Understanding how diabetes mellitus affects the body
Diabetes Melitus definition
Diabetes Mellitus (or diabetes for short) is a disease in which the cells of the body do not properly process (absorb) the carbohydrates and sugars that are taken in by mouth for fuel. Diabetes Type I is when the pancreas (which is the organ that produces insulin necessary to absorb the carbohydrates) no longer produces insulin. Insulin must be introduced by other means such as by a needle. Type I Diabetics are often referred to as Juvenile Diabetics because they generally develop the disease in their youth. Diabetes Type II is when the pancreas produces either less insulin or the body has somehow become unable to use the insulin properly. Hypoglycemia (sometimes called Type III Diabetes) is actually the reverse of diabetes in which the pancreas works overtime and produces too much insulin.
Concern over obesity in adults and children
Physicians and nutritionists the world over are constantly voicing their concerns over the obesity trends that now exist and how obesity leads to Type II Diabetes as well as heart disease, clogged arteries, high blood pressure, and dangers of a stroke. They tell people to lose weight or they will find themselves in the top percentile of over-weight to obese adults. Merchants all over the world take advantage of these warnings by offering ‘special’ diets to help people reach their weight loss goal.
Okay, the scare is out and people are paying money to weight loss companies in the hopes of losing weight. But what doctors and merchants don’t tell people is this: anyone who was genetically prone to Type II diabetes didn’t get fat and then develop diabetes; they developed diabetes and then got fat!
Quite the statement, I know:
However, it is true. Yes, being overweight can contribute to diabetes if you are suseptible to it; however, the reason diabetics often gain weight is because the body can not use the carbohydrates and sugars that they eat, so the body stores them as excess fat. As fat, the body can break down the carbohydrates and sugars, but at a much slower rate. Natural sugars and carbohydrates such as apples, orange juice and honey are already partially broken down, because they are natural. They can be more easily processed by the body using less insulin. Insulin, and insulin usage is the problem when it comes to diabetes.
What Type I and Type II Diabetes, and Hypoglycemia are:
The pancreas of a Type I diabetic can no longer produce the insulin that the body needs to use the sugars and carbs as fuel. But it can't store it as fat because it won't be able to use it. As a result, the body disposes of the excess carbs and sugars as waste that is unusable by the body. A person eats because they are hungry, but the body passes it as waste (high sugar levels in the urine and blood). Thus a Type I diabetic often looses weight because their body can’t use the fuel they are eating. They will continue to loose weight until insulin is introduced back into their system so they can absorb and use the fuel. However, it is difficult to regulate the amount of insulin needed and diabetics may gain excess weight during the process until they are stable. Type I diabetics often experience extreme thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger while losing weight, or no hunger at all, and they are constantly fatigued.
Type II diabetics, on the other hand, usually have a pancreas that is working, but the cells of the body can either not use the insulin it produces to process the carbs you take in or, in most cases-the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. The body can still break down the fats, but at a much slower rate. Since the body is producing the insulin, it registers the fact that the body is capable of using the carbs and sugars so it stores them as fat until they are needed. Thus, Type II diabetics usually gain weight and keep gaining no matter how hard they try to lose it (not because they are not eating a proper diet, but because their bodies can no longer process what they eat properly). They may also experience the symptoms of a Type I diabetic (with the exception of weight loss), but often there are no symptoms other than gaining weight.
Another form of diabetes is hypoglycemia. This is when the pancreas produces too much insulin and causes the body to use the carbs and sugars too fast as well as leaving a void which causes the body to crave more food. Someone with hypoglycemia is often extremely active and craves food often because the body has created insulin and has nothing to break down.
Hypoglycemia (or low blood sugar) and Hyperglycemia (or high blood sugar) are technical terms used for diabetics who are having low and high blood sugar levels because of the level of insulin in their system (sometimes known as reactions). This is not to be confused with a Hypoglycemic person who has an overactive pancreas.
A technical explanation
When a person eats, their body begins breaking down the food in the mouth by chewing and the mixing of saliva. Once the food is in the stomach, the acid in the stomach breaks it down further and then it is passed into the intestines where it is passed to the blood. The blood delivers it to the cells for fuel. The cells use insulin to absorb the fuel and use it.
