The scientific world knew about diabetes, as early as 1889 but there are still several myths surrounding the disease. These can perpetuate unhealthy practices that may lead to more problems. Here are some myths to be aware of if you or a loved one is diagnosed with the condition.
Myth 1: Diabetes is only caused by eating too much sweet food
Fact: Diabetes is not just caused by eating too many sweets. It is caused by a malfunction in the pancreas—type 1 diabetes, or hormonal imbalances that make your cells resistant to insulin—type 2 diabetes.
In fact, sweet food is not the only food you need to monitor, if you have diabetes, or you want to minimize your risk of developing it. You need to monitor your carbohydrate intake because in its most basic state, carbohydrate IS sugar. This means eating bread, rice, and pasta could prove to be just as harmful as eating chocolate and candy.
Myth 2: Diabetic people should not eat carbohydrate, or sugar at all
Fact: Carbohydrate is an important nutrient for the body, as it needs it for energy. It should not be completely avoided, even by diabetic people. What diabetic people need to avoid is eating high amounts of carbohydrates and sugar —more than their body can process. Your dietary requirements depend on your weight and your level of physical activity.
For example, eating a bar of chocolate may not be a concern for a reasonably fit man, who trains for a marathon or plays basketball every day. However, eating a single spoonful of ice cream may not be advisable for a person whose blood glucose level is 16mmol/L, especially if they don’t engage in physical activity.
Myth 3: Type 2 diabetes only affects overweight or obese people
Fact: It is true that overweight or obese persons have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, not all overweight or obese persons will acquire type 2 diabetes. Also, thin, or people with a healthy weight may develop diabetes. A healthy weight only lowers your risk of developing the disease.
Myth 4: Diabetes will go away once you achieve a healthy weight.
Fact: Apart from gestational diabetes and prediabetes, other types of diabetes do not go away once you reach a healthy weight. Diabetes is not tied to your weight, but is tied to how your body reacts to insulin.
However, having a healthy weight does increase your sensitivity to insulin, and allow you to manage the condition. Nevertheless, it will not get rid of diabetes once it has developed.
In fact, this is one of the reasons type 2 diabetics lose weight upon acquiring diabetes. Barring other variables, such as an increase in calorie consumption, they tend to lose weight on their own. It is a mechanism to balance the glucose.
Myth 5: Exercise is only advocated for type 2 diabetics. Type 1diabetics should engage in minimal exercise.
Fact: Whether you are type 1 or type 2 diabetic, or even if you are not diabetic at all, you need to exercise. For diabetics however, their level of exercise needs to match their carbohydrate intake, to offset the glucose in their bloodstream. The less exercise or physical activity you engage in, the fewer carbohydrates you should consume.
N.B: You must exercise caution. If you exercise too much and do not balance your carbohydrate intakes, this may result in hypoglycemia.
Myth 6: Women who are diabetic may have difficulty having a child.
Fact: Diabetic women often have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which makes it difficult for them to produce eggs or to conceive. A direct connection to diabetes, however, has yet to be proven. Some experts believe women with PCOS have a higher risk of acquiring diabetes; but diabetes plays only a minor role in the occurrence of PCOS.
Myth 7: All diabetic pregnancies result in macrosomia.
Fact: Diabetes only increases the risk of macrosomia. It does not mean that all pregnant woman, with diabetes will have a baby with macrosomia; and therefore, must undergo a cesarean section to give birth.
So long as the woman’s blood glucose level is monitored during pregnancy; and carefully treated when it fluctuates, the pregnancy may not result in macrosomia.
Myth 8: Diabetes weakens your immune system
Fact: Diabetes only makes people feel drowsy and weak, when their blood glucose is at a critical level. It does not weaken the immune system. Also, having a healthy immune system will not always mitigate the chance of developing diabetes.
If the diabetic often contracts flu, cold or coughs, it is not due to diabetes; but because the immune system has been weakened for another reason. However, if these illnesses cause tissue damage, they may take longer to heal, if the person is diabetic.
Myth 9: Diabetes is a death sentence. A diabetic’s life expectancy is lowered considerably.
Fact: This is no longer true. Experts studied diabetes and its complications in depth. It is easier to monitor and manage the disease than fifty or a hundred years ago.
A diabetic can still have good life expectancy if they manage their diabetes well.
Myth 10: You should become vegetarian or vegan, when you are diagnosed with diabetes
Fact: Vegetarian and vegan diets do not have a direct effect on managing diabetes. Eating fruit and vegetables may be good for a diabetic, but the effects of the condition still depend on the amount of carbohydrate in a certain fruit and vegetable.
