Diabetes mellitus, usually referred to as simply “diabetes”, is a syndrome of recognizable signs and symptoms. Generally speaking, its cause is a disordered metabolism stemming from a combination of inherited and environmental factors resulting in high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia). Chronic hyperglycemia causes damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart, and blood vessels.
Blood glucose levels are controlled by the hormone insulin made in the beta cells of the pancreas. The two common forms of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1, or insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, is due to a diminished production of insulin. Type 2, or non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, is a diminished response by the body to insulin. Both lead to hyperglycemia, which causes the acute signs of diabetes: excessive urine production, thirst, increased fluid intake, blurred vision, unexplained weight loss, lethargy, and changes in energy metabolism.
Type 2 diabetes mellitus is characterized by insulin resistance and/or an insulin secretory defect of the beta cells of the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes mellitus and is highly associated with a family history of diabetes, older age, diet, obesity, and lack of exercise. It is more common in women with a history of gestational diabetes, and in African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans.
If you have just been told you have diabetes, you probably have a lot of questions and you may feel uncertain of what to do. It may help to know you’re not alone. In the U.S. nearly 16 million people have diabetes. The best thing you can do for yourself is to learn all you can about the condition. Although diabetes is difficult to treat, the good news is that diabetic complications can often be prevented. Working with your physician to develop a plan involving proper diet, exercise, supplements, and sometimes medications, you can control your blood sugar level, and be able to live a long and healthy life.
Currently, only one half of the people who have diabetes mellitus have been diagnosed and many remain undiagnosed for up to 10 years. Screening for diabetes mellitus should begin at 45 years of age and should be repeated every three years in persons without risk factors, and should begin earlier and be repeated more often in those with risk factors. Risk factors include obesity, first-degree relatives with diabetes, hypertension, high triglycerides, or previous evidence of impaired glucose homeostasis. The earlier you can be diagnosed with diabetes, the better reduction of the severity of complications associated with this disease.
Along with a personal medical history and physical exam, a fasting glucose level is determined. Having two or more abnormal levels of fasting glucose of 126 mg per dL or higher is enough to confirm the diagnosis of diabetes mellitus. Persons with plasma glucose levels ranging from 110 to 126 mg per dL are said to have impaired fasting glucose.
The role of a physician is to empower patients to achieve their treatment goals. The fact that many patients don’t show symptoms at the beginning of this illness can lead to a decrease of patient compliance. Thus, the best course of action continues to be the education of the patient about this disease.
Five kinds of diabetic medicines are available in pill form. Your doctor can decide which medicines are right for you. Also, your doctor may prescribe a combination of 2 or even 3 types of medicines to help control your blood sugar levels. Some combinations are available together in one pill.
While all these medicines have good points and bad points, the key is keeping your blood sugar normal. Although conventional treatment relies heavily on oral pharmaceuticals, the good news is that naturopathic medicine can provide more choices than just pharmaceuticals. With our extensive nutrition education we can provide the patient nutritional therapies along with exercise and mind/body protocols. And last, but not least, a regimen of specialized supplements is critical to establish metabolic control and restoration of key metabolic pathways.
In summary, the keys to living with diabetes are education, and commitment to better health. Finding a physician who can help you understand and develop a plan of action is the first step toward wellness.