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.
In type 2 diabetes the body has an increasingly harder time to handle all the sugar in the blood. Large amounts of the blood sugar-lowering hormone insulin are produced, but it’s still not enough, as insulin sensitivity decreases. At the time of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, diabetics usually have ten times more insulin in their bodies than normal. As a side effect, this insulin stores fat and causes weight gain, something that has often been in progress for many years before the disease was diagnosed.
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The first step to treating diabetes is testing to determine if a person has the condition in the first place. Routine screening of type 2 diabetes is recommended after the age of 45 by the American Diabetes Association, especially for overweight individuals. Those who are living a sedentary lifestyle or have complicating risks for cardiovascular disease or other metabolic diseases are more likely to be screened earlier. After determining if a patient has diabetes, a physician will usually recommend they undergo a lifestyle change towards healthy diet and exercise, but most people also require the help of diabetes medications and insulin therapy.
Glucagon is a hormone that causes the release of glucose from the liver (for example, it promotes gluconeogenesis). Glucagon can be lifesaving and every patient with diabetes who has a history of hypoglycemia (particularly those on insulin) should have a glucagon kit. Families and friends of those with diabetes need to be taught how to administer glucagon, since obviously the patients will not be able to do it themselves in an emergency situation. Another lifesaving device that should be mentioned is very simple; a medic-alert bracelet should be worn by all patients with diabetes.
Many herbal remedies have been used to reduce inflammation and pain. Writing in the online publication U.S. Pharmacist, Antoine Al-Achi, PhD, a Professor of Pharmaceutics at the Campbell University School of Pharmacy in North Carolina, reported that bromelain (pineapple enzyme), curcumin (an antioxidant found in turmeric), echinacea, chamomile, ginger, and arnica have shown anti-inflammatory effects. Preparations of these plant-based supplements are widely available at health-food stores. If you would like to try one or more of these supplements, speak to your doctor first about possible side effects and drug interactions.
Diabetes was one of the first diseases described, with an Egyptian manuscript from c. 1500 BCE mentioning "too great emptying of the urine". The Ebers papyrus includes a recommendation for a drink to be taken in such cases. The first described cases are believed to be of type 1 diabetes. Indian physicians around the same time identified the disease and classified it as madhumeha or "honey urine", noting the urine would attract ants.
Efforts to cure or stop type 1 diabetes are still in the early stages, and these approaches will also not be suitable for people that have already lost their insulin-producing cells. A solution could be the creation of an “artificial pancreas” — a fully automated system that can measure glucose levels and inject the right amount of insulin into the bloodstream, just like a healthy pancreas would.
I was diagnosed as a Type I diabetic in October 1993. I was traveling at the time, and I felt lethargic, I was always thirsty, and I was having trouble concentrating. When I returned home, I went for a checkup, and the doctor confirmed my condition. From that day forward, I’ve been injecting myself with insulin every day. Before I switched to an insulin pump in 2011, I calculated that I had given myself about 30,000 needles. That’s a lot of jabbing.
People with diabetes can benefit from education about the disease and treatment, good nutrition to achieve a normal body weight, and exercise, with the goal of keeping both short-term and long-term blood glucose levels within acceptable bounds. In addition, given the associated higher risks of cardiovascular disease, lifestyle modifications are recommended to control blood pressure.
The results of his medical tests are still being analyzed, Darkes said, but he hasn't needed insulin injections for a year and a half. "It took a long time to sink in," he noted. But Darkes is confident he no longer has type 1 diabetes. He said that doctors told him that he has a "rare" gene that somehow facilitated his cure. "I'm the only one who carries [the gene], at the moment," and there's no further explanation so far, he said.
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.