Home Diabetes – A Warning of Things to Come

Diabetes is the condition where your blood does not transfer sugar (glucose) through your blood stream to the individual cells for energy consumption.  This is intentionally a bland statement.  There are many places to look for information on diabetes.  If you are serious, go to any of them.  I went to my daughter’s college text on Biochemistry.  I learned much in an hour.

There are exceptional web pages on this subject (e.g. Diabetes, Beehive), if you are serious, go to them.  This is just a brief overview.

Where do we start?  There are two types of diabetes.  Let’s start there.

Type 1

This is where your pancreas does not generate insulin.  Insulin acts as a catalyst to get the hemoglobin (blood cell) to accept glucose.  No insulin, no glucose transfer.  You're dead.  Type 1 people always take insulin shots.  This is often hereditary or the result of abusing Type 2.  If you have Type 1, you will learn nothing new on this page.

Type 2

The body produces insulin but there is a problem with the transfer.  The problem can be too little or too late or too much or too soon or the insulin is unacceptable.  For this diet and medication are viable solutions.  The have done wonders in this field in the last 20 years.  No cure but the medications are as benign as aspirin.

You can think of your body as having an automatic transmission for energy control.  The pancreas generates insulin and the blood absorbs it on an as needed basis.  Your brain and muscles and other organs team up to make sure that this occurs properly.

But something happens to the control mechanism and now you are like having a manual transmission.  For the most part, life goes on as it always has.  Not doing the following religiously will ruin or end your life.  You are in total control now; shift your life into high gear.

You lose weight so that you sugar level is more easily controlled.

You watch your diet to control the available sugar supply.

You exercise to force energy consumption so there is no glucose buildup in the cells. 

You take medication to level the field. 

You inspect the glucose content of your blood several to many times a day.

You visit the doctor several times a year to see what other function may be deteriorating.

Lose Weight

Fat consumption and retention throws off any rhythm that you may have on leveling your sugar level.  Lose the fat.

Watch your Diet

The Atkins diet is great at this point.  You have to count your carbohydrates (another name for sugar).  You must balance them evenly through the day.  Forget sugar desserts and potato chips.  One of those may contain your entire day’s allotment of Carbohydrates.  My dietician recommends 75 grams per day for me.  That is 15 per meal for three meals and two snacks.  A slice of bread has more than that.

Low Carbohydrate Diet

I like the Atkins concept: if my body is going to get energy, I am going to make it work for it.  No more free energy.

Net Carbs

As far as I can tell the concept of “Net Carb” is a lie.  A carbohydrate is a measure of sugar energy able to be absorbed directly into your blood stream.  Some companies hurt by the low carb diets have reacted to their reduced sales by camouflaging their high sugar content by separating carbs into groups so that you see smaller numbers.  The processed food industry is used to this.  When you look at the ingredients list, do you see “Sugar”?  NO.   You see: fructose, sucrose, glucose, corn syrup, etc.  Each of these is sugar.  Each of these rots your teeth, makes you fat, and ruins your metabolism.  But these companies do not want you to know that you are eating sugar.  The lie of “Net Carb” falls into this category: if you do not see it all at once, you will think you are getting away with something.

Some foods take energy to digest.  It is true that some foods actually consume more calories (energy) to digest than they add to your blood stream.  Celery is one of these.  There are not very many.  “Net Carbs” claims to be the difference between what you put in your mouth (what enters your blood stream), and what your body uses to digest the food.  This is a useless measure for determining how many carbs you consumed.  It is a great thing if you are counting total carbs and like to know that the food itself is using them.  It is a stupid thing if you think that “Net Carbs” is a useful tool in measuring your daily carb count.  The general idea is that you want to use up ALL of the carbs that you consume.  This is best done by exercise not by thinking your stomach can cleanse your blood stream.

Net Carbs -- More Lies

A carbohydrate is a measure of energy, which is sugar.  The Low Carb Diet thing is very successful – necessary for people with diabetes.  The Low Carb Diet is successful in changing the diet habits of our country.  The concept is easy: my body gets no more free energy.  If I am going to give it energy, it is going to have to work for it.  Either convert fat to energy or convert what I eat to energy.  I want it to choose the former.  The giant corporations cannot handle the profit loss so they have invented another lie: the “Net Carb”.  The idea is that some carbs can be hidden so that when you look at the nutrition numbers on the side of the box, you see so many numbers you can rationalize the fact that you are eating sugar.

