Nutrition Articles

The Deal with Diabetes

Learn How it Affects You

What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition that causes high blood sugar levels. It is a chronic disease that can be managed but not cured. It does not go away. Knowing as much as you can about the disease is the first step to managing it effectively.

What’s Going On
Much of the food you eat is digested and changed into glucose. Glucose is the body’s main energy source. It is carried through the blood stream into the body’s cells. Once inside the cells, glucose is converted into energy. Insulin helps glucose get into the cells. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that attaches to cells in the body and opens the cells, allowing glucose to get inside and be converted.

Diabetes is caused by a breakdown in this process. Insulin is either absent or poorly used, so glucose stays in the bloodstream. Glucose that stays in the bloodstream causes blood glucose levels to rise.

Types of Diabetes
There are three types of diabetes. Each type occurs for a different reason. All three types cause high blood glucose levels.
  • Type 1 Diabetes – The immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The cells stop making insulin, meaning that the body can’t use glucose for energy. That is why people with type 1 diabetes need insulin injections every day to stay alive.
  • Type 2 Diabetes – The pancreas does not make enough insulin or the body cannot use insulin properly, or, in many cases, it is a combination of both. Because of this, glucose is unable to get into the body cells to be used for energy. Treatment for type 2 diabetes includes a food plan and exercise. Sometimes diabetes pills or insulin injections are needed.
  • Gestational Diabetes – In some women, the hormonal changes of the third trimester of pregnancy demand more insulin than the body can make. Sometimes, blood glucose levels can be controlled with a food plan and exercise. If not, then insulin injections or a diabetes pill may be needed during the pregnancy.
What This Means For Your Health
When the body lacks insulin and cannot use glucose for energy, it may start to burn fat. Fat is the body’s second source of energy, after glucose. Burning fat may seem like a good thing, but it can create a buildup of acids in the urine and blood called ketones. Ketones are a sign that your blood glucose level may be very high. This can cause a serious chemical imbalance in your body.

Blood glucose control is your primary treatment goal. If blood glucose is very high over a long period of time, you can have other health problems, such as blindness, amputation, increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, kidney failure. You can help prevent this from happening by following a diabetes treatment plan. Your treatment plan is based on what your body needs. By working with your doctor, dietitian, and/or Certified Diabetes Educator, you will learn about the type of medication you need, as well as develop individualized food and activity plans.

When you work with your doctor, dietitian and/or certified diabetes educator, you will develop a personal food plan that usually includes three meals per day. It may also include 1-2 snacks. It is an individual plan because it is based on what and when you like to eat, your lifestyle and your health needs.
For more specific information or help, talk to your health care provider. The American Diabetes Association's National Call Center also offers live advice from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday at 1-800-DIABETES or 1-800-342-2383.
This article has been reviewed and approved by Amy L. Poetker, MS, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator.

