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Diabetes is one of the most common non-communicable diseases currently. Being as common as it is, most of us either know someone with diabetes or have at least heard of this disease. However, how many of us know the details about this disease and know that it is not all about sugar intake? We’ve decided to give you a short crash course in diabetes.

Let’s start with what diabetes is and the different types of this disease. Diabetes is a non-communicable disease, which means that it cannot be passed on from one person to the next. Depending on the type of diabetes, a person with diabetes will either struggle to produce or use insulin.

Insulin is a hormone that is secreted by your pancreas. You can think of insulin as the key that allows your body to use sugar from food. When you eat any type of carbohydrate, your body eventually breaks this into a kind of sugar (glucose). This sugar enters your bloodstream before your body can use it. Here, insulin needs to “unlock” your cells, so that this sugar can go into your cells and be used for energy.

When we speak about diabetes, most of us refer to it as if it has the same impact on everyone that has it. However, this is not true. There are actually three primary forms of diabetes:

  1. Type 1 Diabetes

This is one of the less common forms of diabetes, as only ±10% of individuals who have diabetes have type I diabetes. This can affect anyone at any age; however, it most commonly forms in children or young adults. Type 1 diabetes develops as a result of an autoimmune reaction in the body, causing the body’s immune system to attack the formation of insulin. This attack on insulin formation causes very little or no insulin to be produced. If there isn’t enough insulin, then the sugar from the food you eat will remain in your blood because there is no insulin to “unlock” your cells so that this sugar can be used for energy. This results in an increase in blood sugar and a decreased amount of sugar available to be used by the body.

  1. Type 2 Diabetes

This is the most common form of diabetes and is more common in older adults. In type 2 diabetes, individuals are still able to produce insulin, making it different from type 1 diabetes; however, their body struggles to use this insulin effectively. This is commonly referred to as insulin resistance. People with type 2 diabetes do create the keys to “unlock” their cells so that the sugar you eat can be used for energy, however, these keys are faulty and therefore struggle to “unlock” your cells. This results in an increase in blood sugar and a decreased amount of sugar available to be used by the body. Type 2 diabetes is, unfortunately, a progressive disease, that can eventually progress to the point where insulin is no longer being produced (like with type I diabetes). This typically only occurs if type 2 diabetes isn’t managed well with medications and lifestyle changes.

Type 2 diabetes is commonly referred to as lifestyle-related diabetes. This is because many of the risk factors for developing this disease are related to an individual’s lifestyle. Other significant risk factors include your genetic profile and family history.

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes do differ slightly from type 1 diabetes and include three primary symptoms: increased thirst (polydipsia); increased urination (polyuria); and increased hunger (polyphagia). Additional signs include blurred vision, dehydration, skin irritation or infection, and general weakness and loss of strength. Patients with type 2 diabetes often do not recognize the signs because the symptoms develop gradually over many years. It is not uncommon for some of the long-term complications of diabetes to already be present at the time of diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in older individuals.

  1. Gestational Diabetes

This type of diabetes can only occur during pregnancy and results in insulin resistance, like type 2 diabetes. Not all women who fall pregnant will develop gestational diabetes. However, some women are at higher risk for developing this disease when pregnant.  While having diabetes when you are pregnant doesn’t sound great, it is far more dangerous than just being something you should monitor during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes carries, with it, several extremely dangerous risks and consequences. Some of these include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Preeclampsia (high blood pressure and potential organ damage during pregnancy)
  • Needing to have a C-section delivery
  • Developing diabetes in the future
  • Giving birth to a baby weighing >4.1kg
  • Preterm delivery
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Low blood sugar
  • Stillbirth

It is essential that you minimise your risk of developing gestational diabetes as much as possible. If the disease develops, you must work with both your gynaecologist and a registered dietitian to manage it as best you can to limit the potential side effects.

And there you have it! Your crash course of what diabetes is, the different types, risks and symptoms. Now that you have gained all this additional knowledge, it is essential to look at your risk for developing diabetes. Your genetic profile carries important information to prevent your risk of developing Diabetes. To know your risk factors, your very own gene report of Immuwellgx+ will definitely help you!

References

Manhattan Medical Arts. (2020, January 23). Type 2 Diabetes is common, but it can be avoided. Retrieved from Manhattan Medical Arts: https://www.manhattanmedicalarts.com/blog/2020/01/23/type-2-diabetes-is-common-but-it-can-be-avoided/

Smith-Marsh, D. E. (2019, February 26). Type 1 Diabetes and Insulin. Retrieved from Endocrine Web: https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/type-1-diabetes/type-1-diabetes-insulin

Stacy Nix, (2013). Williams’ Basic Nutrition and Diet Therapy 15th Edition.

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