When the body does not use the fuel, it must store the fuel as fats for the body to break down later on. However, the person didn't get the energy they needed when they ate the food so they slow down. Because they slow down, their body needs less food to 'fuel' the body so the fat doesn't get broken down as fuel. The more carbs and sugars that are eaten, the more they are stored. The body, tired, sore, overweight, and suffering from a low fuel tank, now needs to work harder to break down the fats for the fuel it needs to keep going. The person struggles just to keep moving. They try to eat sugars for quick fuel (they usually crave it) but the body stores the sugars because it can't use it. It becomes a vicious circle.
Are you showing signs of diabetes, could you be susceptible?
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But there is hope! Even if you are just trying to lose weight!
People with diabetes (as well as many people who do not have diabetes) can fight back. I have listed several things that anyone can do to help the body work better, store less, and fight back when it comes to diabetes. First, you must remember that once your body starts storing fat, it doesn’t want to burn it. The body likes to keep a large supply ready for emergencies; so it takes much more effort and energy to force the body to burn the fat it has stored. And the body, being a great little machine, will increase your appetite to try to force you to eat more fuel rather than burn its reserves. Be ready to fight back with healthy snacks!
NOTE: Healthy snacks are fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, nuts, and yogurt.
Many sources say that thirst is actually the body requesting water. Funny, I know, but I have tried it and it does work. So the next time you start getting a craving for a chocolate bar after work, try a cold bottle of water instead.
Do not stop eating!
You may think this is the answer; however, when you stop eating, or reduce the amount you eat to a drastically low level, the body believes it is starving and stores what little you do eat while shutting down less important items, like your ability to move or think clearly. You can reduce your portions to a workable level, but try to do it gradually so that the body can adjust rather than going into starving alert. The first step--if you usually take two spoonfuls of potatoes, reduce it to one and one-half and after a week or so, reduce it to one. If you feel hungry between meals, a healthy snack is a good way to stay full and kick those cravings. Still feel like munching? Try sipping water. You will feel full, eat less, and keep your body hydrated.
Reduce the amount of carbohydrates and sugars you take in:
This step is imperative for anyone who wishes to lose weight, but it is even more so with Type II diabetics. Because Type II diabetics’ bodies can no longer use those carbs because they can't use the insulin the pancreas creates,or the pancreas does not create enough insulin. This means that the body must store it as reserves (because the body does create insulin so it does not see the carbs etc. as waste) until it can be broken down. Avoid sugary treats. Avoid additives like butter and sour cream. Avoid things like processed carbs such as deli meats, and hidden carbs such as those in ‘less trans fat’ products. Read labels and learn how things are processed to avoid as many carbs as possible. Of course, some carbs, in small amounts, are actually beneficial to your body, but the key words are ‘small amounts’.
WARNING: Items that say less sugar tend to use sucross or dextross, etc. These are still sugars! Also, if an item is advertising less fats, and better tasting, etc. check the label carefully. Often they will add sugars or sugary items for added flavor to make up for what was removed.
Cinnamon is a natural spice that helps the body work to absorb sugars and carbs by working in conjunction with insulin. It also tastes great. However, be careful that you do not take too much in the dried form (such as trying to swallow a whole spoonful) as this can cause dangerous medical issues. Instead, use it in as many foods as possible. Also, there are capsules that you can take; buy them wherever supplements are sold. (Always talk to your doctor before starting any supplement especially if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.)
you can also try Chromium picolinate. It is a natural substance found in the body that is also used to help the cells absorb food for fuel. When the body is low on this chemical, the body can’t absorb the food as easily or quickly. When the body has begun to store large quantities of carbs and sugars as fats, this supplement will help the body break them down faster. This chemical comes in tablet form so you can take it daily as a supplement. (Always talk to your doctor before starting any supplement especially if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.)
Eat proteins, fruits and vegetables-avoid the salts:
Your body has to work harder to break these items down for energy, but it will store it if it thinks you are starving, so eat enough to keep you full. Also, be careful of the additives here as well. For instance, salads are great, but did you ever look to see how many calories your salad dressing has?
Salt is also bad if used in great quantities. Salt tends to cause the body to retain water which doesn't seem like a big deal, but excess water can cause congestive heart failure, pneumonia and excessive weight gain. Check smoked meats, frozen and canned items, and processed cheeses (to name a few) for their salt levels because salt is also used as a preservative.
