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What Is Diabetes Mellitus?

Diabetes is a Greek word that means to pass through while Mellitus is a Latin word for honey. One of the classic symptoms of diabetes is frequent urination hence diabetes or to pass through while honey refers to the sugar found in urine. In fact many early cases where literally found by ants who fed on the urine passed by diabetics.

Glucose is the body’s basic fuel. Carbohydrates eaten are broken down into glucose through the digestive process which in turn is absorbed into the bloodstream. Diabetes is a disorder of the body’s ability to properly make use of glucose.

Types of Diabetes

There are two major type of diabetes. The first is called “Type 1” or “Juvenile Diabetes”. It is so called because the symptoms appear in childhood or infancy. The second is called “Type 2” or “Adult Onset Diabetes” as it most often occurs around middle age. There is another type of diabetes called “Gestational Diabetes” which occurs during pregnancy. I will cover that later in this article.

Type-1 diabetes is also known as “Insulin Dependent” diabetes as the sufferer must take daily injections of insulin to stay alive. In fact before the discovery of insulin in 1921, type 1 diabetes patient only lived a few years after diagnosis.

Type-2 diabetes is also known as “Non Insulin Dependent” diabetes as the problem is not necessarily the lack of insulin production but rather the inability of the body to use it effectively.

Over 90% of diabetics are type 2. Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes can be positively influenced with the proper diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes.

Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas by cells located in areas called the Isle of Langerhans. These isles or islands were named in honor of the German pathologist Paul Langerhans who first wrote about them in 1869.

Glucose in the blood must enter each cell where is used as an energy source to perform the cells functions. Insulin helps to get glucose into the cells. It is the only hormone in the body with this function. Without insulin glucose simply cannot get into the cells.

Well, that is not entirely true. There are two exceptions to this rule. The first is with the cells in the brains. Glucose can get in without insulin. The second is when you are exercising. Somehow glucose can get into muscle cells when you exercise. This explains why exercise in addition to diet is a key factor to lowering blood sugar.

In a normal person with diabetes, the pancreas responds properly to fluctuation in the blood sugar. When blood sugar goes up say after a meal, insulin is released. When blood sugar goes down say hours after a meal, insulin production is stopped. This closed looped system ensures that blood sugar is kept within the correct range.

Think of cells like houses each with a main door. Think of the door knob as the insulin receptor. Insulin opens the door via these insulin receptors.

There are two ways that things can go wrong. The first is pancreas do not produce insulin or enough of it. The door knob works but there is no one to open the door. The second way is the door knob is missing. Even if insulin is present you cannot open the door.

In Type 1 diabetes, the problem is a lack of insulin. In Type-2 diabetes the problem is more often due to a faulty door knob or insulin receptor. This is illustrated by the fact that type 2 diabetics are often incapable of responding to insulins delivered by insulin injections.

Causes of Diabetes

Type-1 or "Juvenile Onset" diabetes, is an autoimmune disorder in which the body's immune system attacks a portion of the pancreas known as the islets of Langerhans and destroys the body's ability to produce insulin. Type 1 diabetics must take daily injections of insulin to stay alive.

Type-II or "Adult Onset" diabetes, is considerably different. It is a modern day disease caused by our diet and lifestyle. In the early 1900s diabetes cases were hardly prevalent. The carbohydrates consumed by our forefathers consisted mainly of unprocessed grains and cereals, unrefined floor and molassess. Our present diet consist of mostly refined carbohydrates laden with fats and sugar. Our bodies have not had the time or cannot adjust to this excesses and as a result our sugar control system malfunctions. Our cells become insulin resistant and our blood sugar goes up. Our sedentary lifestyle compared to our forfathers mostly active lifestyle make mattters worst.

Unlike type-I diabetes, type II diabetes can often be treated by making lifestyle changes in diet and exercise routines. Drugs and supplements have also proven to be effective in aiding the cells improve their ability to accept insulin and transfer glucose properly.

Gestational Diabetes

Another form of diabetes is called gestational diabetes. It occurs during pregnancy when hormonal changes caused by pregnancy increases the body’s resistance to insulin. Women who are overweight or older are more prone to this form of diabetes. It usually disappears after pregnancy but women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy are more prone to develop type-2 diabetes when they get older.

Women sufferring from gestational diabetes are prone to develop urinary tract infections as well as preeclampsia (or pregnancy induced hypertension).

Pregnant women can lower their blood sugar with regular gentle exercise.

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