The Basics of Diabetes, part 2


Live Life By Choice

Dr. Helen gives “seven strong suggestions” toward a healthier life for diabetics.


Under normal circumstances, the body accepts sugars and starches that are eaten in our diets and breaks them down into smaller units called glucose molecules. This glucose is then taken up by the cells of the body by an escort called insulin.

The problem with diabetes is an inability to use glucose as the fuel type or energy source for the cells of the body. This is because it either has no escort or it doesn’t pay attention to its escort. It is essentially unattractive.

acarbose-diabetic medicine in molecules copyTherefore the body cannot use the glucose molecules. This is unfortunate because glucose is the basic substance or fuel that the body uses for the cells to function properly.

When the cells are functioning properly, glucose is taken up by the cells and then used to form energy. Insulin is normally secreted by a group of specialized tissue called the beta cells of the pancreas. Without insulin, glucose cannot be taken up by the cell.

This leads to an excess of glucose in the bloodstream disallowing energy formation leading to a feeling of fatigue. Because the cells are not utilizing glucose properly, the cells lack the proper nutrition to maintain cellular activity. As a result, there is unexplained weight loss even though there is an increase in appetite (polyphagia). The cells are essentially starving.

The excess glucose also bombards the kidneys and causes lots of water to flow to it leading to frequent urination (polyuria). With the loss of water, a person becomes excessively thirsty and drinks lots of fluids (polydipsia), but the water just flows right out of the body. Thus the triad of the traditional diagnosis of diabetes is polyphagia, polyuria and polydipsia.

There are three different classifications of Diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is the type that develops in childhood. You have probably heard that Halle Berry has this type.

halle berry


In type 1 diabetes, the beta cells of the pancreas (the part that produces insulin), are no longer functioning. The pancreas cannot produce insulin at all.

Type 1 diabetes is thought to be an autoimmune disease probably secondary to a virus. It, unfortunately, results in a person’s immune system that reacts to the pancreas as a foreign object. It starts to attack the pancreas, damaging it and killing the cells that secrete insulin.

There is then no internal source of insulin. In this instance, insulin must be prescribed by a doctor and given through injection. This type of diabetes accounts for only 10% of those with diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes affects the other 90% of diabetics. This type of diabetes still produces insulin, but the body cannot utilize it. It is called insulin resistance.

Imagine a wife putting her husband in the dog house. She just won’t let him in. Now he is dejected and runs around outside the house (cell) wreaking havoc.

Because the pancreas still works, it begins to produce more insulin to control the excess glucose. Incidentally, the excess insulin stimulates weight gain. Nonetheless, eventually insulin production fatigues and is unable to keep up with the demand leading to excess glucose in the bloodstream. Excess glucose in circulation is the cause of many of the diabetic complications.

Those at risk of type 2 diabetes are those with a family history of the disease, particularly women. This does not mean it is genetic, but instead familial. Families tend to eat the same. Other causes are environmental including obesity, hypertension and there is even a correlation with old age. People 45 and older are at greater risk. Yikes!

Lastly, type 3 or gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy. It usually goes away after pregnancy, but these women usually have very large babies. I know, I was one of them. In fact, I was the largest baby my parents had.

The unfortunate part of gestational diabetes is that 50% of women with this condition will develop diabetes later in life. I know this too because, as I said in my previous article, my mother died from it.

This fact is what stimulated my passion to offer this information to you. I want to help others so they and their families do not have to experience what I have experienced by losing my mother.

Since seven is a perfect number I offer seven strong suggestions for diabetics who want to improve their health:

  • Begin a healthful diet—low in fat and high in fiber.
  • Lose weight particularly around the midsection.
  • See your doctor and have your HbA1c checked every 3-6 months.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Exercise regularly. Walking is excellent!
  • Avoid stress as this increases circulating glucose increasing the need for insulin.
  • Educate yourself about your type of diabetes.

    Diabetes is a serious condition. The side effects are dramatic and they are real. The seven suggestions may seem drastic to some, but it must be emphasized that they are necessary.

It is necessary to avoid the unwanted complications of this awful disease that we spoke of last week. It is necessary to take charge of your health. It is necessary to take charge your life. It is necessary to live life by choice!

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