Type I diabetes is less common than type II and is usually diagnosed in children and young adults rather than later in life. Although type I diabetes is serious, with proper management, people with diabetes can live long, healthy, happy lives.
The body breaks down all the sugars and starches from food into glucose, which is the basic fuel for the cells in the body. The hormone insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells so it can be used for energy.
In type I diabetes, the body does not produce insulin, causing glucose to build up in the blood instead of in the cells. The cells start to become starved of energy and over time the high level of glucose in the blood can cause damages to the eyes, kidneys, nerves or heart.
Symptoms of type I diabetes usually develop quickly, over a few days to weeks, and are caused by blood sugar levels rising above the normal range. Early symptoms may be overlooked, especially if the person has recently had an illness, such as flu.
Early symptoms include:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Weight loss
- Increased appetite
Sometimes the blood sugar level rises excessively before a person knows something is wrong. This is a life-threatening condition called ketoacidosis. Symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis are:
- Flushed, hot, dry skin
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Breath that smells like nail polish remover (acetone)
- Rapid, deep breathing
- Restlessness, drowsiness, difficulty waking up, confusion or coma
- Lack of interest in normal activities
Testing for diabetes
Diabetes is tested for using a fasting glucose blood test that can be done by your GP. This measures the level of glucose in the blood after 12 hours of not eating anything. In a healthy person, blood sugar should be quite low after fasting because insulin has packed all the glucose away in the cells to maintain energy production. In diabetics, because there is no insulin available to do this job, blood glucose levels stay high even after 12 hours without food.
Treatment of type I diabetes
Type 1 diabetes requires lifelong treatment to keep blood sugar levels within a target range. This usually involves monitoring blood sugar levels several times a day using a home blood sugar metre and taking several insulin injections. It may also require:
- Eating a healthy diet that spreads carbohydrate throughout the day to prevent high blood sugar levels after meals
- Regular physical exercise – exercise helps the body to use insulin more efficiently. Exercise may also lower your risk for heart and blood vessel disease
- Regular medical checkups to monitor and adjust treatment as needed. Screening tests and exams need to be done regularly to watch for signs of complications, such as eye, kidney, heart, blood vessel and nerve diseases
- Not smoking
- Not drinking alcohol if the person is at risk for periods of low blood sugar
- A regular daily schedule to make managing blood sugar levels easier – blood sugars are easier to predict and control when mealtimes, amounts of food and exercise are similar every day.
Nutritional therapy for diabetes
Diet: diabetics need to be careful about which foods they eat. Eating foods which cause large increases in blood sugar can increase the risk of developing complications and also make insulin dosing much more difficult. It can also lead to weight gain.
Certain foods release their sugar into the blood stream more rapidly than others. Learning which foods to eat to keep blood sugar levels even is an important part of staying healthy as a diabetic. Smart Nutrition are able to give expert advice on this aspect of managing diabetes.
Nutrient deficiencies: the correct balance of vitamins and minerals is critical to proper blood sugar regulation. Optimum nutrient levels are vital to ensure that cells respond to insulin properly.
A NutrEval Health MOT is a very useful tool for identifying any underlying deficiencies.
Essential fatty acids balance: every cell in the body is surrounded by a special protective membrane made from fatty acids. This membrane is home to the special receptors that respond to insulin and other hormones. Insulin’s ability to shuttle glucose into cells is dependent upon healthy cell membranes, which is in turn determined by the overall balance of fatty acids.
Unfortunately one side effect of regular insulin use is that it can interfere with the body’s ability to properly process essential fatty acids, which means that many diabetic patients become deficient in these vital building blocks.
Once identified with a Fatty Acid Test, essential fatty acid deficiencies can quite easily be corrected with Smart Nutrition’s nutritional support.
Oxidative damage: researchers have found that oxidative damage plays a role in the tissue damage caused by diabetes.
Our cells utilise oxygen in the making of energy, but that process produces free radicals, toxic byproducts that damage cells and DNA. Our bodies produce natural antioxidants to help mop up free radicals and reduce the amount of damage they do. We also get some antioxidants from our food.
Scientists have found much lower than normal antioxidant levels in diabetics, making them at higher risk of oxidative damage. This means that monitoring and controlling oxidative damage is an important aspect of effective diabetes management. An Oxidative Stress Analysis can give an indication about much oxidative stress your body is under – and how well its defence mechanisms are working.