I know, I hear the groans, but this one is important. You have to force the body to work harder to break down what it has been storing as fat all this time. In order to do that, you need to eat complicated carbs and proteins, but you also need to move so the body is forced to break down the fats as fuel once the proteins are gone. Does that mean that you have to spend hours a day working out in the gym or on expensive equipment at home? No, it does not. Most of us don’t really have the time or the money for such things. But there are alternatives.
Every movement burns calories
Simple things that you do every day burn energy, so put a little twist in them when you do them. Grab your pen in your right hand and then move it to your left to right (and vice versa for right handed). Do you take a water bottle with a spout on the top for drinking? Take a few extra minutes to open that bottle up and drink. Not only will you drink more water, but you will burn more calories. Get the idea?
Alternatives to long periods of exercise:
Try to find ways throughout your day to cause you to have to do more physical activity. For instance:
- park in the furthest parking spot when you go to work so you will have to walk farther to get to the building (also good for shopping)
- climb the stairs instead of using the elevator
- place things further away so you have to move to get them
- rather than keeping extra things at your desk or work area, get one of the items, when it’s gone, you will have to move to get another one
- walk to the office to talk to co-workers face to face rather than calling them all the time
- use part of your lunch hour to walk around; walk the parking lot, walk the building, walk the hallways, climb up and down the stairs
- take a walk after supper to burn the food you ate so the body will have to tap into the reserves
- If you sit for the majority of your day, try getting up and stretching once in awhile, not only will you get the blood flowing again, but you will be burning extra fuel
Moving is hard, especially if you are overweight; however, it forces the body to use other means to break down the fat cells because you need the energy to keep going. The more you move, the more you burn. But you don't need to buy a bunch of exercise equipment or pay for a gym. You can do things in your everyday life to cause your body to burn more fuel. Be creative and/or ask your friends to help. Hold a contest to see who loses the most each week (the others can share the cost of a movie ticket or pay for an outing of some sort as a prize for the winner). Don't stop there. Remember, the more you move, the more you burn!
Now that you know what to do:
Should you just go out and immediately change everything? NO! I can’t stress that enough. Your body is a very smart machine. It knows when you are trying to force it into something it doesn’t want to do. It is natural for the body to want to store fats for future use and it will fight to be allowed to keep those fats. So, don’t do these things all at once. If you do, you will continue to gain, be tired, feel hungry, feel like you are failing, and you will give up trying.
Instead, do a little at a time. Once you have made one change for a week, keep it up AND add another. Before you know it, you will be doing these things automatically and you will feel great! Not only that, but by eating less, moving more, and forcing your body to break down the reserves, you will no longer feel weighed down by an anchor. You will have energy, lots of energy. And you will feel better than you have ever felt before. Why? Because you will be burning fuel, and you will have less body fat to drag around. Also, when you eat until you are 'stuffed' you feel sleepy and listless. How can you function like that? So be sure to stop when your body tells you that you are full (I know, it tastes soooo good, but save some for tomorrow's lunch and it will taste just as good and you will be able to eat it twice).
Tricks and notes to help you on your way:
- Do not cut everything out all at once. Eat a dessert once a week, or have that sandwich once in awhile. Even if you have a cookie with your lunch every day. If you don't reward yourself for a job well done, your body will rebel (trust me). And if you cut everything out all at once, you will feel deprived and that will cause you to cheat more often.
- You cannot, and will not, be able to lose the weight overnight. After all, you didn’t gain it overnight, did you? No, it was gradual; very gradual. So, the loss should be just as gradual. You have changed your daily habits in what you eat, how much you eat, and how much you move probably over a period of years without even noticing what you were doing. Now you have to reverse those changes.
- You must be able to understand what is happening; why you can’t seem to lose the added weight, as well as why you are always tired. Then you need to understand that your body is a very complicated machine that supposedly has your best interests in mind. That means it will store fat for leaner times and the less you eat the more it will store thinking times have become lean. By gradually making changes in your daily life, you will re-train your body to work as you want it to.
- Don't give up. The end is worth the effort. And, the hardest part is taking that first step! Once you have, there is no turning back (well, there is, but you shouldn't be looking in that direction, right?)
- One last piece of advice-when you start eating different and moving more, etc. people will ask and some may even tease or taunt you with things like 'you'll never make it'. Don't let it get to you. When they ask, tell them you are working towards a better you, and you will be telling them the truth!
© 2012 Cheryl Simonds