Conventional treatment for Type 1 Diabetes generally involves insulin supplementation in the form of injections. Because Type 1 is an autoimmune disorder, it can affect both children and adults, and it’s not uncommon for diabetics to be dependent on lifelong insulin treatments. Type 2, on the other hand, is largely a product of poor lifestyle choices or little access to healthy foods, and is more likely to occur later in life. However, in recent years, there has been an alarming rise in Type 2 Diabetes cases among children and adolescents, which largely stems from an overwhelming obesity issue.
Over a period of years, you went from pre-diabetes, to diabetes, to taking one medication, then two then three and then finally large doses of insulin. Here’s the thing. If you are taking more and more medications to keep your blood sugars at the same level, your diabetes is getting worse! Even if your blood sugars get better, your diabetes is getting worse. This is unfortunately what happens to virtually every patient. The body is already overflowing with sugar. The medications only hide the blood sugar by cramming it into the engorged body.
If you'd like some proof that diabetes is a disease you can live well with, consider the accomplishments of these prolific people with diabetes: jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie, singer Ella Fitzgerald, actress Mary Tyler Moore, and baseball Hall-of-Famer Jim "Catfish" Hunter. Even before treatment was as sophisticated as it is today, author Ernest Hemingway and inventor Thomas Edison, both of whom had diabetes, managed to leave their marks on the world.
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease (meaning there isn’t a “cure”) and tends to be progressive. The longer that someone has been living with Type 2 diabetes the less insulin their beta cells may be producing. This doesn’t mean that lifestyle modification is irrelevant–but does mean that individuals should work on accepting their Type 2 diabetes diagnosis so they can focus on managing their diabetes in the best way possible.
Efforts to cure or stop type 1 diabetes are still in the early stages, and these approaches will also not be suitable for people that have already lost their insulin-producing cells. A solution could be the creation of an “artificial pancreas” — a fully automated system that can measure glucose levels and inject the right amount of insulin into the bloodstream, just like a healthy pancreas would.
In discussing self management with the person with diabetes I focus on how healthy lifestyle behaviors can change the treatment plan. Introducing healthy lifestyle behaviors by providing consistent and predictable meals, daily activity, healthy coping and consistent medication management can improve overall glucose control and may change the overall treatment plan for managing diabetes.
McInnes, N., Smith, A., Otto, R., Vandermey, J., Punthakee, Z., Sherifali, D., … Gerstein, H. C. (2017, March 15). Piloting a remission strategy in type 2 diabetes: Results of a randomized controlled trial. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2016-3373. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article-abstract/doi/10.1210/jc.2016-3373/3070517/Piloting-a-Remission-Strategy-in-Type-2-Diabetes?redirectedFrom=fulltext
Change in fasting plasma glucose (A), 2 h post-oral glucose tolerance test (B), and homeostasis model assessment (HOMA-B) insulin secretion (C) during the 16-year follow-up in the Whitehall II study. Of the 6,538 people studied, diabetes developed in 505. Time 0 was taken as the diagnosis of diabetes or as the end of follow-up for those remaining normoglycemic. Redrawn with permission from Tabák et al. (80).
Exenatide (Byetta) was the first drug of the GLP-1 agonist group. It originated from an interesting source, the saliva of the Gila monster. Scientists observed that this small lizard could go a long time without eating. They discovered a substance in its saliva that slowed stomach emptying, thus making the lizard feel fuller for a longer time. This substance resembled the hormone GLP-1.