Diabetes is probably the most common chronic disease; 1 in 11 of the world’s adult population is living with diabetes. It’s like a slow poison. It slowly affects the other part of your body and is a major cause of kidney failure, blindness, and heart attacks.
The worrying part is people don’t take diabetes seriously. The younger generation is not well educated about it, and affected people are highly dependent upon medicines, giving less effort on diet and exercise front.
Diabetes doesn’t come with age, but it comes with a bad lifestyle and a diet deficient in healthy nutrients. If you have type 2 diabetes, you don’t need to live with it; diabetes is reversible. Early diagnosis, a healthy diet, physical activity, and medications can help you reverse diabetes.
If you have had diabetes for a long time and you are on high dose medications, your aim should not be just to avoid sugary foods. You should aim to eat foods that mimic the action of your anti-diabetic drugs exhibit similar effects in the body and also have no side effects. Regular screening of diabetes complications can help you prevent and treat complications before they become severe.
Here are some dangerous facts about diabetes that no one talks about:
- According to the International diabetes federation, diabetes caused 4.2 million deaths in 2019.
- 374 million people are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to the IDF.
- According to WHO, diabetes is a major cause of kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, and blindness.
- Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in 2016, according to WHO.
Don’t just accept diabetes as a new normal; it may be common but not normal. Let’s prevent and control diabetes in natural ways. But for that, first, you need to have thorough knowledge about every aspect of diabetes so that with a little help from health professionals (who can guide you at every step where you will have confusion), you can prevent and control diabetes without medicines.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease, it occurs either when the body does not produce insulin or does not effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body use sugar for energy. Hyperglycemia is the medical term for high blood sugar (glucose) levels. It is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes.
Over time, hyperglycemia leads to severe damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.
Types of diabetes:
People with diabetes insipidus have normal blood glucose levels. The only similarity between diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus is excessive urination. Diabetes insipidus occurs when kidneys cannot balance fluid in the body.
It happens due to some damage in the pituitary gland, which releases the antidiuretic hormone (ADH), also known as vasopressin. ADH or vasopressin enables the kidneys to retain water in the body. In the absence of vasopressin, kidneys excrete too much water. This causes frequent and excessive urination and can lead to dehydration.
Diabetes mellitus, or simply diabetes, is a disorder that is characterized by abnormally high blood sugar (glucose) levels because the body does not have enough insulin to meet its needs.
It is caused either because the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or because the body is ineffective in using insulin. In diabetes, urination and thirst are increased and damages the nerves and tiny blood vessels that cause health complications, especially in the kidneys and eyes.
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What happens in your body to diabetes?
When you eat food containing carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into sugar (glucose) and sends that to your bloodstream. The rise in glucose triggers the pancreas to release insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin signals muscle, liver, and fat cells to take in glucose from the blood.
These cells then convert glucose into energy or store it for later use. In diabetes mellitus, your body doesn’t use insulin as it should, which results in too much glucose in your blood.
Type 1 diabetes (Insulin-dependent diabetes)
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the pancreas cannot produce insulin. Typically, the immune system protects your body against the attack of bacteria and viruses by fighting against them.
An autoimmune condition is a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your
body’s cells. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys the beta cells of the pancreas that produce insulin, making the pancreas unable to produce insulin.
Insulin is a hormone that regulates the blood sugar levels in your body. In the absence of insulin, your body can’t use or store glucose for energy. The glucose stays in your blood, and your blood sugar or blood glucose levels become too high (hyperglycemia).
Persistent high glucose levels result in diabetes and can lead to complications affecting your kidneys, nerves, eyes, and heart. A person who has type 1 diabetes requires daily insulin injections to control blood glucose.
The condition usually appears in children and young people, so it used to be called juvenile diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes (Insulin-independent diabetes)
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes that primarily occurs due to obesity and lack of exercise. It is characterized by high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) and insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance means your pancreas is releasing insulin as it should, but the cells in your muscles, fat, and liver start resisting the signal given by insulin to take glucose out of the bloodstream for making energy. This results in too much glucose in your blood, known as prediabetes.
