindful of holiday preparations and parties during November can make this month part of the solution, not the problem. Reversing a wind-down activity level to a livelier step can burn up blood sugars. Stopping to smell the season and remember thankfulness can reduce high cortisol levels.
Happy birthday, Dr. Banting. Medical science blesses the day that you were born.
Bobbie Randall is a certified diabetes educator, registered, licensed dietitian. She supervises a Diabetes Self-Management Training Program at Dunlap Community Hospital, Orrville, Ohio. Contact her at [email protected]