Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, is a blood sugar disorder in which the body is unable to respond to the hormone, insulin, which is necessary to convert sugar into energy.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, is a blood sugar disorder in which the body is unable to respond to the hormone, insulin, which is necessary to convert sugar into energy. Type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes or early onset diabetes, is a condition in which the pancreas fails to produce insulin.  Type I diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and adolescents. Only 5% of individuals with diabetes have the type 1 form. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily to keep their blood sugar under control. Type 2 diabetes, also called insulin-independent diabetes or adult onset diabetes, represents the vast majority of all diabetes cases.  Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body fails to respond to insulin or becomes insulin-resistant.  With prolonged type 2 diabetes, the body may eventually stop producing insulin altogether. Gestational diabetes occurs when blood sugar is elevated during pregnancy.

What causes diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune reaction in which the immune system attacks and kills the beta cells (insulin-producing cells) in the pancreas. It is not known why this happens, but it is believed to be influenced by genetic and environmental factors. Obesity and diets high in sugar are known risk factors for development of type 2 diabetes. During pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones that can cause the mother’s cells to become insulin-resistant.  Normally, the pancreas can compensate by making more insulin, but in cases of gestational diabetes, the additional insulin made by the pancreas is not enough to control the blood sugar.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

The severity of diabetes symptoms depends on the extent to which the blood sugar is elevated. In some people with type 2 diabetes, the symptoms are not noticeable or are mild, whereas in people with type 1 diabetes, the symptoms can be severe. These symptoms include increased thirst and hunger, frequent urination, presence of ketones in the urine, fatigue, irritability, blurry vision, sores that are slow to heal, frequent infections (especially of the gums, skin, and vagina). If left untreated, diabetes can damage nerves to the lower legs and hands, a condition called diabetic neuropathy.

What is the treatment for diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes treatment, especially if it was diagnosed at childhood, is best managed by improving the antioxidant protection in the body to improve small vessel integrity and by improving nutrition.

Type 2 diabetes patients arrive at our clinic having undergone varying treatments to control their diabetes, from insulin to metformin. Most of these diabetic patients have not been given nutritional support, which is unfortunate given that clinical evidence has shown that nutrition and lifestyle changes are twice as effective as the best diabetes medication in the prevention of diabetes. For patients with type 2 diabetes, our providers work strictly with diet and nutrition and provide weight loss plans that suit your lifestyle. We also use herbal medicine to improve pancreatic function and insulin sensitivity. Many of our type 2 diabetes patients arrive using insulin therapy. These patients are making their own insulin but require more than they can make to manage blood sugar effectively. For most of our type 2 diabetes patients, we are able to get them off of their insulin and diabetic medications, if we work hard to do so. The doctors and nutritionists at Cascade Integrative Medicine are well-versed in insulin management.