Understanding The Types Of Diabetes

Understanding Diabetes: What is Type 2 Diabetes and how is it different from Type 1?

Diabetes is a serious long term health condition. In less than 100 years it has gone from something that was extremely rare to the situation today wherein it has reached pandemic proportions affecting many millions, (in fact more than a billion), people worldwide. So much so that it threatens to bankrupt the entire world’s health systems.

It is a group of metabolic disorders characterized by raised blood sugar levels. There are two broad types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2.

(NB it has been recognised recently that things are actually more complex and that there are several sub-types. However that is outside the scope of today’s discussion)

Understanding The Types Of Diabetes

Key Differences Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes is a so-called autoimmune disease, usually developing early in life.  The human immune system mistakenly identifies specific parts of our body as “non-self”. In the case of Type 1 diabetes the immune system first attacks and then ultimately destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The exact cause is debated but both genetic and environmental factors play a role into Type 1 diabetes. It is typically diagnosed in childhood or adolescence, although it can occur at any age.  The onset of symptoms is very sudden and extremely rapid.

Some common symptoms associated with Type 1 diabetes:

  • Extreme thirst
  • More frequent trips to the toilet
  • Feeling more tired
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Recurring thrush
  • Blurred vision
  • Wounds taking longer to heal
  • Fruity-smelling breath
Symptoms of type 1

Type 1 diabetes inevitably requires daily insulin injections or the use of an insulin pump to replace the missing hormone. The presence of insulin is critical to human life.  Before insulin was discovered Type 1 diabetes was an inevitable  death sentence. This is because in people with Type 1 the body produces little or no insulin.

Insulin is a vital hormone that our bodies produce, which helps regulate our blood glucose (sugar) levels. This, in turn, allows our cells to get energy from our food. In the absence of insulin our cells cannot receive energy in the form of glucose.  This has profound consequences: Levels of glucose in our blood rise uncontrollably. High blood sugar is toxic (effectively poisonous) to our cells.  In addition, our cells are forced to scavenge for energy elsewhere. Typically, this will involve cannibalising our muscles and fat stores. Type 1 diabetes results in unexplained, sudden and dangerous weight loss. The body’s ability to control its acid/alkali balance is lost, which leads to ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis  is a medical emergency requiring immediate hospitalisation and rapid intervention. Left untreated Type 1 is fatal.

Thus, people living with Type 1 diabetes require lifelong insulin injections. The good news, though, is that there are many different insulins available now, and so people living with Type 1 diabetes can have a normal life expectancy if they manage their diet and lifestyle well, plus using the insulin injections of course.  The cause of Type 1 may not be directly linked to lifestyle factors, but family history and genetics play a significant role as risk factors.

We have a fascinating podcast during which Graham talks with Nayiri Mississian who has Type1 diabetes. They discuss the role of insulin in Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and the crucial importance of nutrition:

Type 2 Diabetes:

Type 2 diabetes used to be referred to as adult-onset diabetes. However, it has become so common, even in younger people, that the name was changed to reflect the reality. Type 2 is a long-term condition that ultimately affects the way the body metabolizes glucose (sugar). The typical western diet, high in sugar, carbs and processed foods is continually raising our blood sugar. The pancreas is forced to secrete ever more insulin in a forlorn attempt to control the raised blood sugar levels. Both the pancreas and the liver end up working overtime and become exhausted, damaged and inflamed while trying to protect the rest of the body from the results of ingesting the wrong fuel.  A bit like putting diesel into a petrol engine… it doesn’t end well!

Eventually hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance occur:  the body’s cells stop responding to the all the extra insulin resulting in ever higher levels of blood glucose. Modern pharmacology (drugs) fail to address diabetes because they do not target the root causes (primarily our diet).

Type 2 diabetes accounts for the overwhelming majority (around 95%) of diabetes worldwide. This form of diabetes is primarily caused by lifestyle factors such as obesity, physical inactivity, and unhealthy dietary choices. Type 2 diabetes is often diagnosed in adults, but cases among children and teenagers have been increasing due to the increasing amount of ultra-processed food in our diet. (you can read more about ultra-processed food here) Which also explains the rising rates of obesity.  Unlike Type 1, where symptoms are sudden and obviously serious, the symptoms of Type 2 may go unnoticed for decades. As our founder Graham Phillips says, the journey towards Type 2 diabetes can take 20 years or more.

Signs and symptoms of Type 2:

  • More frequent visits to the toilet in the night
  • Extreme thirst
  • Feeling more tired
  • Genital itching or thrush
  • Blurred vision
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Wounds taking longer to heal
  • Obesity
  • Gestational diabetes
Signs and symptoms of type 2

Type 2 diabetes can affect anyone, even people who think they have healthy lifestyles. Conventional treatments typically ignore lifestyle changes focusing almost exclusively on medication, and even insulin therapy in severe cases. Rarely will they look at the root cause of the problem.   As we touched upon above, the journey to Type 2 can go unnoticed for decades. This is known as Prediabetes: you have high insulin levels and somewhat raised blood sugar levels, but not high enough to reach the diabetic stage. You can learn more about Prediabetes here:

Preventing, reversing and managing Type 2 diabetes involves maintaining a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise, a balanced (low-carb) diet, weight management and good sleep. Early detection and effective management are essential for reducing the risk of complications such as heart disease, kidney problems and more.

If you are concerned about diabetes or other life-limiting health conditions, ProLongevity is here to help you. Our programme has been designed to prevent and help reverse numerous health conditions, such as diabetes, dementia, hypertension, and even some cancers. Through the assistance of CGMs (Continuous Glucose Monitors) we use precision nutrition which is tailored to our clients’ individual and unique metabolism.  Alongside lifestyle adjustments, we help set the foundations for you to Live Healthy for Longer!

Why not book a free 15-minute consultation with our founder Graham Phillips (aka The Pharmacist who Gave Up Drugs) to see how we can help you revolutionise your health and restore many years of healthy life?

Understanding The Types Of Diabetes
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