I was in Costco yesterday and right inside the entrance was a candy bar display with the man saying to everyone that his candy was diabetes and Low Carb friendly.  It had a magic ingredient beginning with an ‘M’ that reduced the Net Carbs.  The stuff came in various chocolate flavors and was very tempting.  I read the numbers.  The Total Carbs were greater than the same size Hershey bar (22 grams).  My dietitian has told me that my snack (I get two a day) is limited to 15 grams.

A carbohydrate is a measure of energy.  You are consuming this much energy regardless of whether it is net or gross or whatever.  A Carb is a Carb.  You eat energy and do not exercise, the energy turns to fat.  Period.  There are no other choices – except to eat less energy laden foods.

If you crave sweet, eat Splenda®.  This is reconstituted sugar.  It has no Carbs because it fools your tongue into thinking it is sugar but your blood is smart enough to ignore it.  Splenda® impacts your tongue but is not absorbed into your system – it comes out the other end.  Free sweets.  Body-free – not wallet-free.

This corporate invention of Net Carb is such a lie that many people will be wondering why they are gaining weight on their Low Carb diets.  To them this will invalidate the concept and they will go back to eating high profit foods.

I am amazed that the average person is taken in by the Net Carb lie.  I mean most people have stopped smoking because it kills you but they still eat sugar and it kills you just the same.  Instead of cancer you get diabetes.  Maybe it was the sugar in the Gerber's that you ate as a baby. No more – Gerber's has cleaned up its act.  Now.  Clean up yours – spread the truth about the Net Carb Lie.

Exercise

This is critical.  If you exercise, the excess sugar in your system is consumed.  If you do not it either accumulates in places you do not want or it turns to fat.  Fat is the better alternative but the choice is up to your body and not you.  Exercise is up to you.

Medication

In general, the medication causes the blood to accept insulin in the normal manner.  This does not get rid of the sugar.  It merely lets your body do the work.  In other words, medicine is sort of like insurance that only pays part of the bill.  You have to pay the rest.  And the bill will be paid.

Check Your Blood

You need to take many instant sugar level tests and periodically take total content sugar level tests (A1C).  To get your A1C number, divide your instant number by 18.  One is a gram per kilogram of sugar to hemoglobin and the other is the percentage of hemoglobin having sugar.  They are the same except there is a multiplication factor: 18.  You cannot do this.  The problem is that although you can make the numbers match, your instantaneous level varies so much during the day that the best you could do is take a long-term average of your instantaneous values.  Even this does not work, as you will take your instant levels at times that do not make for a good average.  You need both tests.

See your Doctor

This is absolutely critical.  Your blood sugar system has failed.  There are direct and indirect consequences to this – all of them worse than the diabetes.

Blood Pressure

With diabetes you may have increased blood pressure: you brain is trying to get the sugar where it is needed.  Medication will help.  Less stress will help.  Exercise will help.

Cholesterol

Your liver may be a partner culprit in the diabetes.  It may be increasing the cholesterol to your blood that it used to throw away.  There is medication for this.  You must have your blood checked for this regularly.

Eyes

Since your system is being flooded with available sugar, blood vessels have problems.  The blood vessels feeding your eyes are very small and very critical.  The excess sugar pressure causes these blood vessels to rupture.  This causes blindness.  Keep your sugar level low and have an ophthalmologist check your eyes for retinal damage at least annually.

Feet

Strangely enough, sugar-laden blood is heavier than other blood.  It settles in your feet.  This causes nerve damage and blood vessel damage.  See a podiatrist annually to see if you have any infections that you do not know about because the feelings in your feet are poor to gone.  Exercise to increase your blood circulation. 

Liver

Your system is failing due to old age or abuse or both.  You liver is critical now.  It must filter waste and produce the correct proportion of lots of chemicals to make your system work.  It does a lot of this while you are sleeping.  It also works better with increased blood flows.  Sleep well and exercise well.  You doctor tests for this (another blood test).

Kidneys

Kidneys filter bad things from your blood.  The excess sugar upsets kidneys.  You need to have these checked by the doctor (another blood test).


Summary

You are going to die.  You knew that from your childhood.  You have some control over when and the quality of life until then.  There is a good chance that you have not done a good enough job to date.  You must change how you live.  All of the above are necessary and critical.  Exercise is especially critical and I cannot repeat that enough.

If you do not take better care of yourself, you will go blind and you will lose your feet and you will have organs fail.  Those are givens now that you have diabetes.  Your choice: take care and lead a normal life or die.  I chose to live.

Suggestions?  Questions?  Comments?  Push Home/eMail above.
Written:  2001          Updated:  January 27, 2005
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