Diabetes for Dummies

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is an excess of glucose in the blood and can be a serious condition.  There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition and is likely to mean the sufferer is reliant on insulin injections.  This can be a serious life-limiting condition, if not managed effectively – and there are thought to be 30 million people living with diabetes in the US.  It can lead to other conditions such as blindness, kidney failure and limb amputation. 


Diabetes for DummiesType 2 diabetes is less serious and can be managed through diet, ensuring that the body has an even intake of glucose into the blood.

Diabetes is a result of either the pancreas not producing enough insulin or the insulin is not utilised effectively by the body.  This is known as insulin resistance.  Glucose comes from digesting carbs, which is an important fuel for the body but diabetes means the body cannot use the glucose effectively. 

Type 1 means there is no insulin.  Type 2 means there is not enough insulin or the insulin is there but not working properly.

How can you control diabetes?

There is no reason why diabetes should control your life, especially if you make some sensible adaptations to your life.  Although it might seem a life altering condition, in truth there is little that you couldn’t do that you have always done.  What is more, you can take control of the condition by making some proactive choices. 

The first of these choices is to take control of monitoring the condition.  If you are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes it is essential that you test your blood several times a day.  However, even with Type 2 diabetes there is benefit from tenacious testing, making sure your glucose levels are within a healthy range.  Being positive about this testing and the choices you make because of it can help you from feeling controlled by the condition. The key is to maintain consistency.  So, if you see changes in your history then you need to respond quickly.

Medical intervention could include daily insulin injections.  This means you should monitor daily, with the help of a medic at the start. If you are given oral drugs or the condition is not stable, then you should see your doctor monthly or if stable continue visiting a medic quarterly.  When you visit your doctor you will need to provide details of how often you experience hypoglycaemia and the results of blood glucose self-monitoring.  You should also suggest details of any changes in the treatment you have made and the symptoms of any complications you might been suffering.

Your doctor may check your blood pressure, check your weight and examine your feet.  The extremities are those that begin to suffer effects first, with potential necrosis of the toes.  The doctor might ask for an eye test, as worsening of diabetes can cause a loss of eyesight.

A lot of the control over diabetes comes from taking preventative action.  First, make sure you plan what you eat – making a meal plan and eating natural as opposed to processed foods.  With a clever diet you can avoid any possible reactions that could endanger your health.

Second, you should exercise.  There was a study undertaken by the university of Otago in New Zealand that claimed that taking short walks after meals allows for a 22% drop in blood sugar after the walk.  Taking walks for 30 minutes or more can help to improve the body’s processing of glucose.  However, the study claimed the results were significantly better when participants walked after meals.  This is particularly the case after the evening meal, where there the meal tends to be high in carbs and the participant much more sedentary. 

Exercise seems one of the most important of all preventative methods.  A second study published in the Diabetologia journal suggests that those who exercise regularly reduce the chances of developing diabetes in the first place.   Researchers from the University of Cambridge in the UK say that walking 30 minutes, five times a week, lowers the chance of type two diabetes by 26%.

The medications prescribed

However, if medication is needed and you are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, the treatment doesn’t just need to be insulin injections.  There are a number of medications that can be prescribed. There are Sulfonylureas, with an average dose between 4 and 10mg depending on the brand name.  There is meglitinides, biguanides, thiazolindinediones, alpha-glucosidase inhibitors and DPP-4 inhibitors.  The range of dose with each of these types of medicines ranges from 5mg through to 150mg.

When visiting the doctor make sure you educate yourself with the possible side effects and drug interactions.  For example, meglitinides can cause a too rapid decrease in blood sugar.  The drug is meant to prompt the pancreas to secrete insulin.  Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors can cause diarrhoea and flatulence, as carbs stick around too long in the colon as the drug prevents the digestion of complex carbs into glucose.  You need to know what these drugs can do so that you can make informed decisions.

What about supplements?

Diabetes for Dummies

31% of the 26 million Americans who suffer with Type 2 diabetes use alternative medicines.  Some common supplements include chromium, which is a metal and an essential trace mineral.  This helps to naturally reduce blood sugar levels – and can be found in food such as meat, fish, fruits and certain rye-breads.  Magnesium is another supplement used to help support people with diabetes.  This is linked to the lowering of insulin production – and decrease with insulin insensitivity.  Doctors claim that a blood test can show if magnesium is low and in need of supplementation.

Other supplements include ginseng, vanadium, glucosamine, alpha-lipoic acid to name a few.  If you are unsure of taking capsules or tables you might want to consider eating butter melon and cinnamon, both of which can control blood sugar level.  Sprinkling cinnamon on your oats or coffee is a simple choice you could make.

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