In a person with prediabetes, the pancreas works increasingly hard to release enough insulin to overcome the body’s resistance and to keep blood sugar levels down. Over time, the pancreas’ ability to release insulin begins to decrease, which leads to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Reason for Insulin resistance
The driving forces behind insulin resistance are excess body weight, too much fat in the abdominal area, and a sedentary lifestyle, while genetics and ageing also play a role in developing insulin resistance.
Gestational diabetes is a condition in which your blood glucose levels become high during pregnancy. The body goes through different changes during pregnancy, such as weight gain and changes in hormones, which affects the body’s cells’ ability to respond to insulin effectively.
Most of the time pancreas can produce enough insulin to overcome insulin resistance, but some pregnant women cannot produce enough insulin and develop gestational diabetes. Mostly, gestational diabetes goes away soon after delivery.
Women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Here is everything about diabetes mellitus that you need to know to prevent and control it:
SYMPTOMS OF DIABETES
Excessive urination (polyuria): To get rid of excess glucose, the kidney makes more urine than usual. Daily urine output can be more than 3 litres a day compared to the normal urine output of about 1 to 2 litres.
Excessive thirst (polydipsia): Too much glucose forces kidneys to work overtime. Kidneys pull water from tissues to make more urine to help pass the extra glucose from your body, which makes you dehydrated. This usually makes you feel very thirsty.
Fatigue: Because the body’s cells do not get enough glucose to make energy. Weight loss (in Type I diabetes): Because of dehydration caused by excessive urination and loss of calories from the sugar that couldn’t be used as energy.
Constant hunger: Because the body can’t convert the food you eat into energy.
Blurred vision: High blood sugar causes body water to be pulled into the lens inside the eye, causing it to swell.
WHY IS DIABETES DANGEROUS?
Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to potential health complications, including Retinopathy (Eyes damage): High blood sugar levels can weaken and damage the small blood vessels of the retina, which can cause visual disturbance and can even lead to blindness.
Neuropathy (Nerve damage): Constant high blood sugar can damage nerves that typically results in numbness, weakness, tingling, and burning or pain, usually in the hands and feet (diabetic foot).
Nephropathy (kidney damage): Over time, diabetes can damage the small blood vessels in the kidneys, which can lead to kidney failure, and the person may require dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Ketoacidosis (mostly in Type 1 diabetes): When there isn’t enough insulin in the body to convert glucose into energy, your body starts breaking down fat for energy. This process produces a build-up of acidic substances called ketones to dangerous levels in the body, eventually leading to ketoacidosis.
Heart disease: Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels that maintain the heart function, causing them to become stiff and hard. A high-fat diet can cause a build-up of fats and cholesterol on the inside of these blood vessels, which can restrict blood flow.
This condition is known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis conditions can reduce blood flow to the heart muscles (which causes angina) and brain (which causes stroke) or can damage the heart muscle, which can result in a heart attack.
DIABETES: PREVENTION AND CONTROL
Diabetes conditions can be effectively managed by Diet, Medication and Exercise.
Before going further, let’s clear some terms associated with diabetes:
You must have heard about low glycemic foods and high glycemic foods, but what is exactly the glycemic index?
The Glycemic index helps you differentiate between good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates for diabetes. Not all carbohydrates are the same. Types of carbohydrates like complex carbohydrates take longer to break down into glucose and are slowly absorbed and metabolized that cause a slower rise in blood sugar.
This type of carbohydrate doesn’t give you a sudden spike in sugar levels and is considered a good carbohydrate. These are categorized as low-glycemic foods; they help maintain good glucose control. Foods that have a glycemic value of 55 or less are good for diabetes—for example, whole grains and beans.
Simple carbohydrates such as sugar and highly processed and refined carbohydrates such as pastries and cakes are considered high glycemic foods.
They speedily break down into glucose and quickly absorb, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar. Repeated spikes in blood sugar lead to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
Hypoglycemia is often caused by diabetes treatment. Hypoglycemia is the opposite of hyperglycemia. It is a condition in which your blood sugar levels are lower than normal. Certain diabetes medicines or too much insulin may cause your blood sugar levels to drop too low.
It is a reversible condition and can be treated by consuming high-sugar foods such as fruit juice or honey. If you are on diabetes medication, you should pay attention to hypoglycemia symptoms, which include confusion, shakiness, and dizziness.
