Food Safety for People with Diabetes

As a person with diabetes, you are not alone — there are many people in the United States with this chronic disease. Diabetes can affect various organs and systems of your body, causing them not to function properly, and making you more susceptible to infection. For example:

  • Your immune system, when functioning properly, readily fights off harmful bacteria and other pathogens that cause infection. With diabetes, your immune system may not readily recognize harmful bacteria or other pathogens. This delay in the body’s natural response to foreign invasion places a person with diabetes at increased risk for infection.
  • Your gastrointestinal tract, when functioning properly, allows the foods and beverages you consume to be digested normally. Diabetes may damage the cells that create stomach acid and the nerves that help your stomach and intestinal tract move the food throughout the intestinal tract. Because of this damage, your stomach may hold on to the food and beverages you consume for a longer period of time, allowing harmful bacteria and other pathogens to grow.
  • Additionally, your kidneys, which work to cleanse the body, may not be functioning properly and may hold on to harmful bacteria, toxins, and other pathogens.
  • A consequence of having diabetes is that it may leave you more susceptible to developing infections — like those that can be brought on by disease-causing bacteria and other pathogens that cause foodborne illness. Should you contract a foodborne illness, you are more likely to have a lengthier illness, undergo hospitalization, or even die.
  • To avoid contracting a foodborne illness, you must be vigilant when handling, preparing, and consuming foods.

Make safe handling a lifelong commitment to minimize your risk of foodborne illness. Be aware that as you age, your immunity to infection naturally is weakened.

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Glucose Levels

High glucose levels suppress the function of white blood cells that fight off infection, increasing one’s risk of contracting a foodborne illness. If someone with diabetes contracts a foodborne illness, their blood glucose levels may be affected because the illness impacts what and how much the person can eat.

Gastrointestinal Tract (GI)

Diabetes may cause the stomach to produce low amounts of digestive acid. In addition, nerves may not move food through the GI tract as quickly as in non-diabetic persons. When the stomach holds on to food longer than necessary, bacteria start to multiply. If the amount of unhealthy bacteria in the stomach gets too high, it can lead to foodborne illness.

Kidneys

Kidneys usually work to cleanse the body. For many diabetes patients, their kidneys may not function properly, giving unhealthy bacteria the opportunity to grow out of control.

What You Can Do

Learn about safety tips for those at increased risk of foodborne illness. Those living with diabetes should always follow the four steps:

Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often

Separate: Separate raw meat and poultry from ready-to-eat foods

Cook: Cook food to the right temperatures

Chill: Chill raw meat and poultry as well as cooked leftovers promptly (within 2 hours)

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