Diabetes or diabetes mellitus (DM) is a metabolic group of diseases characterized by abnormally high levels of glucose in the blood (blood sugar). Glucose, a monosaccharide or single sugar, is an essential source of physiological energy that supports respiration, cardiac rhythm, muscular contraction and ease, and body temperature. It also acts as a brain fuel.
Insulin is a hormone that accelerates oxidation of sugar in cells. It opens up a cell so the sugar can get in and transform to energy. When insulin production in the pancreas goes down and/or when the body cells do not respond right to it, blood sugar will increase in level.
High blood sugar patients experience polyuria (frequent urination due to production of large volumes of pale dilute urine), polydipsia (excessive thirst), and polyphagia (increased hunger). Patients can also experience the more general symptoms including hazy vision, fatigue, headache, skin irritation, and slow healing of wounds.
The illness of diabetes has been known since the days of Aristotle. Only in the last 50 years has medical science been able to create hope for diabetics through a variety of medications, including insulin.
However, there is no known cure for diabetes, though there are more than a few cases where patients have been able to overcome the illness and return to a normal lifestyle free of injections or a daily medication regimen.
For most people, they will have to live with the potential complications of diabetes, which include blindness, kidney failure, and nerve damage. The basic reason diabetes plays havoc with a body is the failure of the pancreas to produce enough insulin and regulate the patient’s glucose (blood sugar) levels.
Uncontrolled blood sugar affects the patient’s circulatory system, damaging the circulatory system, including the heart. Diabetics are more than one-third more likely to have coronary artery disease and suffer a heart attack than people who are not diabetic.
Doctors recommend everyone maintain a lifestyle that has adequate amounts of exercise and a healthy diet to keep the body in good working order. For diabetics, these two lifestyle components are essential in controlling blood sugar levels in combination with your medication.
One cause recently attributed to the increase of diabetes, particularly among young adults, is a lack of exercise and a poor diet, resulting in obesity or becoming overweight. The less healthy your body is, the more stress you put on it to maintain itself.
Ask any type 1 diabetic and they will unfalteringly tell you that they would prefer an exercise and diet regimen rather than having to take 3 or more shots of insulin each day, at regular intervals. Type 1 diabetes is often called juvenile diabetes, and it is the most severe type of the disease as the body has completely stopped producing insulin.
That is why injections of what amounts to artificial human insulin are required to manage the diabetic’s condition.
The other type of diabetic, type 2, is diagnosed when the patient’s blood sugar levels are out of control but the body is still producing some insulin. The medical treatment for these patients is to attempt to control their blood sugar levels with diet and exercise, but most often doctors will prescribe an oral medication that works to stimulate the production of insulin in the person’s body.
If the patient does not modify their lifestyle according to the doctor’s recommendations, there is a greater likelihood that the patient will worsen their condition to the point where the body produces no insulin at all, at which time insulin injections will be prescribed.
Though diabetes is a serious health issue, most diabetics today can have a normal lifestyle.
Though there always is the possibility of a reaction, an event when the patient’s blood sugar levels drop too low and requires the person to eat or drink foods high in sugar to raise their blood sugar level back to normal, this is a relatively rare event.
Most often it is caused by the diabetic not eating enough food with their regular meals, or when they exercise too much and use too much glucose stored in the body.
Because diabetics can live a fairly normal life, they have the same health issues as everyone else. This means, regarding them taking care of their bodies, they can benefit from most of the knowledge of nutrition and natural food benefits as everyone else.
For example, antioxidants have significant scientific and medical research support that shows they have a number of benefits to the health of a person’s immune system, heart, eyes, and even benefit a person’s psychological state.
One such antioxidant that has been receiving very positive reviews is Glutathione. Doctors use it regularly to treat a number of medical conditions, and the good news is that it is a compound found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and even meats.
For the diabetic, any boost to the immune system works to their advantage, as diabetes reduces the circulation to the outer extremities, such as the hands and the feet. This is where infections can set in and lead to the amputation of a limb, as the slow circulation results in the diabetic taking longer to heal.
This is also true about simple viruses such as the flu or common bacterial infections.
Though there have been pancreas transplants and attempts to use stem cell research to completely cure diabetes, there is no scientific or medical evidence that supports the idea a solution is on the horizon.
Because the cause of diabetes varies from person to person, what works successfully in one person fails in another. For the near future, any advancements will likely have to come from technology.
Currently there are insulin pumps available, which are devices that the patient wears underneath their clothing. The device still uses insulin, but instead of daily shots, the insulin is injected into the device and provides insulin to the body as needed, much like a non-diabetic.
The insulin pump monitors the blood sugar level constantly, and some patients consider it to be an artificial pancreas worn outside of the body.
Most of the medical advances in diabetes from a pharmaceutical viewpoint have mainly benefitted type 2 diabetics. The reason for this is simple. More than 80 percent of diabetics are type 2, so any medical breakthrough will positively impact a greater number of people.
That said, type 1 diabetics can look forward to less invasive ways to inject insulin and monitor their daily blood sugar levels. Insulin pumps are one way to reduce the number of daily injections, and there is research being performed that will allow a patch, similar to what people who try to stop smoking use, to absorb new types of insulin into the body.
All diabetics can live with the hope that medical research is continuing to help manage their illness better.
DM is divided into three categories: Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational DM.
Type 1 DM occurs when the body unsuccessfully produces adequate insulin. A person may develop this type before his 40s. It is a lifetime illness that has no known cure but can be treated with insulin injections, healthy diet and right exercise. Patients are mostly children. No preventative measure is known for this type.
Type 2 is the most common DM. It occurs when cells fail to react to insulin or when the body fails to produce enough insulin. This type normally lasts for life; but some people are known to eliminate symptoms without undertaking medications through special diet and proper exercise. Patients may also have to inject insulin. The prevalence of this type is around 90%. Experts say that this type is primarily associated to the patient’s lifestyle and genetics.
Gestational DM is almost identical to type 2 DM. It is also caused by combination of poor insulin production and reactivity. It occurs during pregnancy. About 5-10% of pregnant women with this type are later found to have DM (usually type 2). Gestational DM is treatable but if it goes by untreated, the fetus and the mother may develop unwanted health conditions.
Prediabetes is a condition where the patient has high blood glucose level but is not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2. Patients are bound to develop type 2, but are in a state of prediabetes for some time.
If left untreated and not carefully managed, DM can be very dangerous and fatal.
The following are some examples of complications:
These can all be prevented with the help of healthy and balanced diet, daily physical activity and exercise, and weight watch.
Foods that are low in fat and calories and high in fiber are the healthiest options for patients. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are the best choices. Physical activities are a must. They help blood sugar level to stabilize.
They help insulin to absorb glucose better into the cells, normalizing its activity. Physical activities will help the body stay fit, keeping those excess fat at bay. The bottom line is for patients with diabetes to lead a healthy lifestyle.