Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are the two main types of diabetes. research is now talking about Type 3 diabetes, which is diabetes of the brain and can be a factor in people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. 

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the pancreas’s beta cells so that the body cannot produce insulin. The onset of type 1 diabetes usually starts in childhood, but it can also appear in early adulthood. It is often a genetic disorder and can be more common for people who already have family members with type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is more commonly a lifestyle disease that develops slowly. Many people don’t have symptoms and can be prediabetic for years before becoming diabetic. Diabetes impairs the way the body uses glucose. The cell receptors become less sensitive to insulin so instead of going into the cells to be used for energy, the sugar circulates in the bloodstream. Continuously high blood sugar levels can damage the arteries and cause nervous and immune system disorders.

Insulin is secreted by the pancreas to regulate sugar metabolism. In a healthy person, we get a spike in our blood sugar when we eat a meal which is a trigger for the body to release insulin. When released appropriately, insulin lowers blood sugar levels, and the body stores any excess sugars in the liver for later use. If you don’t eat another meal in time to replenish your blood sugar stores, the liver will release the stored sugars to keep your blood sugar stable.

With type 2 diabetes, this doesn’t happen so the sugar accumulates in the bloodstream.

The problem is twofold. Firstly, the pancreas is unable to produce sufficient insulin to regulate the blood sugar levels effectively, and, secondly, the cells respond poorly to the insulin so less sugar makes it into the cells, making them insulin resistant. This affects muscle and fat cells as well as the liver.

The most common symptoms or signs that you may have diabetes include: 

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Increased waist circumference
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Frequent infections
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Areas of darkened skin, usually in the armpits and neck

As long as there is no permanent damage to the pancreas, type 2 diabetes is reversible. Maintaining a healthy weight is vital. It is also important to get enough exercise and sleep. A lack of sleep can disrupt blood sugar metabolism and increase your risk for diabetes.

Reducing refined carbohydrates, sugars, sweeteners, and junk food is vital if we are to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and prevent diabetes. 

Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 17 November 2022 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am