- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Diabetes - The Myths Versus The Truth
The Truth About Diabetes
In the last several years, diabetes has become a buzzword. Everyone's heard of it and every comedian makes jokes about it. I always groan a little bit when I hear yet another sitcom make the same joke about how eating too much candy is going to give them diabetes. It's often the Halloween episodes.
Diabetes is a misunderstood disease. After years of watching loved ones struggle with it and being diagnosed myself, I've learned a lot of things about diabetes that most people misunderstand. Below, I have listed several myths and explained why afterwards.
Myth: Diabetics Can't Eat Sugar
Diabetics are generally allowed to eat anything. It's more about portion control and balance than anything else. A diabetic can eat a donut, but they might be only able to eat half of one and have to balance it with a vegetable and a protein, for example.
Myth: Diabetics Are Fat
Diabetics come in all shapes and sizes. In fact, this myth prevents many normal and thin people from being diagnosed with diabetes, which can lead to terrible complications for them in the long run.
This myth came about for three reasons:
1. It can be very difficult to lose weight (and very easy to gain weight) when your blood sugar is out of control.
2. One of the side effects of most diabetic medications is weight gain.
3. It's harder to control your diabetes the more you weigh. This does not mean being fat causes diabetes, it just makes it more difficult to control once you already have it.
Myth: Diabetes Is Not A Serious Disease
It's a very serious disease that kills a lot of people every year. It can lead to many complications involving all the organs in your body. Diabetes can cause heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, and liver failure. It can also lead to coma, blindness, losing limbs, and losing all your teeth.
Diabetes tends to make your body struggle to control everything else. When diabetics get sick, they get more sick than other people. It's harder for them to fight off infections and heal when they accidentally cut themselves or bruise. It throws all their other numbers off, like cholesterol and blood pressure, which is why diabetics must take comprehensive blood tests on a regular basis.
Myth: Diabetes Is Easy To Control
Doctors say this a lot, but it isn't true. Diabetes is possible to control, but it can take a lot of work. It's easy to become pessimistic when prescription drugs that used to work in the past do not anymore or when complications make it impossible to exercise. During those times, it's easy to get sad and feel like things are too difficult.
Having diabetes is not merely about eating right. You can argue that eating right is easy, but normal people who eat right don't have to poke themselves with needles all day or visit the doctor four times a year. They don't have to deal with complications and their blood sugar doesn't ricochet out of control because they missed one day of exercise. They are not at risk when they skip a meal and they don't have to deal with the side effects of prescription drugs.
Diabetes is complicated and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Myth: All You Need To Control Your Blood Sugar Is Medication
Medication helps a lot and it's really important, but if a diabetic eats poorly, they are more at risk for their blood sugar being erratic. While the average (the a1c) might be normal, their blood sugar could be jumping from 30 to 300 during the day and that can be a huge risk to their life and health.
It's because you want to eat in a way, so that your body is digesting food slowly throughout the day. If you eat a bunch of carbs and your blood sugar spikes to 300, then you take extra insulin to lower it to 140 immediately, but it might drop in an hour when all the food is gone to dangerously low levels because the large amount of medicine you took is still effecting you.
Myth: All Diabetics Take Insulin
All Type 1 diabetics take insulin because they don't have insulin in their body, but Type 2 diabetics can take either insulin or pills. It depends on the diabetic and what works for them.
Myth: Diabetics Did This To Themselves
Most people who eat poorly will never get diabetes.
In my family, both my parents have it. That's why I got it.
I had a friend growing up who got it as a child, she had an autoimmune disorder that caused it.
Those are the two most common reasons I see for people developing diabetes. Other factors make it worse, like being overweight, but you can be as fat as you want and never develop it if you don't have a family history of it.
Myth: Eating Sugar Gives People Diabetes
Eating a lot of sugar may cause you to get diabetes faster if it's already in your genes, but otherwise, it won't effect you. It doesn't give type 1 diabetic children autoimmune diseases that destroy their pancreas and it can't alter your genes and give you type 2 diabetes.
Sugar is also not the only food that effects blood sugar. Bread, pasta, potatoes, milk, fruit, yogurt, and any other food that contains carbs effects blood sugar as well. The body digests carbohydrates and turns it into sugars for the blood to use.
Most people eat many carbs during the day and this is okay as long as their meals are balanced. Diabetics or those with a genetic history of diabetes in their family, may have to cut out most of these carbs though and focus on eating more meat and vegetables.