Diabetes Part 1 – the basics

According to the Diabetes Australia health report more than 100,000 Australians have developed diabetes in the past year and 280 Australians develop diabetes every day. If that isn’t enough to get your attention, every six seconds a person dies from diabetes globally! What we also need to do is break diabetes down into the 3 different types: Type 1 Diabetes accounts for 10% of all diagnoses cases; Type 2 Diabetes 85% and gestational diabetes the remaining 5%. What is also more disturbing is this has also been steadily increasing every year.


What’s Going On?

While many health professionals talk about diabetes as a metabolic condition related to elevated blood sugars (glucose) in the body, the reality is it essential an issue with the hormone insulin in the body. In Type 1 Diabetes it is a lack of any production of insulin by the pancreas and in Type 2 and Gestational Diabetes it is a resistance to the effects of insulin, insulin resistance (IR),  that causes the glucose levels in the blood to rise.

One of the roles of insulin is the regulation of blood glucose levels in the body, so when you eat carbohydrates and fined sugars we get a rise in blood glucose levels and the pancreas secretes enough insulin for the body to be able to store the excess as triglycerides (fat) for extra energy on a rainy day.  PS Protein also causes an initial release of insulin.

So let’s unwrap the 3 different types of Diabetes – Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational diabetes as its important to know how they are different.


Type 1 Diabetes (T1D)

Type 1 diabetes Is an autoimmune disease and usually develops during young children or adolescents. Here the immune systems attacks its own insulin producing cells (beta islet cells) inside the pancreas. This therefore leads to limited or complete inability to produce insulin! In this case we need to supply an external source of insulin via an injection or now we even have automatic insulin pumps. So here we try to manage how much insulin we inject with the amount of glucose (carbohydrate or sugars) we eat. It also makes sense reducing the amount of glucose, again think total carbohydrate intake, we consume. Eating lower glycaemic foods i.e. foods with more fibre or complex carbohydrates that are broken down more slowly can also be of some help in maintaining more balanced blood glucose levels. Anyone with T1D will tell you it is really hard to keep their blood glucose stable and they are constant risk of going too low and having too little glucose in the blood to supply enough energy for the bodies needs. This is know as hypoglycaemia and can result in the person going into a diabetic coma.


Type 2 Diabetes (T2D)

T2D develops due to longer standing insulin resistance (IR)  with an inability for insulin to signal or talk to the cells anymore, the cells can’t hear the sound of insulin and ignore the need to regulate higher levels of glucose in the blood. Over time the pancreas can also stop making the higher and higher levels it needs to make the cells listen. This also means external insulin is often give at the later stages of T2D. Here diet and fasting can play a vital role  in halting the progression of the disease and giving you a great way to control the glucose levels in the body.

Risk factors that contributor to the development of T2D include:

  • Obesity
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • High inflammation in the body
  • Poor diet
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Limited movement and exercise
  • Stress levels


Gestational Diabetes

The last form is Gestational diabetes which occurs in pregnant women who have high blood sugars during pregnancy. Warning to women that if not addressed early can lead to Type 2 Diabetes after the pregnancy.

All in all, diabetes can affect all bodily system but the most obvious signs to look out for are digestion, energy, vision, weight, sleep and closely watching your blood sugar and insulin levels.

Preconception & Fertility Information.


Signs and Symptoms

Type 1

  • Being excessively thirsty
  • Frequent urination
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Constant hunger
  • Dizziness
  • Weight loss unexplained
  • Having cuts that heal slowly
  • Itching, skin infections
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Leg cramps
  • High blood sugars


Type 2

  • Being excessively thirsty
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Never fully satisfied with meals
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Itching, skin infections
  • Blurred vision
  • Gradually putting on weight
  • Low moods
  • Headaches
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Leg cramps



Untreated Diabetes

Untreated Diabetes is nasty and can lead to further health complications:

  • Nephropathy
  • Blindness
  • Kidney disease
  • Heart disease
  • Infections and foot ulcers

How do You check for Diabetes?

You can screen for diabetes, in the first instance by simply checking your blood glucose levels especially in a fasted state or 1 and 2 hours after a meal. Other tests can be can also give us an earlier or more complete picture of what is going on, we test for HbA1c, fasting insulin and the glucose tolerance test (GTT), that includes measuring insulin levels as well as blood glucose, can be run over 2 hours (normal time period for the test) or up to 5 hours (this is performed as part of Dr Joseph Kraft’s method of determining ‘diabetes in-situ’, basically a very sensitivity way of placing you on a spectrum of pre-diabetes).


How Can I prevent Diabetes?

We need to limit carbohydrate based foods that adversely elevate your insulin & blood glucose levels such as refined sugar, grains and alcohol. When you do eat carbohydrates we need to focus on whole unprocessed forms with good amounts of quality protein and healthy fats. The protein and fats can be important for maintaining stable energy and reducing the cravings that often accompany higher carbohydrate foods.

Examples of beneficial proteins and fats are grass fed beef, lamb, seafood, olive oil, avocado, grass fed butter, ghee, coconut oil, macadamia nuts & oil. Foods high in fibre like vegetables and berries, nuts and seeds will also be great in slowing down the breakdown of carbohydrates and absorption of glucose therefore allowing lower and sustainable blood glucose levels.

Chromium is arguable the major mineral associated with insulin sensitivity and function. Chromium acts by increasing insulin receptor numbers, binding and uptake of insulin into cells.

Some of the other main nutrients that assist blood glucose regulation are vanadium (similar action to chromium and acts synergistically), zinc (vital for the synthesis and storage of insulin in beta-islet cells of the pancreas), magnesium (intimately involved in energy production and stabilising cellular membranes), manganese (another co-factor required for the synthesis and secretion of insulin), vitamin D (plays a role in insulin secretion but is vital for our immune system and bone health) and finally omega-3 fish oils (influences inflammation and cell membrane signalling).

Examples of foods rich in these nutrients include:

  • Chromium: liver, seafood, egg yolk, meat, mushrooms, brewers yeast, green leafy vegetables and broccoli (chromium)
  • Zinc: beef, liver, brewer’s yeast, egg yolks, ginger, oysters, pumpkin seeds, seafoods
  • Magnesium: leafy greens, nuts, legumes, cocoa, peas
  • Manganese: nuts- especially hazelnuts, generally fruits and vegetables, avocado, legumes, broccoli, coconut, organ meats, oysters
  • Vitamin D: cod liver oil and fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines but better yet sunlight!
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids (DHA & EPA): cold water seafoods.


What Else Can You Do To Reduce Your Risks?


Diabetes Classifications

Chromium and Glucose

Diabetes Australia


Medscape Type 1 Diabetes

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