Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Can't You Just Change Their Diet?

To kick off the 'what's been lost' series of Q&A, I thought covering a bit of 'WHAT Type 1 Diabetes actually IS' might be helpful.  It falls in line with one of the first questions we received upon getting  this relentless diagnosis.

Q:  "Can't you just change their diet and have them exercise more?"  Along those lines, we also heard, "They're so thin, they don't 'LOOK' diabetic."

A:  Type 1 diabetes is a very different beast than type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 CAN be improved, even cured by a change in diet and exercise.  Type 2 diabetes is a situation in which an individual's body has become resistant to the insulin their body produces. They still produce insulin but due to their diet, weight and/or many other circumstances their cells are resistant to it.

In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas has been attacked by its own immune system -- it is an auto immune disease.  The body no longer produces the beta cells responsible for MAKING insulin.  Hence, the body no longer makes insulin.  Without insulin - the key - the cells cannot receive the glucose they so desperately need to function. They can't get energy.  Glucose IS energy for our bodies.  When the cells don't get enough energy, the individual feels tired, run down; they look and feel sickly.  When the cells can't get energy, they start breaking down fat to use as energy. When this fat is broken down it produces ketones in the system. This will cause the individual to urinate often in an attempt to eliminate those ketones. This will then cause them to be excessively thirsty.  However, the ketones never get flushed b/c the body just keeps making more.  The cycle continues.  Unexplained weight loss ensues.  Why?  All because there is no insulin for the body to use.  The sugar in the bloodstream can't get out to the cells.   It's stuck in the blood vessels.  The blood sugar levels rise.  No change in diet will alter this phenomenon.

Our girls eat a pretty healthy, varied diet. Yet, they still have the diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) because their own immune system attacked their pancreases and they no. longer. produce. insulin.

Q:  Aren't there pills they can take so they don't need shots?

A:  Again, this is related to type 2 vs. type 1.

Type 2 diabetes can be managed with oral medication.  I believe that's the most common way to treat type 2, along with improved diet, exercise, and weight loss.

Type 1, on the other hand, requires insulin shots!  The insulin must be injected for it to work properly. Remember, with T1D, the body no longer makes insulin, so.... we have to give it artificial insulin.  Otherwise, those hungry cells cannot open up to receive the glucose.  Insulin is the key.  It opens the door so the glucose can rush in and feed those cells.  It's like fuel for the body just as gas is fuel for a car.  You have to get the insulin into the cells.  Unfortunately, the only way to accomplish this is shots --- with needles --- 4-6 times a day.  So, our little girls now have to endure those shots of insulin EVERY SINGLE DAY!

Imagine it, you have to go to the doctor daily to get a flu shot or other vaccination. Fun?  I don't think so. Now multiply that by 4 more times each day. That's what our girls have to do - just. to. survive! 

Plus, we have to check their blood glucose levels 5-8 times each day, to be sure we're giving the appropriate amounts of insulin.  Not too much,  not too little.  (More on that in a different question.)  Eventually we hope to get them on an insulin pump that will eliminate quite so many shots, but it's still an artificial means of delivering insulin that their body doesn't make. These pumps are often referred to as a 'bionic pancreas'. An external one, but it does attempt to act as a pancreas for the T1D.


Yes, I see these things as a loss.

Loss of a healthy pancreas.

Loss of a fully working body.

Loss of not feeling pain - e-v-e-r-y.  s-i-n-g-l-e.  d-a-y!  Just to survive.

When I hear one of my little girls gasp, "ouch", as she picks something up because her fingers are sore from so many pokes; when she whimpers as I inject insulin into her little body because it burns; I.  Feel.  a.  Loss!  I'm willing to bet they feel a loss too.

Plus, this is just the beginning.  This will be there every day for the REST of their lives.

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