What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. When you eat carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into blood sugar, or blood glucose, which it uses for energy. Your body needs insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas, to obtain glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. Diabetes occurs when your blood glucose is not being controlled by insulin, either because insulin is not available or the body does not respond to insulin. However, there are different types of diabetes and reasons why your body cannot produce insulin or cannot use it as well as it should.
Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus
In Type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin because it has formed antibodies against cells in the pancreas where insulin is made. It most commonly presents in childhood, but one-fourth of cases are diagnosed in adults.
Type 1 diabetes remains the most common form of diabetes in childhood, accounting for approximately 80% of new diagnoses of diabetes in patients 19 years of age or younger in the United States.
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes overall, occurs when your body does not use insulin properly. This is a condition known as insulin resistance. While some people can control their blood sugar levels with healthy eating and exercise, others may need medication or insulin to help manage it.
The increasing rates of Type 2 diabetes have led to an increased awareness of the need to screen those at risk for diabetes and to encourage lifestyle habits to help those with diabetes stay healthy.
During pregnancy, the hormones made by the placenta help with the growth of the fetus. However, these same hormones can also block the action of the mother’s insulin to her body and cause insulin resistance, leading to a condition known as gestational diabetes. This insulin resistance usually resolves shortly after the pregnancy ends.
If a woman has gestational diabetes during a pregnancy, she has a 50% increased risk of developing diabetes later in adulthood. It is very important for women who have gestational diabetes to follow up after pregnancy for close monitoring to ensure the insulin resistant state has resolved.
There is another term known as prediabetes which gives you a signal that your body’s blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes.
One in three people in the United States has prediabetes. Individuals with prediabetes show early signs of insulin resistance, but for the most part, they can still respond appropriately to the insulin made in their bodies to regulate their blood sugar levels.
What Are the Symptoms of Diabetes?
Some of the most common symptoms of diabetes are:
- Feeling more thirsty
- Urinating more often
- Feeling tired, weak, or irritable
- Blurred vision
- Losing weight without trying to
- Frequent infections or slow-healing sores
Check out diabetes.org/recipes for great resources on the best foods to eat if you have diabetes, and stay in touch with your doctor for help managing your diabetes. If you are concerned you may have diabetes, contact your TopLine MD Alliance affiliated doctor to make an appointment.
Treatment Options for Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes, also called adult-onset diabetes, is the most common type of diabetes seen in adults. This type of diabetes can be genetic, but the severity of this disease can many times still be controlled by the patient – with and without medications. However, there are factors can help adults control their diabetes.
The most important way you can control your diabetes is through diet and exercise. Though the medications that help in the treatment and control of diabetes are important, the main treatment is still a low-fat, low-sugar diet and balanced exercise. If done correctly, it can help prevent the need of escalation of doses of these medications for a long time, if not forever.
Another important part of treatment for diabetes is understanding how your body processes sugar. This takes some work, but it is worth it. A monitoring system can be used to measure your blood sugars with either a simple finger prick on a regular basis (at least 2-3 times daily before and after meals) or some of the newer technology sensors can allow you to monitor the sugars more routinely throughout the day and night. Once you, as the patient, understands how your body processes the sugar, you can manipulate your glucose with diet and exercise. Eventually, you will need less or no medications, and this translates into a healthier, longer life.
Medications are an important and vital treatment for type 2 diabetes. We now have a much better understanding of the dysfunctions in the human body that lead to type 2 diabetes. This has helped physicians better understand which medications may be best for successful treatment. To keep the explanation simple there are three major dysfunctions that a diabetic patient may experience:
- Processing the Foods We Eat
We have always known that the stomach communicates to the cells on when to make insulin (beta islet cells found on the top of the pancreas) and how much insulin to release after you eat a meal. It has only been in the past few years though that we now have a greater understanding of this system and have been able to develop medications that can help fix this problem. This has revolutionized the treatment for diabetes and helps the stomach successfully transmit that information to the rest of the body.
- Insulin Production
Insulin dysfunction deals with the production and distribution of insulin. Historically, this was one of the first systems we were able to manipulate with medications. We still use these medications routinely in our battle against diabetes.
- Insulin Activity
The last dysfunction can be your body’s ability to activate cells by the insulin released to get the sugar out of your bloodstream and into those cells correctly and efficiently to be used for energy. This correlates with lower blood sugars and improved diabetes. The medications we have can improve the function of insulin, and if that is not possible, we also can use synthetic insulin to help.
Living with Diabetes
It is the combination of these varied factors discussed above that can help patients stay healthier and live longer with diabetes. With technology changing so rapidly, we are confident that in the next few years, we will see even more improvements and more understanding of the diabetic condition.
The Diabetic Diet
In diabetes, your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are too high. Glucose is found in most of the foods that we eat and is used by the cells in your body to make energy since insulin is the hormone used by the body to help glucose enter the cells. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not make insulin, and in type 2 diabetes your body does not use insulin correctly or does not make it at all. Without enough insulin in the body, the levels of glucose build up in the blood stream. Therefore, making changes to the glucose in your diet is a key aspect in managing diabetes.
The glucose in your bloodstream comes from certain foods called carbohydrates. Some foods that are high in carbohydrates include breads, candy, sweets, and white rice. The optimal diet for diabetics includes eating a variety of healthy foods from all food groups, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, proteins such as lean meats, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, nuts, beans and non-fat or low-fat dairy such as milk, yogurt and cheese.
It is important for diabetics to limit foods and drinks high in carbohydrates including candy, cookies, ice cream, and sweetened cereals. Drinks with added sugars can also contain high sources of glucose including sodas, juices, and sports drinks. White rice, breads, and pastas, especially those made with white flour, are also high in carbs and should be avoided, as well as starchy vegetables including white potatoes and corn.
The ideal amount of carbs one should consume varies from person to person. It is important to work with your TopLine MD Alliance affiliated physician or nutritionist to determine the number of carbohydrates you need each day based on eating habits, weight, and activity level, as well as the medications you take for treatment. Counting the amount of carbohydrates, you are eating and drinking is especially important for patients on insulin treatment, as insulin dosages will need to be adjusted according to your meal’s carbohydrate content. Even for patients not on insulin, carbohydrate counting can be an important tool in helping to manage your blood glucose levels.
Annual doctors’ visits and screenings are important at any age, especially if you are at risk of developing diabetes. TopLine MD affiliated physicians are here to help you keep your health in check.