This is a high-level, unscientific explanation of type 2 diabetes. I wrote it because many of my friends and family thought I had to now take insulin shots, which isn’t the case. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are as different as lemons and limes.
When you have type 2 diabetes, it means that your body doesn’t process sugar (glucose) very well. It means that the sugar level in your bloodstream is generally too high. And when it remains too high for too long, that leads to complications like kidney failure, blindness and nerve damage down the road.
How does it get too high?
All of the cells in your body need sugar for energy (and just about everything else that you do, like keeping your heart beating, for example). When you eat, your body breaks the food down into sugar. At the same time, insulin (which is produced in the pancreas) is released into the bloodstream and acts like a key that opens the door to those cells so the sugar can get in and be turned into energy and burned for fuel. When you have type 2 diabetes, the “door” on the cell doesn’t open all the way, which means all the glucose it needs cannot enter. It’s kind of like one those hotel safety chains that let you only open the door a couple of inches or so. This is called “insulin resistance” because the door is resisting letting all of the glucose it needs get through. Because it cannot all get through, the sugar starts building up in your blood stream instead.
To lower the level of sugar in your blood, doctors usually recommend diet low in sugar as well as foods that break down and produce sugars when digested (e.g. starchy foods like white bread and potatoes, rice, and pasta). They also recommend managing how much of these starches (and sugars) you eat at every meal so that your levels are relatively constant throughout the day. And they will usually prescribe an oral medication to help the body reduce the amount of glucose in the blood stream. That’s the regimen that I’m on: Diet, exercise, and pills.
So, to recap, my pancreas is working just fine and it’s producing all the insulin I need. It’s just that my cells don’t want to let the sugar in. The cells are a little broken right now…which is why I started this blog. I want to learn how to fix them with food.
I’ve read a few book over the last few weeks that say you can reverse the symptoms and control diabetes through diet alone. None of them subscribe the the ADA guidelines, and some look easier to follow than others. I’m trying to find out which are the best meals for controlling diabetes, while at the same time making sure the food is easy to prepare and delicious. I’d also prefer to find a diet that doesn’t make me count ‘exchanges’ or limit my portions. I want it to be all about good food, not math. In other words, I want a diet that isn’t like a diet at all. Just good eating.
It’s a tall order, I know. I’m meeting with my nutritionist tomorrow for the first time. She’s certainly going to have her hands full with this patient.