This three part article has general ideas about how to treat diabetes.  They do not take the place of getting an individualized food and exercise plan or seeing your doctor.

A long-time personal training client of mine who enjoys exercise but travels a lot and does not have a balanced diet and regular exercise program was pre-diabetic.  A few years ago I begged and pleaded with him to please switch physicians and to get better education from a new doctor on type 2 diabetes.  It was obvious to me that his days of being “pre-diabetic” were coming to a close, and not for good reasons, but from what I was seeing on his latest blood tests, diabetes was now a given.  And it was “a given” because he wouldn’t take the steps necessary.  I spoke with the doctor to whom I sent him afterwards.  In the course of our conversation, the physician said that there is no question that type 2 diabetes is THE adult disease of our generation, and he doesn’t see how people are going to change behaviors and reverse the dangerous trend we are now seeing.

The combined symptoms of rapid weight loss, extreme thirst and constant urination have confronted medical practitioners for more than 3,000 years.  For thousands of years, attempts to treat diabetes failed, though doctors did come to understand that the disease had something to do with blood glucose. The biggest breakthroughs happened after Frederick Grant Banting and Charles Best from Canada were credited with discovering the efficacy of insulin in 1921, leading to many treatment and research advances. Banting and Best created a pancreatic extract that improved the condition of diabetic dogs. In 1922, the two scientists injected the first human subject, a 14-year-old diabetic boy, with a variety of the extract that came to be called insulin. Within 24 hours, the boy’s blood glucose plunged from a dangerously high 520 milligrams per deciliter to 120 mg/dL, which is just above normal in non diabetics. That same year, insulin was purified and commercially produced by Eli Lilly Company, which worked closely with Banting and Best (Zajac et al. 2010).  Hence, the first pharmacological treatment for diabetes was invented and used.

There are three types of diabetes.  Type 1 diabetes, formerly called juvenile-onset diabetes, accounts for 5%–10% of all diabetes cases. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease where the body’s defense system mistakenly attacks the pancreatic islet beta cells that produce insulin totally depleting the body’s insulin secretions.

Type 2 diabetes, formerly called non-insulin-dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes, accounts for about 90% of diabetes cases (IDF 2014). It is described as a condition of insulin resistance, which means the body is misusing the insulin the pancreas produces. It is often curable through life-style changes.

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a form of diabetes in which high blood glucose levels develop during pregnancy. It occurs once in every 25 pregnancies worldwide, with complications to both mother and baby. GDM usually disappears after pregnancy (IDF 2014).

This article is dedicated to the prevention, management and yes, even curing type 2 diabetes. As someone who has been working with type 2 diabetics for many years, please believe me when I tell you that as difficult as it might be to change your health habits around, it is well worth it.  YOU DON’T WANT TYPE 2 DIABETES!

Risks

People with diabetes have a much higher risk of:

  • Stroke and heart disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Gum disease
  • Hearing loss
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Hypertension
  • Blindness in adults
  • Amputation not associated with trauma
  • Mild to severe nerve damage (neuropathy)

In all, your quality of life will reduce and gradually get worse and worse as you age if you don’t take the proper steps to illuminate this risk.  In the United States, there are 5,000 new cases per day of diabetes and the yearly cost to the population at large is $245 billion per year.

Let’s take a quick look at how type 2 diabetes manifests itself so we can have a better understanding of how to fix the problem. Insulin resistance (IR) is a physiological condition in which cells fail to respond to the normal actions of the hormone insulin. The body produces insulin, but the cells in the body become resistant to insulin and are unable to use it as effectively, leading to hyperglycemia.

diabetesAs one of insulin’s functions is to regulate delivery of glucose into cells to provide them with energy, it can’t do its job properly. Certain cell types such as fat and muscle cells require insulin to absorb glucose. When these cells fail to respond adequately to circulate insulin, blood glucose levels rise. The liver helps regulate glucose levels by reducing its secretion of glucose in the presence of insulin. This normal reduction in the liver’s glucose production may not occur in people with insulin resistance.  Imagine that the cells in your muscles have a small opening that allows insulin to enter in order to send a message to your glucose to absorb and digest normally but then someone closes that door and the insulin can’t get in. Two things happen. One, your glucose does get disposed of properly and your pancreas can’t figure out why that is happening so it just keeps manufacturing more and more insulin.  So now we have too much insulin and our balance between glucose and insulin is off.  Welcome to type 2 diabetes!

In part 2 of this three part series, we will take a look at the various signs and symptoms of type two diabetes and begin to discuss how to manage and cure the disease both through medications and lifestyle changes such as proper eating habits and exercise.