Over the last few decades, we have seen a drastic rise in diabetes. As we’ve turned to more and more processed food, pre-packed convenient meals, and given into the spread of readily available soft drinks, diabetes has erupted all over the world. In a lot of ways, it can be likened to a pandemic. And yes, it can kill you.
In the last few entries I’ve been harping on and on about insulin resistance, low GI, low carb and diabetes, mostly assuming that we’re all on the same page. I figure most of us who have stumbled across this blog will know something about diabetes, whether or not we have firsthand experience or not. Those of you following LCO because of PCOS will hopefully know that we are considered high-risk pre-diabetic because of the insulin resistance that’s triggered a lot of our issues. So I figured it was time to have a closer look at this disease, especially given that we are now all at risk of diabetes because it isn’t always clear what we’re eating.
The fact is, just as I can’t talk about Low Carb Lifestyles without discussing PCOS or eating disorders, I can’t write about it without dedicated space to Diabetes, not with it becoming as widespread as it is, and not without it being tied in directly with this particular lifestyle change.
Now, before I start rambling, Diabetes Australia has a great explanation of the disease here.
So, in my own words…
Diabetes lasts a very, very long time; often a person’s entire life. It can start at any age, from the very young to the elderly and some people are more susceptible to it than others due to genetic markers and other influences beyond their control.
Now while most of us on a low carb or low GI diet are juggling all sorts of things, no other ‘thing’ needs careful low Gi/Carb monitoring as diabetes. What it comes down to is this: sugar in your bloodstream is toxic. This is why your body prioritizes sugar for energy burning; as soon as it hits your bloodstream, insulin is released to ferry the sugar to the liver where it can then be converted. When you’re diabetic, your body isn’t producing the right amount of insulin to deal with any sugars in your blood, leading to blood-sugar toxicity or hyperglycaemia. Hyperglycaemic symptoms include extreme thirst, weight loss, heavy urination, blurred vision, exhaustion and a drop in immune system functionality – this is often evidenced by infection, such as yeast infections, or wounds not healing as they should. The causes of this are very simple: you’ve eaten too many carbs in too short a time – and we’re talking primarily simple carbs here: potatoes, rice, cake, pasta, bread, candy/sweets, ice cream, milk, etc. -, the flu – or another sickness – that’s messing with your internal body chemistry, stress – a biggie! Stress can mess with your body’s natural insulin production and immune system! –, medications – some of these can not only knock your system about but can actual inhibit the body’s production of hormones that it needs –, and of course not having taken your insulin on time, or simply not getting enough of a dose for whatever reason.
The opposite can happen with hypoglycaemia, which is when your blood sugar is too low. This can happen when a person has skipped meals, isn’t eating enough carbohydrates – I know, it’s a frustrating balance! -, experiences extreme physical exercise, consumes too much alcohol, or has taken too much insulin. Most people with Type 2 Diabetes (see below) have less of a hard time avoiding hypoglycaemia through appropriate dietary intakes, while Type 1s run a greater risk. The symptoms of this extremely low blood sugar include moodiness – and in some cases, sever mood swings – and depression, weakness – trembling, shaking, that sort of thing -, profuse sweating, dizziness and/or light headedness, lack of concentration, hunger, and numbness around the fingers and lips. A quick fix is to find a quick sugar boost – a bit of soda pop, a glass of juice, some jellybeans, glucose tablets. If you’re prone to low blood sugar, eat accordingly – eat more often, or add in some heavier carbs to sustain yourself between meals.
Now, we’ve got two main types of diabetes. With Type 1 Diabetes the pancreas no longer produces any insulin. This means that the body’s not burning that sugar at all. People with Type 1 require regular doses of insulin to stay alive, it’s as simple as that; without an external source of insulin they die, no questions asked, no second chances. There’s no cure, and people with Type 1 can really only manage their disease as best they can with a healthy low GI lifestyle and regular insulin doses.
Type 2 Diabetes is more common. If you’ve been told you’re pre-diabetic or at risk of becoming diabetic, chances are you’re lined up for Type 2. In this case, your pancreas is still producing insulin but you’ve effectively developed a resistance to it to such an extent that it’s not enough and certainly not as effective. As with Type 1, there’s no cure, but it’s easier to manage Type 2 with a low carb/low gi lifestyle. Occasionally, people require an external insulin source to keep them alive, but for the most part a change to a healthier, low sugar lifestyle seems to allow them to manage it.
The other type of diabetes I’ll talk about quickly is gestational diabetes, which pops up during pregnancy. When with child, women require a lot more insulin than they normally would – unsurprising really, given that they’re carrying a whole other person around! Gestational diabetes raises the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, and can put the mother at risk of developing Type 2 after the pregnancy. However, if managed correctly during the pregnancy, these risks can be drastically alleviated. If you’re thinking about conceiving, especially if you’re pre-diabetic – or you have PCOS! – talk to your gynaecologist or GP about the how to best deal with this risk.
So there we have it, in a nutshell, and no doubt we’ll talk about it again: diabetes, spreading like wild fire.