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Member Comments

  • LMBOWMAN1963
    I would also recommend a nutri-bullet to any diabetic as well. My A1C has gone down .3, from 6.5 to 6.2 since I started to do nutri-blasts daily. You don't have to do the nutri-bullet but should juice several days during the week to get the full benefit of getting those extra fruits and veggies in. I do green, so they have kale, spinach, carrots, all kinds of fruits. I usually have at least 5 in one and add some flax or some type of seeds to the blend.. Tastes good and is helping with weight loss and diet control. I absolutely attribute my A1C going down to this one thing!
  • I was diagnosed 8 years ago and it is a struggle fighting with food and carbs but the true thing is it can be control type 2 with diet and execise, you must workout any 30 minutes and a little strength training will help all of us my a1c was a 12 and now I am down to a 7.6 and hoping when I return I will get a better number...when I first was told I cryed and I really was scared to eat I think when I was told everything hit me and I thought about my older brother who had been fighting with it for years but had a poor diet and died form it. I think it scared 20 pounds off me because everything you touch has an affect with your blood sugar....I read and took a nutrition class that my doctor sit up for me and it really help you learn what's really going on in your world for all those who's confused ask your doctor to sit up an nutrition class for you and it will help with your confusion and how to stay healthy....I been eating poorly lately and its time to get serious been time but now I need to lose weight because I was also born with "pkd " polycystic kidney disease. may god be with us all.
    Hello i,m new to sparks an i have diabeties type 2 an im looking to try an an change my ways of eating correctly.Ihad blood work done today my cholesterol is high an so is my a1c i'm looking for any ideas or help to things lowered back down to normal.My goal is get everything under control an lose weight.
    Been a type 1 diabetic for almost 30 yrs never gone to hospital or anything for it, the thing that sucks about having it is now that obamacare has kicked its going to cost me almost $6,000 a yr to stay alive....anyone know of ways I can get gov't assitance on paying for my medication to stay alive? Sad part is I apparently make to much money to get any help.
  • i was diagnosed over 10 years ago, but I believe I was diabetic when I was pregnant over 22 years ago. The doctor did not have me tested and I was thirsty all the time, always going to the bathroom and always wanted some kind of sweets. Yes, some of those affect pregnancy but it was more so back then.
  • I don't agree with the statement that it "won't go away." I have read many studies, and even my doctor stated, that diabetes can be cured with diet, medication and exercise. I know 2 people who, through diet changes and moderate medication, have been able to reverse their course and are no longer on any medication for diabetes. I think that qualifies it as "gone away." One of them lost over 100lbs in about a year and a half and has been off medication for almost 2 years. Fasting glucose, A1C levels have been normal. He only has to have tests once a year now! If it's possible for him, it's possible for anyone. It takes determination and a different approach to food! Good luck to all of those struggling with pre-diabetes and diabetes. It CAN be overcome!
    to finish--but the diagnosis is still pre-diabetes.
    I agree with UREST12009--Docto
    rs don't always explain things, instead they give you papers to read. It can all be very confusing--they told me I am pre-diabetes, I take blood tests which consistently give good readings. But the
  • Good article but I think it should be added that women who get gestational diabetes are at higher risk of succumbing to diabetes later on. It happened to someone I know.
  • I was diagnosed with type 2 about 2 years ago but haven't been good about eating a balanced meal. The hard part was even with eating wrong my blood work since has been good as the pills are controlling it. However, I know the effects from bad choices will add up so I have signed up with SparkPeople to take responsibility for myself. I want to lose the excess weight and commit to a healthy lifestyle.

    Good article, I'd forgotten exactly how diabetes affects the body.
  • It seems that all of the medications for my type 2 diabetes makes me really sick. So, I haven't been taking any metformin or Victosa and my sugar levels have been fine. I must be controlling it with diet.
  • i found out i was diabetic in late january 2007. at first i was on inslin shots 4 times a day. i did a lot of studing and learning on my own on how to get my BS down. in january of 2009 i was so in control of my BS that the doctor put me on pills so i do not have to inject inslin anymore. my A1c is at a 6 which is very close to being what a normal persons should be without meds. the more i have learned about what i have and how to deal with it is the key to my success. ask question if you dont undersand something and if you dont get answers keep asking other doctors until you get answers. it is you body you have the right to know how to take care of it.
    good luck everyone.
    We have more experience with diabetes than just about any family I know. My husband has type 2, our daughter has type 1, and I had gestational while pregnant with our daughter. I hope to see a cure in at least my daughter's lifetime, but the disease is treatable. You can live, and live well, with diabetes. Our daughter is my inspiration and living proof of that.
  • It is hard but with meds and support from others I will be able to control my diabetes
  • I am also newly diagnosed as a Diabetic, and having problems understanding what it all means. It is confusing reading about pre-diabetes, dibetes, and the glucose tests are confusing to me. My doctor just told me, "you have diabetes", and they gave me papers to read. I am confused about my A1C Fasting Glucose test results and if they do mean I have Diabetes or pre-diabetes. From what I read, the numbers at the different times during the test, (fasting/1/2 hr/1 hr/2hrs/3hrs) I don't know if what my numbers show for sure. Anyone knowledgeable about these numbers and what they show? I have already started eating better, losing weight slowly and exercising more, so now need to have my qestions answered for peace of mind. I am not happy with my doctor over how she handled my latest heath issues.

About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

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