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

    I want to ward off Diabetes, that's why I'm here at SPARK to motivate me to eat well and exercise to lose weight! Thank you for the great article!
    Thank you for the article.
  • Because I just can't come to terms with being 145 pounds I often tetter between not being or type 2 diabetes. I have to let my subconscious STOP being the boss of me! I need to be my best healthy self since the 90s.
  • Excellent article. Good information to help you make good food choices!
  • Great article. I was a diabetic for 8 years taking Metformin, but not exercising or having a diet plan. 5 months ago I landed in the hospital with a 810 glucose reading and an A1C of 13.8 % going into a coma and cardiac arrest. Leaving the hospital I was ordered to take an average of 81 units of insulin a day to survive.
    Today I walk/jog 10 miles every morning at 4:30 am, I prepare myself well planned meals, eating vegetables 5 times a day.
    I have lost 54 pounds and have gone to a 22.4 BMI fat percentage, gone from a 41" waist to a 32" waist. Currently taking only 10 units of insulin. My A1C was 5.4% my blood sugar average being 90.
    Monday, 7/17/2017 I will see my diabetic Doctor and the plans are to eliminate all medication I'm taking as the result of what I am doing.
    As a bonus, my blood pressure medication has been reduced and my cholesterol medication has been eliminated.
    All thanks to this program.
  • Awesome Blog! I've been a Diabetic 2 for many years. I started out on pills, then went to injection, not insulin.
  • Great information
  • Good article. I have started using my vita mix finally and has been a big help with fruits and veggies
  • 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.

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.