There are three different types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. As someone with type 1 diabetes, I am in the minority of the diabetes umbrella. Out of everyone that has diabetes, around 10% of us has type 1. (According to Diabetes NZ). We hear about diabetes every day, especially as it becomes more of a health risk to many New Zealanders, but we never hear about the difference.
Before I got diagnosed I always thought of diabetes as the “fat disease” as most people in our society do. We are constantly bombarded with information in regards to diabetes from the media and how we need to keep out weight health to prevent this disease and that with a managed healthy diet you are able to reverse diabetes or prevent it from occurring. No wonder I constantly hear people say to me “Diabetes? But your not fat!”
This misconception that all diabetes is the same given by our media, and even our own Diabetes NZ organisation, is miss informing everyone about the type of diabetes, how to deal with it and how to treat people with the diseases. Most people are aware that there is such a thing as Type 1 diabetes, but due to the misconception from the media that has been taught more people don’t realise there is a difference between the two diseases.
Yes, obesity is a huge risk factor in those with type 2 diabetes and yes, it can be reversed and managed through a good healthy diet. No this doesn’t mean that going on a diet can cure my type 1 diabetes.
Those with type 2 diabetes have most commonly, but not always, eating a diet high in refined sugars and carbohydrates. When these types of foods are consumed our body releases insulin from the pancreas to the fat cells to counteract the huge amount of glucose we have just consumed and keep our body within a 4-8mm0l blood sugar range. This process in our body is very effective and allows us not have horrible blood sugar spiked, however after doing this time and time again our fat cells being desensitised to insulin. This is called insulin resistant, where our body doesn’t respond to the insulin that is being released anymore. I’ve seen it on TV and with a personal client, reducing the amount of carbohydrates eaten and maintaining a healthy weight allows our body to become sensitive to insulin again.
This is a completely different scenario to what is going on in my body. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease which is normally genetic but in my case it wasn’t. We have these cells called beta cells in our pancreas, they are used to secrete the insulin in the pancreas around to the fat cells when carbohydrates are consumed. The body, for an unknown reason at this stage, decided that these beta cells are foreign to the body and attacks and kill them as a part of the immune process to keep us healthy. Unfortunately, that means that by pancreas has no beta cells and is unable to produce insulin.
For those suffering from type 1 diabetes, this means constantly injecting our bodies with insulin and managing our blood sugar levels. We basically have to do the job for our pancreas who is broken.
Yes, type 1 is still diabetes but no, we were not fat and that’s why we have it, no we did not eat too much sugar as a child, and no it’s not because my mum didn’t breastfeed me for long enough (I’ve heard so many crazy things about why I have diabetes or how to cure myself)
Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are different in both how they occur in the body and how they are treated and managed in the long term. We need to start differing the two diseases and teaching our communities about the differences so that themselves, a friend or family member gets diagnosed we already have the information available to us.
I am glad that the people around me have learnt all they can about diabetes and how to help me, but I am not looking forward to the day where I am alone with strangers and something happens to me and they don’t know how to treat it.