What No One Tells You About Type 2 Diabetes
You’ve just been told you have Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) and like most people you’ve started to ask questions and do research about what this will mean to you. So we’ve put together a little primer on some T2D basics from a perspective that people generally don’t like to talk about.
1. The Simple Truth
When you have T2D, your body stops using insulin properly. As a result, instead of being broken down and used for energy as intended, the sugar you get from various foods, particularly starchy or carb-heavy foods, hangs around and causes a plethora of problems. And T2D will almost guarantee you’ll have problems.
2. The Unkind Truth
T2D is highly stigmatized. Since it tends to develop in adults, the common misconception is that people with diabetes (PWDs) brought it on themselves by making poor lifestyle choices. Your friends, family, or co-workers may surprise you by their ignorance and say hurtful things without even knowing. But T2D is not strictly a cause and effect kind of disease; genetics also play a huge role in whether or not you’re more susceptible to it.
The bottom line is that 9 out of 10 people in Canada with diabetes have Type 2. And yet, despite how prevalent a condition it is, there are so many aspects that are stigmatized and simply not discussed.
3. Is it really my fault?
It’s a common misconception that inactivity and poor diet cause T2D – the reality, however, is not so cut and dry. Certain lifestyle factors can make one more susceptible to T2D. Those with alcohol dependency issues, for instance, are more susceptible to T2D than those who don’t drink to excess. This is because the amount of alcohol consumed can make the body less sensitive to insulin, which triggers the T2D. T2D is also a common side effect of pancreatitis.
The idea that inactivity and poor diet alone can cause T2D, however, is a pretty demeaning generalization. While there is some research to suggest that fat cells are more resistant to insulin than muscle cells, it’s also worth mentioning that people with T2D who exercise and change their diet can reduce the severity of their insulin-resistance. So while obesity can potentially be a contributor, it may also, more significantly, be a symptom of T2D.
Consider women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a disorder that causes women’s ovaries to produce higher than normal amounts of androgens (male hormones such as testosterone), which interferes with egg production. Some of the symptoms of PCOS include increased blood sugar, uncontrollable weight gain, and obesity. Because of this, more than half of women with PCOS will either be diagnosed with T2D or pre-diabetes before the age of 40. But the blood sugar and uncontrollable weight gain are symptoms of a pre-existing condition, and not necessarily a preventable cause of T2D. This further emphasizes that the stigma around weight and diabetes is unnecessary and problematic.
Certain ethnicities are more at risk of diabetes than others. Specifically, Indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples living in Canada are some of, if not the most at-risk population for diabetes in the country. The reasons for this are many, and complex, and involve a deep understanding of medical, social and cultural contributions, including a long and painful history of colonization.
4. What can I do to fix this?
Many people tell us that their first thought is “OMG, I have to take insulin for the rest of my life and I just hate needles.” It is true that you may need to regulate your T2D with insulin injections. However, it’s just not true that this is the first and only option. It all depends on how severe the condition is, which is largely measured on a case-by-case basis.
Most treatment options start with oral medications. It’s also been shown that changing your diet to include more whole grains, lean meats, beans, and vegetables, while reducing processed carbohydrates and refined sugars might help. Elevating your level of activity is a standard recommendation. People tell us repeatedly that they hate the gym and choose to do other things instead, like dancing. The latest rage we’ve heard about is going to Virtual Reality arcades to play action games. There is more than one way to reduce symptoms and insulin resistance.
Watch for our future articles where we’ll discuss in more detail treatment options reported by our community members.
5. But isn’t there a Cure?
Whoever tells you that you can cure T2D is lying or selling something – that is the sad reality. Through consistent use of treatment (which may include medication, change in diet and exercise, and sheer diligence), you might get to a point where you don’t need medication anymore. But you will always be at risk of the symptoms recurring. This is just one of the many things no one wants to admit about T2D.
6. What does my future look like?
Ultimately, you can follow all the instructions, listen to every doctor, personal trainer, nutritionist, and health guru you can find, but there is no surefire way to dictate how your body will react to T2D. Insulin dependence changes as you age. Our bodies process foods differently as we age, as well. And let’s not even begin to discuss the hormonal fluctuations that come with age, and lifestyle changes like having kids.
The only thing you can count on when it comes to T2D, is that you can’t count on any one thing to work for you. It’s a 24/7 effort with no vacation. And that’s one of the most challenging and painful aspects of the condition.
Is there anything you would add? What is something you learned about having T2D that noone told you about? Please share with us on our Facebook page.