If left untreated, hypoglycemia can get worse and can even cause seizures, coma, and death.
Always keep glucose tablets with you in case you experience hypoglycemia.
ROLE OF MEDICATIONS IN DIABETES
How do diabetes medicines work?
Your most common and first choice of drug in diabetes (metformin) doesn’t stimulate insulin secretion by beta cells in the pancreas; instead, it enhances the ability of your tissues to take glucose out of the bloodstream and convert it into energy, especially in muscles. Additionally, it lowers the production of glucose by the liver.
It is a drug of choice because it doesn’t cause weight gain and hypoglycemia. The common side effect of metformin is diarrhoea. Don’t just stop taking your medicine because of diarrhoea; instead, eat yogurt, beans, an apple, or a banana (not more than one banana in a day) to prevent diarrhoea. Make sure to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration caused by diarrhoea.
Another class of drugs (sulfonylureas), reduces high blood sugar by increasing insulin secretion by beta cells in the pancreas. Additionally, it increases cells’ sensitivity to insulin, which increases the efficiency of the body’s cells to take out glucose from the bloodstream.
It also increases the availability of insulin in the blood by reducing the degradation of insulin in the liver. The side effects of this class of drugs are weight gain and hypoglycemia. It is very important to keep an eye on your hypoglycemia symptoms, which include shakiness, sweating, dizziness, confusion, irritability, and loss of consciousness.
Severe hypoglycemia can potentially lead to coma. Take glucose tablets (total 15g or ask your doctor for exact amount) or foods high in glucose like one tablespoon of honey or sugar or 3-4 raisins to treat hypoglycemia immediately. Ask your doctor to adjust the dose of your medicines if you experience hypoglycemia.
ROLE OF EXERCISE IN DIABETES
Obesity and diabetes connection
Obesity is a common reason for type 2 diabetes. Just by losing weight, you can prevent the onset of diabetes. If you are in the prediabetes stage, you can even reverse diabetes by losing weight, and by including hypoglycemic and weight-loss-friendly foods in your diet.
Excess fat may contribute to insulin resistance. It is because when your fat cells that store extra fat become too large, they stop storing fat. Additional fat starts storing in muscles, liver, and pancreas, making these organs resistant to insulin, and they stop responding to the signal given by insulin to take glucose.
Moreover, fat cells decrease the secretion of adiponectin, a protein hormone that helps in the breakdown of fat. In simple terms, adiponectin is your fat-burning hormone. High adiponectin levels can protect you against insulin resistance, diabetes, and heart disease. The more you lose weight, the higher your adiponectin levels.
How can weight loss prevent the onset of diabetes?
In type 2 diabetes, insulin production decreases over a sustained period, and the process is rather slow in comparison to type 1 diabetes. It is possible to have a strict diet and exercise regime, leading to weight loss and may delay or even prevent the onset of diabetes. The key is to diagnose the diabetes condition before beta cells function deteriorates.
After the age of 40, you should get your sugar levels tested every year for early diagnosis of high blood sugar levels. If you are overweight, losing weight is your first and most crucial step. It will not only save you from diabetes but can protect you against many diseases.
You don’t need to lose weight in a short time. Start eating diabetes-friendly foods and start with moderate exercise, soon your body will get habitual of your new diet and exercise regime. It should not be your short-term goal but a new lifestyle.
Ideal weight target to prevent insulin resistance
- Body mass index: 25 kg/m2
- Waist circumference: Less than 100 cm
ROLE OF DIET IN DIABETES
A healthy diet plays an important role in preventing and managing diabetes. Preventing diabetes isn’t just about avoiding foods that can spike your blood sugar levels, it’s also about choosing the right foods that naturally prevent diabetes.
In diabetes, moderation and frequency are the keys, you can still eat your favourite foods, but you might need to eat them less often or eat smaller portions.
To prevent and control diabetes:
- Avoid sugary foods that directly raise your blood sugar levels.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates that quickly break down into glucose sugar and raise your blood sugar levels.
- Avoid foods that increase your risk of insulin resistance.
- Avoid foods that increase cholesterol in the body.
- Avoid lifestyle choices that increase the risk of developing diabetes.
- Avoid foods that increase your risk of developing diabetes complications.