Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, is a disease in which a person has a abnormally high blood glucose (blood sugar) level, either caused by insulin production that is inadequate, the body’s cells does not respond properly to insulin, or both. Patients with high blood sugar will typically experience frequent urination and they will become increasingly thirsty and hungry.
Diabetes is a Metabolism Disorder
Diabetes is classified as a metabolism disorder. Most of the food that our bodies digest is broken down into glucose which is a form of sugar in our blood that we need as “fuel” for our bodies.
The glucose (sugar), that is formed after our food was digested, enters our bloodstream, because our cells needs the glucose for growth and energy, but the glucose (sugar) cannot enter our cells without the presence of insulin as the insulin enables our cells to be able to take in the glucose.
The pancreas, which produces the hormone insulin, automatically releases a sufficient amount of insulin, after eating, so that the glucose in our blood is able to move into our cells. The level of our blood-glucose drops as soon as the glucose in our blood enters our cells.
Some people have a condition where their bodies either does not produce a sufficient amount of insulin, no insulin or they may have cells which does not respond to the insulin that the pancreas produces, because of this, the level of glucose in the blood is too high and this condition is known as, diabetes.
There are 4 different types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Type2 diabetes
- Gestational diabetes
- Other specific types (such as genetic syndromes, surgery, drugs, malnutrition, infections and other illnesses
Risk factors for diabetes:
- Family history
- Physical inactivity
- Impared glucode tolerance
- Certain ethnic and racial groups
What are the symptoms for diabetes?
- Constant thirst
- Increases hunger
- Urinating more than usual
- Numbness/tingling in finger tips and toes
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blurred vision or visual disturbances
- Skin infection due to slow wound healing
- Constant tiredness
How is it diagnosed?
A blood sample is taken to test for the glucose level. High blood glucose will usually indicate diabetes. Normal blood glucose levels are 4-6 mol/l.
What are the dangers of diabetes?
- Eye cataracts
- Kidney disease
- Neuropathy (gradual damaging of the nerves)
- Atherosclerosis which is the hardening of arteries, heart disease and stroke.
How does diabetes affect the heart?
Heart disease is the leading cause of diabetes-related deaths because the constant high blood sugar is associated with narrowing of the arteries, increased blood trighlycerides (a type of fat), decreased levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart attack.
HYPER versus HYPO
HYPERglycaemia is high blood glucose caused by eating too much, feel stressed, anxious, or emotional, not taking any or sufficient insulin or medication, being ill, skipping exercise or hormonal imbalances.
HYPOglycaemia is low blood glucose and is caused by eating too little food, too few carbohydrates, delaying or skipping meals or snacks, exercising harder or longer than usual, taking too much insulin or oral medication, being ill or drinking alcohol on an empty stomach.
Can diabetes be cured?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for diabetes. With careful monitoring and commitment, diabetics can avoid complications and enjoy a long, productive life.
General dietary guidelines for a diabetic
- Attain and maintain a healthy body weight.
- Eat small, regular meals.
- Include plenty of fibre rich carbohydrates.
- Give preference to unrefined carbohydrates and avoid refined carbohydrates.
- Include at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetable in your diet every day.
- Limit fat intake.
- Use healthier cooking methods.
- Sugar, salt and alcohol should only be used by well-controlled diabetics.
- Drink at least 6 – 8 glasses of water per day.
- Do regular physical exercise to a minimum of 30 minutes at least 3 times per week.