Diabetes is a disease that affects the way the body handles sugar, after the body has broken down foods. Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disorder which is typically found in childhood. Both Type I and Type II diabetes can be genetic in nature however there is nothing that can be done to prevent Type I diabetes.
Type II diabetes affects over 15 million Americans at some level and is often referred to by several names including “sugar” but it is not always sugar that is the only problem.
While Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disease, a malfunction in the body, Type II diabetes is often caused by poor diet, lack of exercise and your own body’s genetic predisposition to not handling sugar surges very well.
Diabetes can be controlled with good diet and exercise, however left unchecked it can lead to some very serious diseases and conditions. Untreated diabetes is one of the leading causes of non-traumatic amputations in the United States and is one of the leading reasons for adult blindness as well.
There is no cure for Type I diabetes but you can control Type II diabetes with exercise and good diet. Knowing how your body functions and handles food is important as is the need to closely monitor your blood sugar levels. For many people, it might be necessary to check the blood sugar several times per day while for others it might only need to be done a few times each day. Once you have lost weight, you may no longer need medications and may eventually be able to stop drawing your blood as well. It is important though to manage your initial symptoms and regain control over your blood sugar to prevent worsening of the condition. If you do not heed the warnings, you could end up having to use insulin injections for the rest of your life.
Know the Symptoms of Diabetes
The symptoms for both Type I and Type II diabetes are the same and should be immediately investigated by anyone who notices them. These symptoms include:
– Increased and intense thirst, especially thirst that wakes you up in the middle of the night
– Frequent urination
– Increased appetite
– Unexplained weight loss
– Blurred vision
– Dry mouth
– Vomiting or diarrhea with no other symptoms of ill health
– Recurrent yeast or urinary tract infections
– Very slow healing cuts, scrapes and wounds on the skin
Digestion and Absorption
Every food that enters the body is broken down to its lowest common form. In the case of an empty stomach, part of the food will be used immediately for energy- necessary to complete the digestion process. The remaining food will then be sent to reserves in the muscles, converted to a form called glycogen. If there is no room in these reserve tanks the body will convert the food to fat for long term storage in the fat cells. (The human body has a set number of fat cells; we gain or lose weight by how big these are, not by how many of them we have).
When the body is working hard it will draw on the reserves for energy, the glycogen is converted back to glucose and burned normally. If there is nothing in the reserves the body will do two things: first, it will burn some of the reserved fat for fuel and second, it will send up the hunger signal to the brain so that it can get fresh supplies of food to deal with. The body will continue to send this signal until there is food. If the signal is not answered, however the body will close down the metabolism so that it can hold on to the reserves that it has. The body likes a regular balance of food coming in and energy going out, anything that upsets this balance can lead to a complete shutdown of the system.
Some foods break down in the body very rapidly while others do not. The foods that break down too quickly will cause the body to be overwhelmed by glucose causing a flood of the hormone insulin to be released from the pancreas. The insulin will automatically send everything to the fat cells, bypassing energy creation which results in a vicious cycle and weight gain. The more insulin that is released, the less food will be converted to energy. The less food that is converted for energy the more the body will need to eat.
Slower digesting foods do not cause this sugar rush/insulin surge and can be more effectively dealt with by the body. Foods that are easy to digest include simple carbohydrates (cakes, pies, cookies, candies and sodas) and fats. Complex carbohydrates and proteins are harder to digest by the body, requiring far more work. It is important then that the diet be made up of mostly these foods eliminating as much of the white sugars, white flours and overly processed foods as possible.
While fruits and vegetables are a healthy part of the diet, fruit juices can be a problem especially if they are consumed on a regular basis. They require no energy to consume and can shoot the blood glucose level up very fast- juices should be kept to a minimum with fresh fruit being the better suggestion. Whole fruit includes fiber which is necessary for the healthy diet as well and is lower in calories than the average glass of juice.
Two Diabetics and Their New Attitudes: Case Studies
Michelle has Type I diabetes, she was diagnosed at age four. Donna, her best friend, has recently been diagnosed with Type I diabetes. Both women have gone through a number of ups and downs in their lives, including a bout of gestational diabetes for Donna. Because of her own status, Michelle has opted not to have children. Michelle has an automatic port inserted in her abdominal skin so that she does not have to continually give herself injections.
Donna ignored her doctor’s warnings- she had a number of risk factors including family history, her own history of gestational diabetes, (It is thought by most that this is more a pre-diabetic condition) and her weight. A bout with kidney disease may have also been a clue that she was at risk for diabetes. At this time, Donna, a mother with a young child, is only going to need to use medications to keep her blood sugar in check, however she has been warned that if she does not do more she will be progressing to insulin in a matter of time.
Donna and Michelle agree to work together- learning to eat healthy foods and to get more exercise. In addition to adding more fruits and vegetables to their diets, they will both be using a liquid protein supplement as a between meal snack. Using the supplement keeps them from being hungry throughout the day and keeps blood sugar levels even and stabilized so there is no blood sugar risk that can be problematic not only for diabetics but for others as well.