The diabetes looks better, since you can only see the blood sugars. Doctors can congratulate themselves on a illusion of a job well done, even as the patient gets continually sicker. Patients require ever increasing doses of medications and yet still suffer with heart attacks, congestive heart failure, strokes, kidney failure, amputations and blindness. “Oh well” the doctor tells himself, “It’s a chronic, progressive disease”.
It’s the patients with type 2 diabetes that lean towards supplements. While lifestyle modifications (exercise, weight loss, and smoking cessation) are the foundation for managing diabetes, drug treatment is usually also required. There are an array of prescription drugs like metformin and glyburide with a long history of use and demonstrated efficacy. Some drugs even decrease mortality – the primary outcome we’re after. But proper treatment has also been shown to the reduce the risk of an array of other consequences: Diabetes is the biggest cause of blindness, kidney failure and non-traumatic amputation. Diabetes is associated with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease, too. Yet despite the irreversible consequences of diabetes, and the availability of effective medications, type 2 diabetes remains poorly-controlled in many, often because of poor self-management.
In a person with carbohydrate intolerance, type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, this system breaks down. The body loses its insulin sensitivity and more and more insulin is required to remove the excess blood sugar. As a result, blood sugar levels remain high and insulin levels are high as well, and these high insulin levels can make your body even less sensitive to insulin.
Eating too many refined carbohydrates elevates your insulin levels for long periods of time and your cells start to become resistant to the effects of insulin. Think of this a bit like alcohol. When you start to drink, a single glass of wine can make you feel drunk. Once your body becomes accustomed to drinking, you need more and more alcohol to achieve the same effect. This is what happens in diabetes. You need more and more insulin to do the same thing. The problem is that too much insulin is toxic to the body.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.