Diabetes mellitus, also known as diabetes, is a metabolic disease that affects many different parts of the body. Diabetes leads to elevated blood glucose levels because of a deficiency of the hormone insulin and/or reduced insulin action. The hormone insulin regulates how much glucose, or blood sugar, is released into cells to be used as energy.
Type 1 diabetes cannot be cured. However, the combination of a healthier diet and a more active lifestyle, along with the right medications, can significantly improve quality of life.
Each type of diabetes has in common that the body either does not produce enough insulin on its own or cannot adequately use the insulin that is produced.
The body needs insulin to transport blood sugar into the cells. There it is stored and converted into energy. If the body cannot secrete or use enough insulin itself, the blood sugar accumulates in the bloodstream instead of in the cells, and hyperglycemia, also called high blood sugar, can result.
Type 1 diabetes is most commonly diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults and accounts for only about 15% of total cases detected. Type 1 diabetes is almost always triggered by an autoimmune reaction, whereby immune system defense cells attack and destroy the insulin-producing beta cells in the patient’s own body, resulting in little or no insulin being produced. Together with the alpha cells, which produce the blood sugar-increasing hormone glucagon, the beta cells are located in the pancreas, from where the hormones insulin and glucagon are released directly into the blood.
Although the causes of this autoimmune reaction are unclear, environmental factors, viral infections or hereditary factors probably promote the development of type 1 diabetes.
Since the pancreas produces little or no insulin, affected individuals must inject insulin daily to maintain stable blood glucose levels and avoid hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia and secondary diseases resulting from the fluctuations.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and is usually diagnosed in adults. Type 2 diabetes is caused by factors such as hereditary factors, obesity, lack of exercise, insulin insensitivity, impaired insulin secretion and impaired production of certain intestinal hormones.
Lifestyle and diet are decisive for the development of type 2 diabetes. Despite a hereditary predisposition, the disease does not necessarily develop. An unhealthy diet, severe obesity and lack of exercise promote insulin resistance. The cells of the body, especially those of the liver and muscles, no longer respond properly to insulin. Obesity promotes insulin resistance because fatty tissue (especially that on the abdomen) sends out corresponding messenger substances. Lack of exercise also increases insulin resistance in muscle cells. Liver, muscle and fat cells are no longer able to effectively absorb and process blood glucose and use it for energy production. The risk group for type 2 diabetes includes people who are 45 years of age or older, suffer from severe obesity, do not exercise regularly, and have a hereditary predisposition.
Since insulin production is out of balance in type 2 diabetes, patients may need to inject themselves with insulin or take medications such as metformin if blood glucose levels do not return to normal through dietary changes and adequate exercise. Metformin inhibits the formation of new glucose in the liver, leading to improved glucose utilization.
About 8% of pregnant women suffer from gestational diabetes. This is when the body is no longer able to produce the additional insulin needed during pregnancy. This can result in a risk for the child to later suffer from obesity or type 2 diabetes itself. Gestational diabetes does not become noticeable until about the 20th week of pregnancy and usually subsides on its own after the pregnancy ends. What remains is an increased risk for the mother to develop type 2 diabetes herself.
During pregnancy, women need to stick to a healthy and balanced diet plan and get enough exercise regularly to keep blood glucose levels low. If these measures fail to lower blood glucose levels, women must inject themselves with insulin.
Prediabetes is also called hidden diabetes because blood glucose levels are permanently elevated, but not high enough to be recognized as diabetes. However, if prediabetes is left untreated, in many cases it leads to type 2 diabetes. So many people don’t know they have prediabetes.
However, it can be counteracted by changing lifestyle habits, such as reducing stress, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Taking medication can also be useful in some cases.
Severely elevated blood glucose levels are often manifested by the following symptoms:
frequent need to urinate
strong feeling of thirst or hunger
tiredness and lack of drive
sudden weight loss
blurred and darkened vision
tingling in hands and feet
wound healing problems
A very high blood glucose level in type 1 diabetes can even lead to nausea and vomiting, impaired consciousness and unconsciousness (diabetic coma).
The most important thing in diabetes treatment is to keep blood glucose levels in balance and constantly lowered. In this way, not only is the patient’s well-being significantly improved, but the risk of serious diseases (e.g. heart, kidney, brain, eye or foot diseases) is also reduced by almost 50% in the long term.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet: Helping to achieve individual goals can be aided by the support of a professional nutritionist.
Regular physical activity: Physical activity and exercise help lower blood sugar levels and can make a big difference, especially in type 2 diabetes.
Weight loss: Getting back to a normal weight can significantly reduce the risk of diabetes-related diseases, such as heart disease and stroke, and can even basically cure type 2 diabetes.
Drink enough: Drinking at least 1 liter of water a day reduces the risk of having elevated blood glucose levels by about 30%.
Avoiding stress: Stress is a factor that is often underestimated. However, the stress hormone released, cortisol, inhibits the body’s ability to use insulin effectively and thus contributes to elevated blood glucose levels.
For diabetics, a balanced and healthy diet is of enormous importance. On the one hand, a conscious diet helps to lose weight. On the other hand, some foods can also directly influence blood sugar levels. This is particularly the case with carbohydrates and dietary fiber.
Carbohydrates: When choosing carbohydrates, diabetics should make sure that only suitable carbohydrates end up on their plates, such as whole grain products (preferably coarse-grained), brown rice and legumes. Compared to products with refined or isolated sugar, these foods cause blood sugar levels to rise only slowly.
Dietary fiber: foods with a high dietary fiber content are more difficult to digest and the sugar does not enter the blood directly. As a result, blood sugar rises more slowly after a meal and also falls more slowly again. Diabetics should therefore make sure that they eat enough fiber, for example by eating fruit, vegetables, beans and whole-grain products.
Planning meals and small snacks as part of a diabetes diet helps keep blood glucose levels constantly in balance. An experienced dietitian offers useful guidance in creating a diet plan that takes into account one’s individual needs.
Metabolic surgery, also known as diabetes surgery, is primarily aimed at improving metabolic disorders. In this context, type 2 diabetes mellitus is the focus of the treatments.
An appropriate operation already brings about a noticeable alleviation of symptoms through the weight loss achieved alone. However, the metabolic situation also undergoes a significant improvement as a result of the operations on the gastrointestinal tract, which has a positive effect on the overall condition of the patient. A weakening of the side and secondary diseases and the strong weight loss together lead to an increase in the quality of life and a higher life expectancy.
Our Care Team is always available to answer any questions you may have about diabetes and diabetes surgery. Contact us here for a free consultation.