Eating too many high carbohydrate fruits and vegetables is not good for a diabetic.
Myth 11: Since insulin therapy is now available for type 2 diabetes, changing your lifestyle is no longer necessary.
Fact: Insulin therapy is to force your cells to react to, and stop resisting insulin. It should still be accompanied by a healthy lifestyle. If your blood continues to have a high level of glucose, the cells could still end up resisting insulin, rendering the insulin therapy ineffective.
Myth 12: Medications for Diabetes weaken and destroy the kidneys.
Fact: Diabetes itself weakens and destroys the kidney—not the medication. People may have this idea, because kidney failure often happens around the time doctors prescribe a higher dose of diabetic medication to patients. Nephropathy is a complication of diabetes. The diabetic medication is only an attempt to stop it.
Myth 13: Drinking a lot of water prevents you developing diabetes.
Fact: If you continue to consume excess sugar, therefore adding more glucose into the bloodstream, you may still develop diabetes. Drinking a lot of water will only ease or prevent the dehydration you experience because of diabetes. Dehydration is a result of your body’s reaction to excess glucose. The kidneys use water to flush out the excess glucose, in your system, in your urine. The less water you drink, the more difficult it is for your kidneys to flush out the excess glucose.
Myth 14: Women with diabetes, always develop vaginal yeast infections (Thrush.)
Fact: Women with diabetes have a higher risk of having a vaginal yeast infection, but it does not mean they will have one. A diabetic woman, who observes good vaginal hygiene, may prevent the development of yeast infections.
Myth 15: Women with diabetes always develop vaginal stickiness.
Fact: A woman’s urine may become thick, if she is taking any glucose inhibitor medication for her diabetes. This does not create a sticky feeling in the vagina, unless the woman is nearing her period. Again, it all depends on the woman’ level of hygiene.
Myth 16: Kids diagnosed with type 1 diabetes may recover.
Fact: Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition; and the person must live with it, usually for life. If the patient was under 10 years old, when they were diagnosed, there is no possibility they will recover.
Many type 1 diabetics, diagnosed at a very young age, become accustomed to a lifestyle that helps manage their blood glucose level. They incorporate it into their everyday life. It may appear to outsiders that they have got over their type 1 diabetes, as they do not let it limit their lifestyle.
Myth 17: All people that have a high level of blood glucose, when tested, are diabetics.
Fact: Not all people who have a high blood glucose level, when tested, are diabetic. There are occasions when a person’s blood glucose level can increase drastically, but it is not considered diabetes.
Stress and sleeplessness may cause their blood glucose level to increase for a limited time. Treatment using steroids may also increase the blood glucose. However, these instances are still not considered normal.
According to studies, if these conditions occur to a non-diabetic person, it could mean they are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Myth 18: Diabetes will lead to the slow deterioration in your health.
Fact: Diabetes, when properly controlled and managed, does not limit your life or necessarily cause other health issues. In fact, many diabetic patients, who manage to control their diabetes, express that the only difference between them and nondiabetic patients is their diet.
Myth 19: If you don’t experience symptoms, you do not have diabetes.
Fact: In type 1 diabetes, you will experience symptoms. It is different with type 2 diabetes; and some patients may not feel, or be aware of any symptoms. They only discover their condition when their blood glucose is tested.
Some diabetic patients may think their doctor has made a wrong diagnosis because they have not experienced any symptoms. But, this could be attributed to the patient’s ability to tolerate the symptoms.
Myth 20: Eating bitter melon can lower the blood sugar level.
Fact: Bitter melon contains a substance called “Charantin,” which may help to lower blood glucose. However, research has shown that the amount of Charantin in bitter melon is not sufficient to lower the blood glucose levels effectively. A diabetic would need to eat 600 grams to 1000 grams of bitter melon, to try and control their blood glucose level for the day.
Myth 21: It is better to have hypoglycemia than hyperglycemia.
Fact: Neither of them is good; and experiencing either condition is cause for alarm. Both can cause dangerous complications to the body.
It may be quicker to give first aid for hypoglycemia as the treatment works faster, but then its effect also occurs faster.
Hyperglycemia may take longer to cause complications; but a sudden plunge in glucose levels, due to treatment with insulin, can still be dangerous.
Myth 22: Insulin therapy may cause a loss of vision.
Fact: Insulin is a lifesaver for diabetic people. Regardless of what type of diabetes a person has, it does not cause vision loss. This myth started as insulin therapy used to be the last recourse for many patients; and vision loss had already begun to occur, when treatment with insulin started.