The pancreas contains cells called beta cells which produce the hormone insulin which makes it possible for the body cells to absorb blood sugar in the form of glucose which is the most important nutrient of the cells. If this production of insulin is reduced or stopped, the result will be diabetes.
If left untreated, diabetes results in the body cells not receiving the glucose which is present in the blood and also results in an increase in the blood glucose content. Harmful acids called ketone bodies are also accumulated. If this continues, the result will be loss of consciousness and death within a few hours.
The symptoms of diabetes are tiredness and uneasiness, large thirst, frequent urination, reduced appetite, weight loss, itching around the genitals, and an increased risk of infection – especially fungal infection.
Type 1 diabetes is often caused by a destruction of the beta cells. A prevailing theory points to a viral infection that makes the immune system produce a type of antibody that also attacks the beta cells. Another theory points to chemicals from smoked meat and fish that can destroy the beta cells. Food intolerance has also been under suspicion.
Likewise, an introduction of infants to cow’s milk instead of mother’s milk in the first 3 – 4 months of living has been connected to an increased risk of developing diabetes. Diabetic children have more antibodies against cow’s milk than healthy children of the same age. There is no known cure for regenerating destroyed beta cells.
Type 2 diabetes is primarily developed in overweight and elderly people above 60 years of age. In this case, the insulin production can be intact but insufficient in relation to the body’s need. An insulin production that does not meet with the body’s demands can be seen in persons who overeat, persons who eat a very sugary diet, or in pregnant women. For this reason, these groups have in increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Genes and diabetes
In case of diabetes, hereditary factors come into play in about 70% of cases. Individuals who inherit a single copy of the gene pair TCF/L2 have approx 50% higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes than those who do not have that gene. Individuals who have two copies of this variant have approx 140% increased risk of developing this disease. This gene can be found on chromosome 10. Earlier research has also shown that mutations of chromosome 2 can also lead to diabetes. Another gene defect which can cause diabetes involves the gene responsible for the transport of zinc in the body. Without zinc the insulin molecule does not work.
Studies on mice indicate that the basis of developing type 2 diabetes at some point in life might be caused by unsufficient nutrition at the embryonic stage, resulting in low birth weight and defects in the insuling-producing beta cells - even despite sufficient nutrition after birth.
Complications to diabetes can occur after a few years. The amount and severity of the sequelae depend on how well the blood sugar has been managed. The little blood vessels are enlarged and weaken the circulation of blood; this affects tissues and organs in the entire body. The eyes can be affected causing visual impairment and - at worst - blindness. Reduced kidney function and chronic inflammation of the renal pelvis can also occur.
The risk of atherosclerosis and blood clots is also increased in diabetics. Moreover, symptoms from the nervous system can occur such as reduced sense of touch, light paralyses, muscle pains, difficulties urinating, impotens, and poor wound healing. Furthermore, people with too high blood sugar have an increased risk of phimosis.
If a diabetic gets too much insulin, eats too little, eats wrongly, or exercises too much, too low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia – see this) might be the result.
The diagnosis of diabetes is made by a doctor by taking a small blood sample from either the earlobe or the end of a finger. A blood sugar of over 11 mmol/L, or of over 7 mmol/L after fasting, is diagnostic.
Advanced untreated diabetes can also cause noticeable changes in the retina.
Type I diabetes
Children who take supplements of vitamins D and Omega 3 fatty acids are believed to have a reduced risk of developing type I diabetes. Supplements can be given to children aged 7 months and older.
In type 1 diabetes, there is no getting around having to take insulin injections. It is important to closely watch your blood sugar and to become good at regulating it within narrow limits.
As a type 1 diabetic it is therefore also important to always carry around some grape sugar which can increase the blood sugar concentration if it has become too low as a result of an overdosage of insulin. Normal sugar can also be used; it just works more slowly.
Measure your blood sugar often and keep track of your blood pressure. An elevated blood pressure increases the risk of atherosclerosis.
It is necessary to lose weight if suffering from overweight. The body’s cells become less susceptible to insulin as long as you are overweight. It is important to keep in shape with daily exercise as this also reduces the body’s need for insulin.
Eat healthily and follow the guidelines that exist for diabetic diets. As a rule, about ¾ of the diet should consist of complex carbohydrates like vegetables, roots, and bread. Consumption of sugar and alcohol should be restricted.
Follow a generally low-fat diet but make sure you get the essential fatty acids. The protein share can consist of fish and lean meat. Spread the meals with 3 chief meals and 3 small meals. Avoid tobacco smoke; both your own and that of others.
Take a broad daily supplement of vitamins and minerals. You can also supplement with medicinal herbs in order to reduce the high risk of sequelae. Be aware of what things that might change the blood sugar level too quickly.
Type 2 diabetes
In type 2 diabetes the recommendations are more or less the same as in type 1 diabetes. It is, however, seldom necessary to take insulin. When following the recommendations, the symptoms will most likely disappear. It is necessary to keep in mind, however, that you will always be particularly exposed if your body is subjected to the same strains that caused the diabetes in the first place.
Younger and middle-aged women can lessen their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by nursing. The longer they nurse, the lower the risk, because the blood sugar balance is improved.
Make a diet plan in collaboration with a competent dietician as the nutritional needs can vary from one person to the next.
Avoid coffee and caffeine-containing products as they will make your blood sugar and insulin level increase inappropriately and possibly neutralize the effect of glucose-lowering medicine. If you drink coffee on an empty stomach, however, it does not seem to have the same effect on the blood sugar.
The mineral chromium have proven to be beneficial especially in type 2 diabetes as it activates the insulin.
Diabetes should always be attended to by a doctor before starting self-treatment.
Female diabetics who want to have children should make sure that their blood sugar and any medication is well regulated before becoming pregnant. This will reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy.