Diabetes, blood sugar, type 2 diabetes

It’s world diabetes day! Today’s article will look at the most up to date research when it comes to diabetes mellitus, including type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. How do they come about; can you do anything to avoid the onset of diabetes and what lifestyle factors contribute to symptoms of diabetes.

What is Diabetes?

The full name for the disease ‘diabetes’ is diabetes mellitus. The name is thought to stem from Greek Physicians that used to taste urine to detect its sweetness. During the 11th Century the name Mellitus was given which is the Latin word for honey. That being said, it’s theorised that the first mention of diabetes came in approximately 1550BC, where Egyptian papyrus spoke of a rare disease where the patients lost weight and fluids rapidly. Fast-forwarding a number of years, when in the period of 1770-1800 Matthew Dobson noticed that in patients with sweet urine when left untreated was fatal. However, for some patients, death took a matter of weeks while others lived much longer. This is thought to be the first mention of the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The turn of the 19th century was an important era for diabetes discovery, whereby an understanding of caloric intake was recognised as a factor for wellbeing in patients with sweet urine. In addition to medical student Paul Langerhans noticing there were 2 types of cells in the pancreas, named after himself – the Islets of Langerhans. Finally, in the 1920s, the connection was made between the Islets of Langerhans and Diabetes Mellitus.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), diabetes is:

‘Diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterized by elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar), which leads over time to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves.’

Diabetic Symptoms

Common Symptoms of Diabetes includes:

  • Increased feeling of thirst
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Lethargy and Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weight loss consisting of muscle mass
  • Frequent episodes of thrush
  • Slow wound healing
  • Changes in vision

Type 1 Diabetes

According to the NHS Definition, type 1 diabetes is where the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. As previously discussed in the article, these are the islets of Langerhans, more specifically the beta cells. Approximately 400,000 people are currently living with type 1 diabetes in the UK, including around 29,000 children. Despite previously being known as the genetic form, 85% of people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes have no family history of the condition. Experts in diabetes state that type 1 diabetes is caused by an overreaction of the body’s immune system which leads to it mistakenly attacking beta cells so that they can no longer produce insulin. There is no conclusive answer to what causes the initial immune system attack, although the most likely caused by a significant viral infection.

Type 2 Diabetes

According to the NHS definition, type 2 diabetes is where the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body's cells do not react to insulin. This was previously known as a disease associated with obesity. This school of thought is very old-school and is now considered a metabolic disease that can happen to people of various BMIs. UK Statistics demonstrate that around 3.4 million people in the UK have a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Also, it is thought that 1 million people in the UK are unknowingly living with diabetes type 2. Additionally, the total number of people living with type 2 diabetes is set to rise to 5.5 million people by 2030, if the current average lifestyle does not change. There are a number of controllable and uncontrollable risk factors for type 2 diabetes including having a larger waist to hip measurement, a sedentary lifestyle, having high blood pressure, or raised cholesterol, smoking, being overweight or obese, eating a diet rich in simple sugars and saturated fats. Finally, having a first-degree relative with type 2 diabetes, or if you are of South Asian and African Caribbean descent.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy, but can sometimes remain after pregnancy too. This most commonly develops in the 3rd trimester after 24-38 weeks of gestation. These women are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in later life. This occurs in 3-5% of pregnancies. Hormonal changes in the placenta due to pregnancy make the mother more likely to be resistant to insulin. Thus, unable to manage their blood glucose.

Advice on Reducing Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Unfortunately, because scientists have not concluded the cause for Type 1 diabetes there are currently not advisory pieces on this yet. However, there are plenty of tips to minimise your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, be mindful that not all of these will apply to you:

  • Aim to maintain a healthy blood pressure (120/80 mmHg)
  • Stay active and minimise sedentary time. The NHS recommend that you do between 75-150 mins of exercise per week dependent on the intensity.
  • Minimise processed foods
  • Aim to reduce simple carbohydrates found in processed foods, confectionary, cakes and desserts.
  • Replace simple carbohydrates with complex carbohydrates such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown pasta, brown rice, brown bread, grains, and cereals.
  • Be aware and mindful of your family history and how that may affect your wellbeing.
  • Be mindful that having a higher BMI, plus a number of factors above can increase the risk of diabetes. The relationship between weight and diabetes is not an absolute. The person must have a higher BMI and health problems for diabetes to be a concern.
  • Reach out for support if you notice your weight increasing, symptoms of prediabetes or other health concerns. The effects of type 2 diabetes are reversal up to a point but left untreated or to spiral out of control this will lead to the permeant disease state of diabetes or metabolic syndrome.

Blood Glucose Management

There are ways to manage blood glucose better through nutrition, diet and supplementary purposes:

Nutrition

Here are a few tips you might like to try:

  • If you are eating a simple quick-release carbohydrate, try to consume it with a source of fat or protein. This slows digestion, thus slowing the release of the sugars into the blood. This reduces the blood glucose peak and subsequent insulin release.
  • Opt for complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates. As the name suggests the structure is more complex so harder to digest. This, again slows the release of sugars into the blood to prevent a large spike.
  • Increase fibre in your diet by consuming nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, cereals and wholemeal carbohydrates
  • Aim to choose less processed foods with fewer sweeteners. Artificial Sweeteners have the ability to chemically change your preference for sweetness. In addition to being much sweeter than sugar. This means you are more likely to need increased levels of sugar to feel satisfied after consuming artificial sweeteners.
  • Learn your food labels and aim for low sugar snacks. This information can be found in the nutrition table. Look for the row that states ‘Carbohydrates of which are sugars’, then for the column that states 100grams. If the food product contains more than 5grams sugar per 100grams of food, otherwise known as 5% sugar, then this is a high sugar item.

Supplements

For many years, certain herbs, botanicals, vitamins and minerals have been used as an alternative way to manage blood glucose. The most common of which is Chromium. This has an authorised health claim from the European food safety authority (EFSA) that states that Chromium contributes to normal macronutrient metabolism and to the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels. In addition to Chromium, there are a number of other ingredients that have been concluded by the means of study to support blood glucose management including, cinnamon, zinc, elderberry, and moringa. Introducing Vytaliving’s Glucosupport tablets. These have been formulated to help maintain a steady blood glucose concentration. Each tablet contains 5 potent ingredients including Zinc, Chromium, Moringa, Cinnamon and Elderberry. Glucosupport boasts to be able to maintain normal blood glucose levels and contribute to normal carbohydrate metabolism. When blood glucose is stable the brain recognises that we are not in need of fuel, whereas if there are large peaks and troughs in our blood glucose our brain thinks we are hungry. This mix of synergistic ingredients has been blended to support stable blood glucose and manage appetite.

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