Diabetes Simplified

 The name Diabetes Mellitus has Latin and Ancient Greek origins. Roughly translated it means “sweetness (honey, actually) passing through”. A urine test will often show sugar is present in a new diabetic – the “sweetness passing through”.

 

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Diabetes comes about when the body is not able to control its blood sugar correctly, because it can’t control its insulin supply. Insulin is the hormone which metabolises blood sugar – glucose to be accurate, sending it to muscles for physical energy, storing some in the muscles and liver as glycogen, and when those reserves are full, it will turn it to fat and store it in adipose (fat) tissue.

In type 1 diabetics, the pancreas produces little or no insulin. The diagnosis is often made during puberty or adolescence. There are many theories about the cause of this type, but none that are definitive.  In type 2, the pancreas has had to produce more and more insulin in response to blood sugar, as the mechanisms becomes less sensitive (insulin sensitivity) to the same levels of blood glucose. This leaves glucose in the blood with nowhere to go – this is the state of hyperglycemia. As the disease progresses it is called “insulin resistance”. Unlike type 1, there are many known factors in type 2 diabetes which I will refer to later. There are some other causes of diabetes, but as these make up the minority, I will not discuss them here.

“Type 2 diabetes is now so common, it would be reasonable to say that in the western world, it is at epidemic proportions.”

Type 1 diabetes makes up around 10% of all cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes makes up almost all of the remaining 90% of all types. It used to be known “mild” (which it is most certainly not) or “late-onset” diabetes, because that is when it most often presented. Today however, diagnosis of type 2 is not uncommon in much younger people – even adolescents and children. This is not necessarily due to modern methods of diagnosis, as associated metabolic diseases are also increasing.

Of the UK population, we now have approximately 5% who have been diagnosed as diabetics and many more with pre-diabetic conditions and undiagnosed diabetes. This includes both type 1 and type 2. Both types are growing exponentially and regardless of population increase. These are metabolic diseases.

The signs and symptoms of diabetes are similar for both types;

  • excessive thirst
  •  polyuria (excessive urinating)
  •  minor infections and delayed healing
  •  Tiredness
  • sometimes weight-loss.

Often, diabetes isn’t diagnosed until something major occurs – heart attacks, strokes, eye-problems and severe infections.

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Type 2 diabetes is now so common, it would be reasonable to say that in the western world, it is at epidemic proportions. There are many possible factors and associations involved, which include;

  • a diet high in concentrated carbohydrate foods –bread, breakfast cereals, cakes, sweets, fizzy drinks etc.
  • vitamin D deficiency
  • intake of polyunsaturated vegetable fats – seed oils and margarine
  • family history of diabetes
  • lack of exercise
  • obesity is an association, being caused by the same metabolic problem as diabetes

The most important factors for preventing diabetes are essentially my Healthy Life guidelines. The chances of an adolescent  being diagnosed with type 1 would most certainly be reduced if all couples trying for a baby and the mother whilst pregnant, by following these guidelines. As well as adopting this lifestyle, people with type 2, or a pre-diabetic condition, need to reduce carbohydrates more and increase their intake of good fats.

Next time I will address the industry that diabetes has engendered.

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