It is common knowledge that India is the diabetes capital of the world. The diabetic population of this country is close to hitting 69 million by 2025 and 89 million by 2030.

This article aims at understanding what diabetes is, the types of diabetes, the contributing factors that cause the disease, its symptoms, and how to reverse it using the Functional Nutrition approach.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is the body's main energy source and comes from the food you eat. Glucose from food gets transported into your cells by insulin- a hormone made by the pancreas, and is then used as energy. Sometimes, your body cannot make enough or any insulin or is unable to use insulin properly. As a result, glucose stays in your blood and doesn't reach your cells. This is extremely dangerous since your body eventually gets deprived of its energy sources.

In the long term, high glucose levels cause damage to the body and lead to the failure of various organs and tissues. (1)

People with diabetes can develop health problems like heart disease, nerve damage, kidney diseases, foot problems, eye diseases, gum diseases, other dental problems, and sexual and bladder problems. Diabetes patients are also at high risk of getting a stroke. (1)

There Are 3 Types of Diabetes :

1. Type 1 diabetes 

Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes need daily insulin injections to control their blood glucose levels. 

What Causes Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes occurs when your immune system, the body's system for fighting infections, attacks, and destroys the pancreas' insulin-producing beta cells. Usually, this type of diabetes is genetic, but other factors such as certain viruses may also trigger the disease. (1)

Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms:

Type 1 diabetes signs and symptoms can appear suddenly and may include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Bed-wetting in children who previously didn't wet the bed during the night
  • Extreme hunger, despite having the usual amount of food
  • Unintended and extreme weight loss
  • Irritability, mood swings and other mood changes
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Blurred or distorted vision (2)

It is advisable to consult a doctor in case of any such symptoms.

2. Type 2 diabetes

type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition: it is an impairment in the body's ability to regulate and use sugar (glucose) as a fuel. This long-term condition results in too much sugar circulating in the bloodstream instead of reaching the cells where it is originally intended to go. 

Eventually, high blood sugar levels can lead to circulatory, nervous, and immune systems disorders.

What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?

Two interrelated problems are the primary causes of diabetes. The pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin — and the cells respond poorly to insulin and absorb less sugar. 

Type 2 diabetes can occur in children as well as in adults post the age of 45. The main causes of Type 2 diabetes are unhealthy eating habits, eating fried, junk and fatty foods regularly, leading a sedentary lifestyle with no exercise, and habits like regular smoking and drinking.

Type 2 diabetes symptoms :

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Frequent infections
  • Yeast infections
  • Sweet smelling breath
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Patches of darkened skin, usually in the armpits and neck(2)

If one or more of the above symptoms are experienced, a doctor should be consulted immediately.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a condition where a woman's blood sugar levels become high during pregnancy. It affects pregnant women who have never previously been diagnosed with diabetes.

There are two classes of gestational diabetes: class A1 diabetes, which can be managed through diet and exercise, and class A2 diabetes which requires the affected person to take insulin or other medications.

Gestational diabetes goes away after a woman gives birth, but it can affect the baby's health. It also raises the risk of the mother getting type 2 diabetes later in life. Lifestyle changes and incorporating healthy food habits can help manage gestational diabetes. 

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

Since gestational diabetes does not have any glaring symptoms, all pregnant women are screened for it as a precaution.

 A few mild symptoms of gestational diabetes are – frequent urination, a dry mouth and feeling thirstier than usual. Another common symptom is extremely unusual amounts of weight gain.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis 

Diabetic ketoacidosis (also known as DKA) is a serious complication of diabetes that occurs when your body produces high levels of blood acids called ketones.

DKA happens when insulin production in the body is so low that:

     • Glucose cannot go into the cells to be used as a fuel source.

     • The liver starts generating a huge amount of blood sugar.

     •  Fat is broken down too rapidly for the body to process.

The liver breaks down fat from the foods we consume into a fuel called ketones. The liver normally produces ketones when the body breaks down fat after some time has passed since your last meal. The muscles and the heart usually use these ketones. If ketones are produced too quickly and accumulate in the bloodstream, they can be toxic by making the blood acidic. This condition is known as ketoacidosis.

DKA is sometimes the first sign of type 1 diabetes in people who have not yet been diagnosed. It can also occur in someone who has already been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. 

Infection, injury, a serious illness, missing doses of insulin shots, neglecting diabetes management, or even general stress can lead to Diabetic Ketoacidosis in people with Type 1 diabetes.

People with type 2 diabetes can also develop Diabetic Ketoacidosis, but it is less common and less severe. It is usually triggered by having uncontrolled blood sugar over long periods, missing doses of medication, or a severe illness or infection.(3)

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetes-related complication that affects the eyes. It is caused by damage to the retina's blood vessels- which is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. 

The condition can develop in anyone who has type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar is, you will likely develop this issue. It can also lead to blindness.

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include spots or dark strings floating in your vision (floaters), blurred vision, fluctuating vision, or dark or empty areas in your vision.(4)

It is advisable for people with diabetes to get regular medical check-ups, especially eye check-ups, as they are more susceptible to such problems.

Type 2 diabetes: Is it curable ?

Type 2 diabetes is preventable and certainly curable. This is possible by going to the root cause of the condition and using Functional Nutrition as a tool to reverse the problem.

Here are some tools to help you reverse Type 2 diabetes or even prevent it from developing in your body :

Exercise and weight loss: An active lifestyle can help reduce the risk of getting diabetes by up to 58 %. Even three 30-minute exercise sessions a week can significantly help manage diabetes symptoms.

Including activities like brisk walking, swimming and cycling are also suggested for people who do not find the time to exercise or don't like to exercise.

 Proteins: Include proteins in your diet, like chicken, eggs and seafood, lentils, nuts, and beans, are also great.

• Replacing refined carbohydrates with minimally processed carbohydrates:  Refined carbs like white bread, pasta and potatoes can cause your blood sugar to increase quickly. Choose carbs that cause a more gradual blood sugar increase, such as whole grains like oatmeal, rice and gluten-free rice flour pasta.

Maintain salt intake: Too much sodium, or salt, can increase your blood pressure. Lower your sodium intake by avoiding processed foods, especially if they are canned or packaged. But that does not mean to eliminate salt completely instead use Himalayan pink salt than table salt.

• No added sugars: Avoid sugary foods and drinks like chocolates, pies, cakes, soft drinks and soda from your diet. Replace sugar with honey, dates or raisins.

• Fibres: The first thing one needs to add to their diet is Fibre. Fibres are a little hard to break in the human body and they will slowly release glucose into the body, which won’t cause a spike of blood sugar in the person.

*Not all remedies work the same way for everyone or may work for some time, but to treat the issue completely, one must first find out the reason for the problem and then work on eliminating it. This will, in turn, help them treat the health issue once and for all.

The lesson to take away from this article is that the modern-day sedentary lifestyle comes with many diseases. Thankfully, the answer to such problems lies in our kitchens and our willpower to exercise and nourish our bodies. Taking a holistic approach toward one's health instead of being overly reliant on medications is always better in the long run. 

Reference : 

Sukanya Krishnan

Sukanya is a lawyer by education and has also completed CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) from Cambridge University, conducted by the British Council. She has experience in content writing and is currently exploring the field further through freelance projects.

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