In the healthcare world, diabetes is one of the biggest nutrition-related problems people experience. There are a few different types of diabetes, including:
- Type 1 Diabetes: an autoimmune disorder that destroys the beta cells of the pancreas, eventually reducing production of insulin to ineffectual levels, or halting it altogether. Insulin is needed to regulate blood sugar levels since it mediates the transport of glucose into certain cells of the body. These individuals usually develop diabetes in their childhood, but occasionally may develop it into their young adulthood. Synthetic insulin injections are necessary for survival.
- Pre diabetes: A combination of genetics, environmental, and lifestyle factors can lead to insulin insensitivity. While an individual may still produce insulin at a normal rate, the insulin isn’t working as effectively as it needs to in order to regulate blood sugar levels. These individuals end up with elevated blood glucose levels after eating, for a longer amount of time than ordinary. There are different types of pre diabetes. For the most part, individuals diagnosed with pre diabetes are counselled to make changes to their diet, physical activity, and lifestyle to manage their condition. Many people with pre diabetes go on to develop Type 1 diabetes.
- Type 2 Diabetes: The natural history of type 2 diabetes is the same as pre diabetes. It’s influenced by genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. These individuals may manage their condition with diet & lifestyle therapy alone, or in combination with medications. They also have an impaired response to insulin, which leads to high blood sugar. The pancreas may eventually become fatigued as it tries to overcompensate for the high blood glucose levels by producing even more insulin. If the pancreas becomes damaged or overly tired, some individuals may end up using insulin therapy similarly to type 1 diabetics.
- Gestational Diabetes: Though much of the cause of gestational diabetes is unknown, there are genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that may predispose an individual to developing it. Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes which spontaneously occurs during a woman’s pregnancy. It usually goes away after the child is born, but the woman is at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes after having gestational diabetes. Some women manage to control their blood glucose levels through diet and lifestyle alone, while others require a stricter regimen including medications or insulin therapy.
No matter the type, diabetes can be a difficult condition to manage. There can be a lot of stress surrounding monitoring of blood glucose levels, regular doctor visits, and constantly calculating carbohydrates and, for those with insulin insufficiency, insulin injections. Diabetics learn to take steps to reduce the risk of hyperglycaemia or hypoglycaemia (too much or too little blood sugar, respectively). Both are dangerous conditions that can be life-threatening. But newer technology and medicine make it easier for diabetics to control their blood sugar levels, and dietitians are there to counsel individuals on preventative strategies focused mainly on diet.
For more information on diabetes, check out Diabetes Canada. There are endless resources here for each type of diabetic. There are even some recipes you can look into!