Each year Diabetes Australia uses this week to highlight areas of concern around this growing condition.

As it is the biggest challenge confronting Australia’s health system, now has never been a more important time for us to understand what over 1.8 million Australians go through every day.

The theme for 2022 is ‘Heads Up on Diabetes,’ once again aiming to reduce the stigma surrounding the disease. With 4 out of 5 people who suffer from diabetes experiencing forms of stigma at some point, it is important to highlight what we can do about it.One major aspect of the stigma surrounding diabetes is that people living with diabetes are sometimes considered to “deserve it”. The term lifestyle disease can imply that people have brought it on themselves. There is also a lot of “all you have to do” ism – that is, many people will say “well all you have to do is eat properly and you wouldn’t be in this situation”. While this is technically true in principle, it is unhelpful and hurtful, because eating well is not a simple thing in our modern, highly processed world.

One important way to fight stigma is to provide people living with diabetes with the tools that they need to eat well and properly manage their blood sugar. This week aims to help people to understand the steps they can take to better manage their diabetes. Although raising awareness is a positive step forward in reducing the stigma surrounding diabetes, it won’t help your diabetes itself. We would like to discuss what you can do in conjunction with reducing stigma, to better manage your diabetes.

It was only this year that Diabetes Australia has acknowledged that food and diet is an effective means for managing, and in some cases reversing diabetes. Even so, a lot of people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes do not have the right diet toolkit to completely understand the disease and possibly reverse it.

If food and diet is a key, what does that mean for medication?The reality is, managing diabetes requires a combined approach. Sometimes it is possible to manage diabetes with diet alone and sometimes it isn’t. However, including  ‘Food as Medicine’ in your management program also allows the pharmaceuticals to work better. In a past “Under the Microscope”, I mentioned how health is like an orchestra. If an instrument is broken, pharmaceuticals are brought in to repair it. However, if the instruments are out of tune, ‘Food as Medicine’ comes in to “re-educate” or “tune” them. There’s no point in fixing one instrument if the whole orchestra is “out of tune.” We must work to “tune” the body, allowing for the pharmaceuticals to work better.What is the next step?What I want people to take from this article is the understanding that we have more control over our bodies than we think. ‘Food as Medicine’ Is the missing tool in our health toolbox. By adding the correct ‘Food as Medicine’ product into our diet it allows us to take control of our health, and helps pharmaceuticals perform better, if indeed we need them as well. This not only improves the way we manage diabetes, but will also reduce the stigma surrounding how people with diabetes live with their disease.