For the normal functioning of our bodies, most of what we eat is broken down during digestion into glucose. Glucose is sugar that is the source of energy for our cells and organs. Glucose is transported throughout the body via the bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone that is secreted by the pancreas, and its function is to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells, without insulin, the cells on their own cannot absorb the available glucose.
In the absence of insulin or when the cells do not respond appropriately to insulin, glucose is unable to pass into the cells, and its levels go up in the blood, this results in a condition called diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
A fasting blood sugar level of above 126mg/dl or a random blood sugar level of above 200 mg or HbA1c above 6.5 mg/dl is diagnosed as Diabetes. Yes! Diabetes is a life-long condition.
There are three types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes.
Diabetes, especially type 2 is a silent disease. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body utilize glucose which is released form food that you eat. Type 2 Diabetes is when there’s an insufficient Insulin production by the body or when the body is not able to utilize Insulin properly or both.Type 2 diabetes is also known as insulin resistant diabetes and occurs later on in life.
For many years, Type 2 Diabetes may go unnoticed. It may be noticed only when serious complications such as heart disease or blindness develop. Once diagnosed, both type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes need life-long management.
Type 1 Diabetes is the one wherein there is no Insulin production by the body. Type 1 diabetes is also known as juvenile diabetes, early onset diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. This condition can start from birth till about the age 40. Type 1 diabetes is the less common of the two types of diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is diabetes that develops in pregnancy and most probably disappears after the childbirth. But, that may increase your chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes in later life.
Some of the more common symptoms of diabetes include:
- Getting tired easily
- Increased or more frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Intense hunger
- Blurry vision
- Wounds take a long time to heal
- Sexual dysfunction in males
- More frequent skin rashes or fungal infections
- Swollen gums and more frequent gum disease
Diabetes leads to many complications including permanent damage to vital organs. Well controlled Diabetes does minimize complications though it does not guarantee no complications. Hence, suitable treatment and follow up is a must!
- Insulin is a must if you are diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
- Type 2 can be managed with diet, lifestyle and oral medications though it may need Insulin later on.
- Gestational Diabetes can be managed with diet, exercise and Insulin.
- Healthy diet that is advised for all, also applies to Diabetics. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and proteins (beans) is advised.
With Diabetes, quantity is the key. Remember to count calories.
- Maintaining a healthy weight is important in Diabetes. Output/ Calories burnt should be higher than input/ calories consumed, for maintaining a healthy weight, which is important in Diabetes.
- Exercise/ staying physically active is another factor that minimizes complications in Diabetes.
- Never miss your doctor’s appointments. Follow your treatment plan judiciously to live longer and healthier!
Dizziness, headache, lack of coordination, anxiety and sweating are few of the other symptoms of Hypoglycemia.
You can treat Hypoglycemia immediately with sugar/ sweets. Always carry sugar/ high carbohydrate snacks if you take Insulin.
If you experience any of the following contact your doctor immediately!
Chest pain/ tightness
Diabetic ketoacidosis is a life threatening condition and needs an immediate action! As your body is not able to utilize glucose, your body breaks down fat! This process produces ketones as a byproduct. As there is excess blood sugar, your body gets rid of excess sugar through urine. As you urinate often, you feel dehydrated. This combination of glucose, ketones and dehydration is called as Diabetic ketoacidosis.
This Following symptoms of Diabetic ketoacidosis also need an immediate attention:
- Deep rapid breathing
- Flushing/ red face
- Dry mouth and skin
- Urination and thirst more frequent than usual and lasts for more than a day
- Nausea/ vomiting sensation and vomiting
- Muscle stiffness
- Fruity smelling breath
- Decreased alertness
You should also call your doctor if you experience the following:
- BSL is higher than your goals
- Numbness/ tingling sensation in your feet or legs
- Infection in your feet
- Problematic eyesight
- BSL is lower than your goals. If you experience Hypoglycemia often, you should inform your doctor. Check your BSL often to know how your body responds to your diet and activity levels. Your doctor will modify the dosage accordingly.
One good news is a latest research says Diabetes type 2 can be reversed! Type 1 can be improved!
This breakthrough is based on a calorie restriction diet. Restricting calories up-to 700 per day for 8 weeks! This is followed by a weight loss diet for 6 months. This process reversed Diabetes type 2 in around 35% people who participated in the study. Their glucose levels were below the cut off for Diabetes. They also needed no more medicines!
Another study that was focused on restricting unhealthy foods such as sugar and processed foods, consuming healthy foods such as high fiber foods: nuts and seeds also helped reverse Diabetes type2.
Though this is a very strict diet and may not be practical for all, it’s a ray of hope for reversing Diabetes!
The important thing to remember when living with diabetes is that is treatable and with the right diet and lifestyle, appropriate medication and visits to the doctor as an when required a patient can lead a life as close to normal as possible. Stay active and live healthily.