Nerve damage from diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy and is also caused by disease of small blood vessels. In essence, the blood flow to the nerves is limited, leaving the nerves without blood flow, and they get damaged or die as a result (a term known as ischemia). Symptoms of diabetic nerve damage include numbness, burning, and aching of the feet and lower extremities. When the nerve disease causes a complete loss of sensation in the feet, patients may not be aware of injuries to the feet, and fail to properly protect them. Shoes or other protection should be worn as much as possible. Seemingly minor skin injuries should be attended to promptly to avoid serious infections. Because of poor blood circulation, diabetic foot injuries may not heal. Sometimes, minor foot injuries can lead to serious infection, ulcers, and even gangrene, necessitating surgical amputation of toes, feet, and other infected parts.
Joyce Lashof, then the dean of Berkeley’s School of Public Health, remembers that wellness was initially a tough sell at the school. Not much was known on campus about the earlier work of Travis and his fellow wellness advocates, but Lashof’s colleagues associated the term wellness with the “flakiness” of Mill Valley and surrounding Marin County. The NBC newsman Edwin Newman had televised an exposé of Marin County’s hedonistic lifestyle, which notoriously opened with a woman getting a peacock-feather massage from two nude men. The Berkeley Wellness Letter, however, managed to avoid such unseemly associations by publishing serious, evidence-based articles on health promotion, while debunking many of the holistic health fads of the day.
Certain drugs that affect the brain can help to control chronic pain. Antidepressants in the class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which include duloxetine (Cymbalta), are often prescribed for pain. So are tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) such as amitriptyline (Elavil). SSRIs often boost energy, while TCAs can make you sleepy. According to the Harvard Medical School website, “Some physicians prescribe an SSRI during the day and amitriptyline at bedtime for pain patients.”
Diabetes experts feel that these blood glucose monitoring devices give patients a significant amount of independence to manage their disease process; and they are a great tool for education as well. It is also important to remember that these devices can be used intermittently with fingerstick measurements. For example, a well-controlled patient with diabetes can rely on fingerstick glucose checks a few times a day and do well. If they become ill, if they decide to embark on a new exercise regimen, if they change their diet and so on, they can use the sensor to supplement their fingerstick regimen, providing more information on how they are responding to new lifestyle changes or stressors. This kind of system takes us one step closer to closing the loop, and to the development of an artificial pancreas that senses insulin requirements based on glucose levels and the body's needs and releases insulin accordingly - the ultimate goal.
The water was in boxes because Wellspring purposely forwent wasteful plastic bottles—a half measure, after inviting thousands of people to exercise in the desert. The water was alkaline because that’s a trendy new way to sell people water, and its maker was a sponsor of the festival. The class, too, was sponsored, an Adidas logo projected onto the wall. Outside was a food truck selling Bulletproof concoctions with “brain octane oil.” In a capacious central cavern was “one of the world’s largest wellness exhibitions,” where vendors pitched cosmetics and supplements and bars and tonics. On offer were complimentary CBD-oil massages (sponsored by the seller of said oils) and a balancing of people’s sacral chakras with something called a BioCharger (trademark), “a natural cellular revitalization platform that uses a full spectrum of light and harmonic frequencies to deliver restorative energy” and that promises to help with “creativity, sexuality, and acceptance of new experiences.”
Taking 200 micrograms of chromium picolinate three times daily with meals can help improve insulin sensitivity. A review published in Diabetes Technology and Therapeutics evaluated 13 studies that reported significant improvement in glycemic control and substantial reductions in hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia after patients used chromium picolinate supplementation. Other positive outcomes from supplementing with chromium picolinate included reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels and reduced requirements for hypoglycemic medication. (14)
Kidney damage from diabetes is called diabetic nephropathy. The onset of kidney disease and its progression is extremely variable. Initially, diseased small blood vessels in the kidneys cause the leakage of protein in the urine. Later on, the kidneys lose their ability to cleanse and filter blood. The accumulation of toxic waste products in the blood leads to the need for dialysis. Dialysis involves using a machine that serves the function of the kidney by filtering and cleaning the blood. In patients who do not want to undergo chronic dialysis, kidney transplantation can be considered.
When you have diabetes, it’s important to avoid eating many packaged, processed snacks such as cookies, chips, cake, granola bars, and the like, in lieu of fresh, whole foods, like fiber-rich fruits, veggies, and whole grains. (27) Eating foods high in fiber can help keep blood sugar levels steady and fill you up, potentially promoting weight loss and improving insulin sensitivity. (28)
Exercise naturally supports your metabolism by burning fat and building lean muscle. To prevent and reverse diabetes, make exercise a part of your daily routine. This doesn’t necessary mean that you have to spend time at the gym. Simple forms of physical activity, like getting outside and walking for 20 to 30 minute every day, can be extremely beneficial, especially after meals. Practicing yoga or stretching at home or in a studio is another great option.
Replacing humans with computers could make patients better control their sugar levels and suffer less complications in the long term. The French company Cellnovo has already shown that just a partially automated system, where blood sugar levels can be monitored wirelessly but patients still select insulin amounts, can reduce the chances of reaching life-threatening low sugar levels up to 39%. The company is now working towards developing a fully automated artificial pancreas in collaboration with Imperial College, the Diabeloop consortium and the Horizon2020 program.
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Nerves help orchestrate this digestive tour de force, says Bragg, by telling the muscles what to do. Uncontrolled diabetes, though, can damage the nerves, leading to some GI missteps. “It has to do with hyperglycemia [high blood glucose],” says Bragg. “We don’t know the exact mechanism.” We do know that blood glucose control can both prevent and improve GI dysfunction.
A whole range of issues start to crop up when diabetes is left untreated. Excess sugar in the blood can lead to more persistent yeast infections (yeast love sugar). High blood sugar can also affect blood flow, which leads to slower healing for sores and wounds. Over time, the condition can lead to Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), which causes blood vessels to narrow, lending to a condition called peripheral neuropathy that results in a person not feeling pain. And without a sense of pain after an injury or development of an ulcer, the patient may not realize the wound is progressing – amputation may even be required to save him or her from sepsis.
There are some interesting developments in blood glucose monitoring including continuous glucose sensors. The new continuous glucose sensor systems involve an implantable cannula placed just under the skin in the abdomen or in the arm. This cannula allows for frequent sampling of blood glucose levels. Attached to this is a transmitter that sends the data to a pager-like device. This device has a visual screen that allows the wearer to see, not only the current glucose reading, but also the graphic trends. In some devices, the rate of change of blood sugar is also shown. There are alarms for low and high sugar levels. Certain models will alarm if the rate of change indicates the wearer is at risk for dropping or rising blood glucose too rapidly. One version is specifically designed to interface with their insulin pumps. In most cases the patient still must manually approve any insulin dose (the pump cannot blindly respond to the glucose information it receives, it can only give a calculated suggestion as to whether the wearer should give insulin, and if so, how much). However, in 2013 the US FDA approved the first artificial pancreas type device, meaning an implanted sensor and pump combination that stops insulin delivery when glucose levels reach a certain low point. All of these devices need to be correlated to fingersticks measurements for a few hours before they can function independently. The devices can then provide readings for 3 to 5 days.
Diabetes can also result from other hormonal disturbances, such as excessive growth hormone production (acromegaly) and Cushing's syndrome. In acromegaly, a pituitary gland tumor at the base of the brain causes excessive production of growth hormone, leading to hyperglycemia. In Cushing's syndrome, the adrenal glands produce an excess of cortisol, which promotes blood sugar elevation.