Diabetes is a terrifying disease that used to claim many lives prematurely until insulin was discovered in 1921. There are two types of diabetes in the US, type 1 diabetes, where the body doesn’t make insulin and requires injections every day, and type 2 diabetes, where the body doesn’t use insulin well. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease that occurs for an unknown reason. On the other hand, type 2 is often the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices. 

According to the National Diabetes Statics Report, 37.3 million Americans have diabetes, and approximately 95% have type 2 diabetes. Additionally, another 96 million American adults have prediabetes (for type 2). Alarmingly, type 2 diabetes cases are on the rise among all age groups, including teens. 

Diabetes can put you at high risk of further health complications, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney disease, vision impairment, etc. Indeed, as too much sugar circulates through the bloodstream, it can affect all major organs and bodily functions, leading to circulation, immune, and nervous systems disorders. 

But why do travel and type 2 diabetes go hand in hand? Enthusiastic travelers are more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes because travel contributes to an indulgent diet, the number one risk factor for the disease. Does it mean you can’t enjoy the local flavors when you explore new regions or book a delightful spa weekend treat? 

Of course not! But you need to consider your choices carefully, especially if you are already at risk of type 2 or have received a prediabetes diagnosis. Type 2 diabetes can be successfully reversed and/or managed through a healthy lifestyle. So what can you do to enjoy your trip without letting it affect your prediabetes diagnosis? Here are some tips to stay on the healthy side of travel!

Can you reverse type 2 diabetes? 

Doctors warn that medically there is no evidence that diabetes reversal is permanent. Yet, you can put your type 2 into remission with the right approach. However, it is a life-changing attitude if you don’t want type 2 to come back. 

Case studies suggest that weight loss is your best ally for remission. If your BMI is over 27, you may notice significant improvements in your health by losing only 33 lb, which can be enough to reduce the risk of diabetes. It’s important to remember that a safe and healthy diet is more likely to be effective and sustainable than attempting a crash diet regime to drop all the weight at once! Safe diets can be slow, but they are more successful in the long term. You can also support your effort with a prescription weight loss program, which can help curb your appetite. When you travel to different time zones, jetlag can make it tough to manage your appetite. Indeed, jetlag affects your circadian rhythm, which can interfere with your hunger levels. You could feel hungry at the wrong times or try to manage your fatigue levels through excessive eating. Therefore, taking medicated support to help keep your appetite under control can prevent risks. 

Some of the most frequently cited diets that have helped with diabetes reversal are the Mediterranean diet and a low-carb diet such as the Keto diet. For travelers, a Mediterranean diet including fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, fish, and grains, is a more sustainable approach. You are more likely to be able to find dishes that will meet your requirements all around the world. On the other hand, a low-carb diet can require more adjustments and limit your options when traveling abroad. 

What else can be a risk factor for travelers with prediabetes?

Essentially, having prediabetes means that you have too much sugar in your blood and that your body has difficulty keeping it under control. Therefore, disruptions of your body’s circadian rhythm can affect insulin production and other functions. 

Unfortunately, traveling to a different time zone will lead to jetlag. However, there are ways to manage it and help your body start a new clock. Jetlag pills can be helpful if you suffer from severe jetlag symptoms. You can also naturally prepare your body for the new time zone. For instance, in the weeks preceding your trip, you can gradually change your bedtime and meal times to bring them closer to what they are in your holiday destination. Fasting is another effective technique to kickstart a new circadian rhythm adapted to the new country. Fasting for 16 hours can help your body adjust to the time difference more rapidly. 

Jetlag also causes fatigue, making you more sensitive to cravings and stress. Cravings are hard to resist, especially if the local treats look appetizing! Yet, cravings are likely to create glucose peaks in your blood! Stress releases cortisol and adrenaline, which tend to increase your blood sugar. If you are familiar with sleeping pills, taking sleeping medication on your first day will help you rest at night at your destination to wake up feeling refreshed and energized. 

Unfortunately, it can be tricky to keep stress at bay, especially when visiting a foreign destination. The routine disruption and the challenge to understand and be understood can lead to unpleasant moments. But, remember that your emotions are enhanced through the jetlag syndrome. You can try stress management techniques to relax as your body and mind acclimate. Breathing techniques can be a game-changer in bringing your blood pressure down! It can be a good idea to keep some emergency floral tea bags with you, such as jasmine tea which is calming. 

How to make the most of your trip while being diabetes-conscious

It is no fun to travel abroad if you can’t even indulge in delicious food. The problem is not about indulging occasionally. A prediabetes condition doesn’t develop from occasional indulgence. It is something that creeps onto you when indulging becomes so much of a habit that you don’t notice it anymore. 

Picture the typical diet on holiday:

  • A heavy breakfast with baked goods and sweets, such as jams, pastries, etc. 
  • Snacks and treats during morning visits or activities
  • Lunch
  • An afternoon treat, typically involving a slice of cake or something sweet
  • Heavy dinner, often at your hotel or in tourist restaurants
  • Alcoholic drinks

Most tourists, however, don’t realize how much they eat during their vacations. Local food is part of the discovery, so as you feed your curiosity about the local culture, you may also incidentally contribute to your high blood sugar. It can be helpful to set healthy rules that will help you manage your diet without depriving yourself. 

Alcohol can interfere with your blood sugar levels and reduce the effectiveness of insulin if consumed too frequently. So, you may want to keep your alcohol consumption to only a glass every few days. 

When you’re on holiday, the best breakfast is a protein-rich breakfast that will keep you full for longer, such as something with yogurt, eggs, or smoked fish. If you wish to add carbs to your diet, it is best to eat complex carbs with a low glycemic index in the first half of the day — breakfast and lunch. The best carbs include whole oats, brans, nuts, whole grains, and legumes. If you wish to enjoy a sweet treat from a street vendor, it is best to schedule physical activities right after, so you can naturally reduce your blood sugar levels. You want a light dinner, focusing on food such as proteins and vegetables. 

Being mindful of what you eat can make a huge difference, helping keep your blood sugar under control and leaving enough room for the occasional treat. 

Traveling is a dangerous hobby for people with diabetes. Indeed, traveling can encourage a carefree approach, which is when you take risks. Being more mindful of the factors that can trigger high blood sugar will keep you safe without affecting your trip!