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National Diabetes Month

By Annette Demeny

November is an exciting month! We celebrate National Diabetes Month and we get to exercise our right to vote.

 

I love this quote by Sharon Salzberg, “Voting is the expression of our commitment to ourselves, one another, this country and this world.”

 

Many of you may know, my daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was 14 years old, she is now 33 (see above picture). Since then, I have been passionate about educating myself on ways to help her navigate this disease while living her life to the fullest. In addition to self-educating, I also went back to college to get my degree in Nutrition, became a certified Master Trainer in the Stanford University Diabetes Self-Management Program, and committed my life to learning different healing modalities. So, to say I’m super excited about sharing ALOT of information on this important topic is an understatement! Let’s get started!!!

 

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy.

Most of the food you eat is broken down into sugar (also called glucose) and released into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar goes up, it signals your pancreas to release insulin.

Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas, that acts like a key to let glucose from the food we eat pass from the blood stream into the cells in the body to produce energy. All carbohydrate foods are broken down into glucose in the blood. Insulin helps glucose get into the cells.

If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin as well as it should. When there isn’t enough insulin or cells stop responding to insulin, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream (hyperglycemia). Over time, that can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and failure of various organs such as the kidneys.

 

Fast Fact ~ People with diabetes tend to develop heart disease at a younger age than people without diabetes. In adults with diabetes, the most common causes of death are heart disease and stroke. Adults with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke as people without diabetes. ~ NIH

 

Types of Diabetes

There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant).

 

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake) that stops your body from making insulin. Approximately 5-10% of the people who have diabetes have type 1. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes often develop quickly and can develop at any age, but occurs mostly in children and adolescents. If you have type 1 diabetes, you’ll need to take insulin every day to maintain balanced blood glucose levels. Currently, no one knows how to prevent type 1 diabetes.

 

Type 2 Diabetes

With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t make good use of the insulin that it produces. About 90% of people with diabetes have type 2. It develops over many years and is usually diagnosed in adults however, more and more children, teens, and young adults are being diagnosed due to the food we eat and lack of exercise. Type 2 diabetes has been called the “Black Death of the 21st Century” due to the massive spread around the world and its devastating health impacts.  More than twenty million Americans are currently diagnosed with diabetes, tripling since 1990. Diabetes causes about 50,000 cases of kidney failure, 75,000 lower extremity amputations, 650,000 vision loss and about 75,000 deaths every year. The good news: Type 2 diabetes is preventable, often treatable and can even reversible through healthy lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, eating healthy food, and being active.

 

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who have never had diabetes. If you have gestational diabetes, your baby could be at higher risk for health problems. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after your baby is born but increases your risk for type 2 diabetes later in life. Your baby is more likely to have obesity as a child or teen, and more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life too.

 

What Causes Diabetes

The major cause of Diabetes (Type 2), is insulin resistance in the cells of your muscles. As stated earlier, insulin enables blood sugar (glucose) to enter the cells but when the cells are resistant, it leads to high levels of sugar in your bloodstream.

So, what causes insulin resistance?

Insulin is vital for regulating the amount of glucose that circulates in the bloodstream. Insulin is also the chemical messenger that instructs the liver to store some glucose, rather than releasing it into the bloodstream.  This helps the body maintain a good balance of energy, never allowing the level of blood glucose to to spike for too long. Without insulin, blood glucose is stuck in the bloodstream. Blood sugar levels then rise and damages organs in the process. If this happens, that means something’s not working correctly and your cells are “resistant” to the effect of insulin.

So, what’s making things not work correctly and efficiently? FAT! Fat inside your muscle cells can interfere with insulin function. Built up fat in your bloodstream (from your diet or stored fat), can create free radicals and toxins that block insulin-signaling. Research has shown that when the amount of fat in your diet becomes lower, insulin works increasingly better. Not all fats affect our cells in the same way. Our bodies need a certain amount of fat (for brain health and absorption of nutrients) but knowing and consuming the RIGHT type of fat is so important in avoiding insulin resistance. For example, saturated fat can build up in our muscle cells and cause insulin resistance to occur. Monounsaturated fats, however, are more likely to be detoxified by the body. To learn more about the different types of fats and what is the healthiest choices, read my blog post Nutrition 101: Fats.

 

In this post we learned: what is diabetes, the three different types and what causes diabetes. Next week, we will learn about the amazing macronutrient that turns into glucose…Carbohydrates: What are carbohydrates? What is the ideal amount of carbs should someone with diabetes consume? How to count carbohydrates and much, much more! If you want to get a jump start on learning about the importance of carbs, read my post Nutrition 101: Carbohydrates.

 

SFY Sources

Dr. Michael Greger, M.D., FACLM

American Diabetes Association

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Diabetes Statistics Report

 

SFY Recommends

How Not To Die, Dr. Michael Greger, M.D., FACLM

 

 

Do you have any questions about Diabetes? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

 

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