Diabetes is, in short, the inability of the body to use energy from food effectively resulting in raised blood sugar levels.
A better understanding of what this inability will lead to, will enable a better understanding of what has to be done to prevent and treat diabetes and complications associated with the condition.
Helping you understand Diabetes
To understand diabetes, one needs to understand some basics about sugar- or more precisely the sugar in our blood and digestion- or the way in which the body breaks down and uses food.
Why do we have sugar in our blood?
Sugar or more specifically a sugar called glucose is the main source of energy for the brain and other cells in the body. It is an important source of “fuel”. It is such an important source of fuel that, when the amount of sugar in the blood is too little, the body will signal us – by means of hunger – to supply it with fuel: food.
To function in the best way possible, the body prefers a certain amount of sugar in the blood to be readily available. All people have sugar in their blood.
Only when the delicate mechanism in the body that ensures that there is not too much sugar in the blood, is disturbed, does it become a problem.
The next aspect of importance is digestion.
Digestion refers to the process in the body whereby food is “processed” and utilised – in other words, it refers to the way the body uses food.
Understanding what happens to the food once it has been eaten, should make it easier to understand the underlying principles of a balanced diet that is suitable for a person with diabetes.
When we eat food, the body will digest (break down) the food into smaller pieces. These small particles are then transported in the blood to where it is needed in the body.Once nutrients from foods reach the cells, they have to enter the cell to be used. Some nutrients, like glucose sugar, cannot enter cells without a “key”.The key that allows glucose sugar to enter the cells is called insulin. Insulin is produced in the body by the pancreas.
In a diabetic, this process of “unlocking” cells is faulty. Glucose sugar can not enter the cells resulting in an accumulation (build up) of glucose sugar in the blood or high blood sugar.
What are the effects of high blood sugar levels?
Too much sugar in the blood causes a lot of damage – damage to your eyes, kidneys, your heart, nervous system and blood vessels etc.
Because of this, the body allows only a certain amount of sugar in the blood and has to get rid of extra glucose sugar.
Some of the excess sugar in the blood is excreted via urine. Some is converted to fat and stored.
Over a period of time, the body is unable to continue the process of trying to maintain blood sugar levels. Disease conditions that may result as a result of continued high blood sugar levels include heart disease, stroke, blindness, impotence.
Physical symptoms that are experienced if blood sugar levels are too high:
– poor eyesight and blindness
– kidney failure
– pPoor/slow healing of wounds
– chronic and recurrent infections
– bladder problems
– sexual dysfunction
– loss of feeling in fingers and feet
– heart disease
– stomach problems
– circulation problems