Islets of Hope for persons with type 1 diabetes
Article by Lahle Wolfe, Founder, Islets of Hope.
National Diabetes Clearinghouse Information (NDIC) Diagnosing Diabetes
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See "Treatment" for more information about insulin, shots, and insulin pumps.
Important Medical Disclaimer
Material on this site is intended for your informational purposes only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. The IOH strongly recommends you seek the advice of a competent medical professional for diagnosis and treatment options, or before making any changes to your diabetes care plan.
Type 1 Diabetes - Section 2
Since heart disease is present in more than 75% of all diabetes-related deaths it is important to adopt a healthy lifestyle if you are diagnosed with anyo form of diabetes. Your doctor may have you consult with a dietitian or nutritionist to help you prepare an exchange plan, or to learn how to count carbohydrate, fat, and protein. Limiting refined carbohydrates is something everyone should strive for, especially those who are diabetic. They provide empty calories and require insulin in order to eat. The exception to eating pure sugar is when fast sugars are required to correct low blood glucose levels.
An important part in keeping blood glucose levels in target range is how you eat and your level of activity. Even with an insulin pump, which allows more freedom to eat when you want and what you want than do shots, a healthy diet is still very important to combat the high risk of heart disease later on down the road. Carbohydrates require insulin but so can high fat diets because they can cause blood glucose levels to stay elevated longer. Also, fatty foods should never be consumed when taking fast sugars to bring up low blood glucose levels because fat will slow down a quick rise in glucose levels.
Understanding how to eat for your particular type of diabetes is key to good health but can be confusing at first. Type 2 diabetics may need to drastically curtail carbohydrate consumption in general and/or take oral medications to handle carb loads. While type 1 diabetics should watch the type of carbohydrate they eat, they need to include plenty of healthy low-glycemic (long-acting) carbohydrates in their diets -- especially if taking shots and when physically active.
Exercise is a vital part of ensuring long-term health when living with diabetes. This is particularly true for type 2 diabetics. Exercise increases insulin sensitivity, a problem with some type 2 diabetics and those with Metabolic Syndrome X, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
First, it must be said that insulin is not a cure; it is a replacement of a hormone found naturally occurring in the body. Anyone who does not make sufficient insulin (or produces none at all) will have to take insulin every day. There are three basic ways of administering insulin: by syringe (shot therapy), by insulin pump, or by inhalation (the FDA recently approved the use of inhaled insulin).
Treatment for diabetes is multi-faceted, involving insulin, lifestyle changes, stress management, and patient education.
Please see Treatment for Type 1 Diabetes, Conventional vs. Intensive (flexible) Insulin Therapy, Insulin Pump Therapy, as well as Lifestyle Changes, and Alternative and Complementary Treatment for more detailed information on various aspects of diabetes treatment.
Insulin is a hormone normally produced in the pancreas and is necessary for the body to properly use blood glucose (sugar). Insulin acts like a key to open cells and let blood glucose enter. Without insulin, cells are deprived of glucose, and cells and tissues begin to breakdown, and the brain is starved of vital energy.
When glucose builds up in the blood stream it is toxic to all organs and tissues in the body. Glucose levels can become high enough to induce coma and death. High blood glucose levels are associated with increased thirst and frequent urination and sweating as the body attempts to rid itself of the excess glucose. Moderate to heavy ketones present in the urine (an indication of high blood glucose levels) may require immediate medical attention in order to avoid diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). See, Types of Insulin and Insulin Delivery Devices.
Remember that learning to master your diabetes is an ongoing challenge. Don't let bad days discourage you from succeeding the next day!
Diabetes is stressful all by itself, but uncontrolled stress can lead to high blood glucose. When the body and emotions are put to the test hormones kick in to help. These hormones can raise blood glucose levels, and can do so rather significantly. The non-diabetic releases these same stress hormones but has functioning mechanisms to keep blood glucose in check that are either absent or do not work properly in diabetics.
It is important to check your blood glucose during stressful events, such as car accidents (even a minor fender bender), arguments, disappoints like losing a job, or before competitions and speaking engagements -- anything that makes you uneasy or overly excited. It is not uncommon for persons with diabetes to experience elevated blood glucose from "good" stress such as when reacting positively to a love interest. It is well documented that teens may only look at someone they have an interest in and experience a surge in blood glucose elevation. My own daughter (at age 6) developed a young school girl crush on her male teacher's assistant. The first few weeks of school her blood glucose would jump to nearly 500 within minutes of talking with him. Excitement in children may also cause a drop in blood glucose levels. This is more commonly seen in children around holidays and birthday parties.
Many things tax our patience and sap our energy. It is important to not let yourself get run down physically or emotionally. Take breaks for yourself and find activities and people that you enjoy. People relax in many different ways, deep breathing, counting to 10, meditation, hobbies, prayer, but one thing all people can benefit from is regular exercise. This is due in part to levels of cortisol, a stress hormone remains in the system for hours after release. Exercise will help reduce toxic levels of "bad" hormones and aid in producing "good" hormones that help the body and mind to relax.
If you find your blood glucose is out of control (too high) and you cannot isolate something in your eating and medical plans, look for areas of stress that you can reduce or find better ways to cope with. Illness also puts strain on the body's systems and can also elevate blood glucose. Whenever you are sick you should check your blood glucose more often and have a sick-day plan prepared for you by your doctor -- before you get sick.
It is important that you always call your doctor if you are having a hard time keeping your blood glucose in range.
Web Resources for Stress and Diabetes:
Page Updated 02/23/2006