Diabetes Awareness Month runs every November and the 14th marks World Diabetes Day. It’s a chance to remind you of the signs and symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Would you know how to spot them?
What is diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when the sugar in your blood is too high – you are too sugary. Sugar gets into our bloodstream through the food and drinks we consume. However, poor sleep, stress and illness can also increase the amount of sugar in the blood too because of a hormone we produce called cortisol.
Another hormone called insulin is released from the pancreas, its job is to help take sugar out of the blood and into your cells so it can be used for energy (anyone off for a workout?). Alternatively, the sugar will go into your muscles or the liver for storage in case you need it later (maybe for that workout you keep delaying). When insulin either doesn’t work effectively or there is too much sugar and not enough space to put it, you end up with high blood sugar.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where you do not produce insulin. This is why those living with type 1 diabetes need to inject insulin to manage their blood sugars. They cannot do it naturally and currently, there is no known medical cure but it can be managed very successfully due to today’s medical technology.
Type 2 diabetes is driven mainly by diet and lifestyle choices making the blood too sugary. You still produce insulin but your body stops listening to it so the sugar can’t get into your cells or to storage. You can be more prone to type 2 diabetes due to your family’s medical history which means you should be cautious of the choices you make in your life.
Stats and prevalence – how likely are you to have diabetes?
3.9 million people were living with diabetes as of January of 2019, this is just the tip of the iceberg as it is estimated that a further 1 million people unknowingly have type 2 diabetes but are not yet diagnosed. By 2030, it is expected that those diagnosed will reach 5.5 million, that’s a staggering 12% of today’s population!
Just because it’s becoming more common doesn’t mean it’s ok. Diabetes impacts your body’s ability to heal and can cause blindness, kidney issues, and loss of body parts (yes, amputations at a rate of 185 a week). It can also impact your cardiovascular health and increase your risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol as well as your risk of a heart attack.
Type 1 diabetes affects about 8% of those diagnosed in the UK. Type 2 is more common, impacting 90% of those diagnosed with diabetes. Gestational diabetes – high blood sugar during pregnancy – increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on in life by up to 60%.
Type 2 symptoms to look out for…
- Going for a wee more than usual (especially at night)
- Feeling thirsty all the time
- Struggling with your energy
- Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
- Experiencing blurred vision
- Recurring bouts of thrush
It used to be said that type 2 was a condition of older adults (say, 60 years and over) but there are more under 40’s being diagnosed with the condition than ever before. Your risk is increased if you are of a high body size and/or if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes.
It is a chronic condition – one that develops over time – but it is a REVERSIBLE condition! You have a brilliant opportunity to take control of your blood sugars. It is what we, at Integral Wellness specialise in, so let’s have a chat.
Type 1 symptoms to be aware of…
The 4 T’s
- Thinner – unintentional weight loss
- Tired – feeling exhausted all the time
- Thirsty – drinking more than usual
- Toilet – needing a wee more often
Symptoms usually appear in childhood for type 1 but recent research indicates that post-covid infection is triggering this (and other) autoimmune conditions in adults too so don’t let age stop you from getting checked by your GP.
Frequently asked questions for type 2 diabetes
Can you control type 2 diabetes with diet?
Yes, you can! The food you eat, the drinks you choose and certain lifestyle aspects have an impact on your blood sugar levels and they are all things you can control. I attended the Diabetes Professional Care conference this year and was thrilled to see reversing type 2 diabetes finally being discussed at a medical event. Don’t let anyone tell you nothing can be done for type 2 diabetes.
What are some foods that contribute to type 2 diabetes?
High sugar and ultra-processed foods can contribute to type 2 diabetes. Biscuits, sweets, chocolate, cake, bread, pastries, ready meals, takeaways, fast food. Not only do the obvious in this list contain huge amounts of sugar that flood your bloodstream very quickly (hence we get that pick-me-up burst of energy) but the ultra-processed foods contain inflammatory oils and preservatives that impact the blood vessels which disrupt the management of blood sugars too.
Which fruit is best if you have type 2 diabetes?
If you have had type 2 diabetes for some time you may want to consider eliminating all fruit for a period of time before adding in lower-sugar (low GI) fruits such as berries, apples, pears, and citrus fruits. Dried fruit is not recommended for someone with pre or type 2 diabetes. We also wouldn’t recommend tropical/exotic fruits either due to how quickly they release sugar and can spike blood sugar levels – things like mango, pineapple, papaya, etc.
Does olive oil help type 2 diabetes recovery?
Good quality olive oil and extra virgin olive oil can be used by someone with type 2 diabetes. It does not, on it’s own, reverse the condition but it is rich in polyphenols which studies have demonstrated improve insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control. Polyphenols have also been shown to help reduce glucose absorption in the intestine and moderate glucose release from the liver, the combined benefit reducing overall blood sugar levels.
A study by American Diabetes Association has also demonstrated how increasing antioxidants can reduce risk of type 2 diabetes. You can find antioxidants in abundance in vegetables, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices, and green tea.
When do I need to worry about type 2 diabetes?
HbA1c is the blood test the GP will do to test for diabetes. HbA1c at 42-48 mmol/L and 6%-6.4% is considered the pre-diabetes range. This is an opportunity for you to turn things around and there is a greater chance of success in avoiding type 2 diabetes in the long term if you take action at this stage.
HbA1c at 49 or 6.5% and above is classed as type 2 diabetes range. However, NICE guidelines do say this range has to be seen twice to confirm a diagnosis. This could mean your GP doesn’t mention it to you until the second reading when it could come as a real shock. It also results in precious time lost when steps could be taken to turn things around.
Top tip: always ask to see your blood test results even if you’re told everything is ‘fine’ so you can see how things are for you. If you’re getting close to an HbA1c of 42 start making changes. If you see you’re higher than that but it’s only your first result, start taking action straight away. You have the opportunity to reduce your levels so that your second reading isn’t as high giving you the chance to avoid medication.