In simple terms diabetes prevents your body converting sugars and starches in your food into energy. The body uses insulin to do this. When diabetes is present the body fails to produce insulin or the insulin it does produce doesn’t work properly (insulin resistance). When we eat food some special cells in our pancreas should produce insulin. The insulin transports glucose, made from carbohydrates in the food, into the cells, where it can be used by the body for energy. Sugars and starches are the most efficient source of food energy and are carried in the blood as glucose.
If insulin isn’t produced, or doesn’t work, the glucose builds up in the bloodstream instead of the cells, causing the common symptoms of diabetes: Lethargy; carbohydrate cannot be converted into energy Frequent passing water; the body flushes excess glucose down the toilet. Thirst; the body attempts to replace lost fluid. Repeated infections; bugs love sugar. Weight loss; predominantly in type 1 diabetes. Visual changes; due to temporary changes in lens shape. Symptoms are more often to be found in people with type 1 diabetes. What are the different types of diabetes?
In type 1 diabetes the pancreas fails to produce insulin and insulin injections are required for life. In type 2 diabetes the cause is generally weight related. If you are slim it is likely your body is not producing enough insulin to convert the carbohydrate you eat into energy. You may need tablets and/or insulin to help. If you are overweight it is more likely that insulin resistance is responsible. Reducing your weight and being physically active will improve your insulin’s activity but you may need medication or insulin to help. Causes of diabetes The cause of type 1 is unknown but it is thought to be an auto-immune process.
In effect the body produces antibodies to the pancreas, damaging it and preventing it producing insulin. Type 1 only affects about 15% of all people with diabetes and it usually starts below the age of 40. Type 2, however, is more likely to affect older people, although it is being found increasingly in younger people — especially if overweight and lacking in physical activity. Type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to obesity and tends to run in families. It is more prevalent in South Asians and Afro-Caribbeans. Many people with type 2 diabetes have high blood pressure and cholesterol and you may need tablets to control these too.
Carbohydrates People with diabetes are often encouraged to avoid sugary foods and eat plenty of starchy foods. It is worth remembering that all starchy foods are digested to form glucose and will raise blood glucose levels after eating. The main type of nutrient in food that affects blood glucose levels is called carbohydrate, often referred to as ‘carbs’. Carbohydrates are found mainly in starchy and sugary foods. Examples of foods containing carbohydrate are: • Starchy foods including all types of bread, potatoes, pasta, noodles and rice. All breakfast cereals.
• Any product made with flour including pastry, pizza, crackers and baked goods. • Dried peas and beans including baked beans and mushy peas. • Sugary foods. Including cakes, chocolates, jams, squashes and fizzy drinks. • Foods containing natural sugar. All fruit contains a natural sugar called fructose. Milk contains a natural sugar called lactose. Including some of these starchy foods is a useful way of providing your body with the essential energy that it needs. The challenge is to get the balance between meeting your energy needs and maintaining blood glucose levels.