If you’re newly diagnosed or looking to explain diabetes to friends and family, it can be helpful to have a breakdown of what exactly diabetes is, and how it affects the body. Pick n Pay dietician, Leanne Kiezer, breaks it down for us.
Want to know how diabetes works in the body? Here’s a simple explanation.
It all starts with food. The carbohydrates you eat get broken down into glucose, a type of sugar. This glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream, and becomes known as blood glucose. The release of the hormone insulin from your pancreas allows the glucose to pass from your blood stream into your cells to produce energy for the body. In this way, the insulin helps to regulate your blood glucose levels and allows your body to use the energy from carbohydrates.
In people with diabetes, the body produces too little or no insulin or the body is not able to use its insulin properly. This means that the process of allowing glucose to pass from your bloodstream to your cells for energy is hindered. As a result, glucose accumulates in the blood, causing blood glucose levels to rise. Over time, high blood glucose levels can cause damage to kidneys, eyes, nerves and the heart.
The good news is that with the right treatment plan, diabetes can be managed, allowing you to live a long, healthy, active life. The first step is to develop a treatment plan with your lifestyle in mind. Consulting with a team of healthcare providers, such as a doctor, diabetes educator and dietitian will help you to master the four key areas for managing your health and diabetes: Exercise, Healthy Eating, Medication and Monitoring.
Types of diabetes
There are three types of diabetes:
Type 1 Diabetes
Accounting for 5 – 10% of diabetes cases, this is an autoimmune condition, in which the body turns on itself and destroys the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin. A combination of daily insulin and a carefully developed eating plan is required for its management.
Type 2 Diabetes
Accounting for 90 – 95% of cases, this is a complex and progressive disorder where a relative lack of insulin occurs together with resistance to insulin action. Occurring most often in people who are overweight, the first step to managing this type of diabetes is lifestyle change, through exercising, healthy eating and promotion of weight loss. As the condition progresses, oral tablets and insulin injections may be required.
Gestational diabetes (GDM)
GDM is a form of diabetes first diagnosed during pregnancy. GDM usually disappears after pregnancy, but women with GDM and their children are at an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
Early detection of diabetes is important, as the longer your body is exposed to high blood glucose levels, the more damage it could do. Some people with Type 2 diabetes have no outward signs associated with high blood glucose levels, so testing your blood glucose level is the only way to be sure. To screen for diabetes, a finger-prick blood test is used – go to your nearest clinic or pharmacy for this quick, painless test.
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Pick n Pay is committed to promoting health and wellbeing among South Africans and employs the services of a registered dietician to provide food and nutrition related advice to the public. For your nutrition and health related queries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free on 0800 11 22 88
For more fantastic information on diabetes and nutrition, visit Pick n Pay’s Health Corner.