Some of these problems are skin conditions anyone can have, but people with diabetes get more easily. These include bacterial infections, fungal infections, and itching. Other skin problems happen mostly or only to people with diabetes. These include diabetic dermopathy, necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum, diabetic blisters, and eruptive xanthomatosis.
“For me it’s a personal challenge – going from being completely 100% sedentary to climbing the highest mountain in Africa. One thing I’ve learnt on this journey is that I’m capable of so much more than I ever thought possible – and this is just another way of proving that to myself. It’s also a way of showing people with diabetes that there is always greatness within you; that you have the power to change your diagnosis and your destiny one step at a time.”
People with diabetes are unable to control the level of sugar in their blood, usually due to a breakdown in how their bodies use the hormone insulin. It’s not completely clear how obesity can contribute to diabetes, but it is known that excess weight is associated with chronic inflammation and a dysfunctional metabolism. And these factors in turn make it easier for someone to stop responding to the presence of insulin as easily as they once did. So by using surgery to help very obese people with diabetes lose weight, the logic goes, you can indirectly treat or prevent the condition. But doctors such as David Cummings, a senior investigator at the University of Washington’s Diabetes & Obesity Center of Excellence, are pushing back against this way of thinking.
Some research, however, suggests a more drastic dietary change. A 2017 literature review concluded that “whole-foods, plant-based diet—legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, with limited or no intake of refined foods and animal products—are highly beneficial for preventing and treating type 2 diabetes.” A 2018 study found that overweight people who switched to a vegan diet for 16 weeks showed improvements in insulin sensitivity compared to a control group.
Be sure to choose a trusted physical therapist who understands neuropathy, diabetic or otherwise, to help you work through physical therapy methods in order to prevent further nerve damage. Proper attention to physical activity by an expert can prevent any further issues from occurring. Also keep in mind that physical therapy can soothe diabetic nerve pain, but not cure it.
For over a decade, Cummings and others have tried to reframe the very concept of bariatric surgery (they prefer “metabolic surgery”). Their work has shown these procedures just don’t change how much food the stomach can fit; they trigger a cascade of metabolic and bodily changes, many of which help people with type 2 diabetes naturally get their blood sugar under control. Some changes even start happening before a patient loses weight, such as higher levels of peptide production in the gut that seem to restore a patient’s sensitivity to insulin.
Some studies show that certain plant foods may help your body fight inflammation and use insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar. Cinnamon extracts can improve sugar metabolism, triggering insulin release, which also boosts cholesterol metabolism. Clove oil extracts (eugenol) have been found to help insulin work and to lower glucose, total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides. An unidentified compound in coffee (not caffeine) may enhance insulin sensitivity and lower the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
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.
When Dan Hamilton was diagnosed with T1D in 1972, the doctor told him he wouldn’t live past 50. Fast forward 45 years, and Dan is strong and healthy at 59. He credits his health to the advancements in treatment and care over the years. He has been an early adopter of every technology that has come along, and exercises regularly as part of a healthy lifestyle.
For 15 years, Erez Benari’s struggle with his type 2 diabetes had been a losing one. A software engineer at Microsoft in Seattle, Washington, Benari had stuck to a restrictive diet that kept him off most carbs, along with regular insulin shots. But still, his high blood sugar levels never dropped, while his health continued to decline. In 2013, the then 39-year-old Benari suffered a heart attack.
The treatment of low blood sugar consists of administering a quickly absorbed glucose source. These include glucose containing drinks, such as orange juice, soft drinks (not sugar-free), or glucose tablets in doses of 15-20 grams at a time (for example, the equivalent of half a glass of juice). Even cake frosting applied inside the cheeks can work in a pinch if patient cooperation is difficult. If the individual becomes unconscious, glucagon can be given by intramuscular injection.
Dr. Fung says he decided to experiment with intermittent fasting because he was frustrated seeing so many diabetic patients with kidney failure. “It occurred to me that fasting was an underutilized therapeutic option for losing weight,” he recalls. “I started doing this five years ago, and a lot of people got incredibly good results – it reversed their diabetes.”
Vanadium is a compound found in tiny amounts in plants and animals. Early studies showed that vanadium normalized blood sugar levels in animals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. When people with diabetes were given vanadium, they had a modest increase in insulin sensitivity and were able to lower their need for insulin. Researchers want to understand how vanadium works in the body, find potential side effects, and set safe dosages.
Even as things stand now, there are a lot of people left out in the cold. A 2016 study, for instance, found that only 41,000 people with diabetes annually get bariatric surgery in the US—fewer than 5 percent of the total new cases diagnosed every year. And the longer someone has diabetes, studies have suggested, the less likely they are to go into remission if they eventually get surgery. Getting those numbers up will not only require changing the minds of insurers, but public opinion, too.