What have I got?
One month after first blood test, four days post T2 diagnosis.
I have spent most of my spare time researching my diabetes.
It's a huge subject and due to my panic and brain with the analytical power of a brick, I soon get in a complete tangle.
But here are a few relatively coherent points I learned early.........
Firstly, I have Type 2 diabetes.
Most of what I write will concern Type 2 – abbreviated to T2 from it's full title, Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.
There are others, for example: type 1, type 1.5/LADA, gestational, type 3c (pancreatic).
Now, bear in mind as you read, that this is my first insight into what I've got. If it comes out as a bit of a ramble, that's just how I felt.
I'm a T2 virgin, which sounds like a new railway line - and I'm about to enter a very unfamiliar tunnel.
I've heard most of the words before (Pancreas, liver, blood, sugar, glucose) but some were new (HbA1c, lipid profile, Triglycerides, insulinaemia, mellitus).
Whether familiar or not, all these words would hopefully meld together and help me begin to understand what I had.
What did I see when I first searched? Here I paraphrase:
Diabetes mellitus type 2 (better known as Type 2 diabetes) is a metabolic disorder characterized by high blood sugar. It is a lifelong, chronic condition where the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin or the body's cells don't react properly to insulin (known as insulin resistance).
This means that glucose stays in the blood. High blood sugar is also known as Hyperglycemia. Excess sugar can cause a number of problems such as damage to arteries and other blood vessels that supply blood to vital organs. This can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Other associated potential side-effects include kidney disease, vision problems, and nerve problems.
Great! So that's sorted that out!
What causes Type 2 diabetes?
I read (and have heard previously) that T2 is labelled a 'lifestyle' disease. Well, yes and no.
It's actually difficult to pinpoint exact causes.
It appears more correct to allude to 'risk factors', such as:
Obesity / excess body fat. (I am porky but not obese).
A generally unhealthy and sedentary life-style. Obviously this can promote weight gain but exercise decreases insulin resistance and helps our bodies to cope with excess glucose.
The so-called 'Western Diet' which includes a reliance on starchy, processed foods, not enough fibre and poor quality fats.
High blood pressure.
High cholesterol. (Although I was to discover some amazing research on this in due course.)
Some types of medication have also been linked to T2, beta-blockers and statins for example.
Do not stop reading if you are overweight. Don't be embarrassed, read on.
I saw one comment regarding obesity that I found particularly heartening that said, “one thing of particular note to back up the 'risk factors' v 'causes' debate is that many obese people don't get diabetes and many thin people do. So to lump everyone who has diabetes together and say, 'you bought it on yourself with your own lifestyle choices', is unhelpful and often unfair. Far better to say: we are where we are, lets pull together to help improve lives and try and solve this awful conundrum.”
Here is a link to a wonderful lady doctor called Sarah Hallberg.
She made numerous videos about obesity, health and diabetes.
They are clear, optimistic and very informative - a really good introduction for people wanting to learn.
Sadly, she has recently passed away (non-smoker - lung cancer - tragic), but she left us with some great information.
Just for the record, there is a state known as 'Pre-Diabetes'. This is where blood glucose levels are above 'normal' range but not yet in the fully-fledged diabetic range. Being pre-diabetic is a wake up call and there are (increasingly) those who believe that pre-diabetes is in fact diabetes, meaning that readings are above 'normal'.
In effect, no more mucking about - let's try and sort it out.
So, what are the symptoms of diabetes?
Before my check-up I was unaware that I was diabetic. I was sailing merrily along on my 'nearly good' diet.
In fact my only worry was whether the car would get through it's MOT.
Looking back, and now knowing the symptoms, I realize that the signs were there. They'd crept up on me so hadn't been easy to spot.
It's like seeing a child growing up day by day, you don't notice any real difference. If you see them once every couple of months, you see obvious changes.
Over many years, my child had grown, unnoticed, into a bit of a monster.
Here are some symptoms:
Feeling tired during the day, particularly after meals.
Often feeling hungry, particularly if you feel hungry shortly after eating (polyphagia)
Urinating more often than normal, particularly needing to do so during the night (polyuria)
Feeling abnormally thirsty (polydipsia)
Itching of the skin, particularly itchiness around the genitals (genital itchiness)
Slow healing of cuts or wounds
Having regular yeast infections (thrush)
Having a skin disorder such as psoriasis oracanthosis nigricans (dark, velvety patches on the skin)
Sudden weight loss or loss of muscle mass
Neuropathy – nerve pain
I had FIVE of these, to a degree, but not to the extent that I was concerned, or even noticed.
(Loss of muscle mass wasn't a problem - I still looked like the bloke with world on his shoulders, Charles ATLARSE, as my mate calls me.)
As I say, it's only looking back now that I realize I may have had a problem.
What can be done? Treatments.
This can vary dependent on the severity of your condition. (And which type of diabetes you have)
For T2s with really high blood sugars at diagnosis there's a possibility that drugs, including insulin, may be required – at least till things stabilize.
Here perhaps I'm talking anything 70 upwards (although one guy I've encountered was 134 on diagnosis - that really is very high).
My reading was 50.
For reference, the non-diabetic range ends at 41.
42 - 48 is referred to as pre-diabtetic, and above 48 is diabetic.
My blood sugars were not that excessive so I was keen to see what I could do to sort myself out without medication.
One place I visited on the internet was www.diabetes.co.uk
This is a great site with masses of first-hand experience.
The interet can be great, but it can also be a source of infinite frustration.
I've bought socks, booked hotels and spoken to someone in the far east about my telephone bill, all with varying degrees of success.
But occasionally, when we really need something, the internet can offer up something special.
Such is the case here. The diabetes.co.uk website is brilliant. Hugely informative. It's UK-based but with international members - diabetes is not discriminatory.
I've seen testimonies and research from all over the world including The UK, America, Canada, Australia, South Africa and Ireland.
I saw that some people were managing to control their blood glucose levels with lifestyle changes, basically diet and exercise.
Unwritten behind this basic tenet, but perhaps more important, is the chance to avoid some pretty nasty complications if the conditions is ignored. Amputations and blindness for example.
It turns out that this website community is a huge, helpful, compassionate group of people with every type of diabetes. Not doctors or nurses, just ordinary people who want to live as well as possible with their condition, and willing to help others do the same.
Also some people join up because they are worried after recognizing some symptoms. Some have been reassured, others may even have been prevented from getting it.
Some members have gone to extraordinary lengths to research diabetes. At this stage I was still a bit shocked to really take it all in.
What I could see immediately was many people living better lives, some actually taking themselves into remission.
Testament to the prevalence of this disease, new members join the group daily.
Many are bewildered, some confused, others frightened.
The over-riding thing that comes out of the site is the hope that things will get better – and they usually do.
There are other web sites worldwide that offer advice and encouragement to diabetics, but because I found this one first, I seem to have stuck with it. Real people, real advice.
However, I feel compelled to add that diabetes.co.uk have refused to allow me to promote these pages on their web site. The reason? There's a link to my books at the top of the page, and that's contra forum rules. Rather unfortunate I think. Not least because we are in an age of one-sided, carefully managed information where debate and alternative viewpoints are being stifled. I hope the site doesn't become sterilized by regulation and over-zealous moderators.
The reason I say this is because, at the end of the day, we are all responsible for our own health and that of our families, particularly if they are dependent - the young, the poorly and elderly for example. We need to make decisions based on complete information UNLIKE what happened during the Covid debacle where it was one mantra only, one that has caused untold misery and continues to do so. Our pandemic response became politicized at which point science was elbowed aside.
One thing I was not aware of was that carbohydrates are, in effect, sugar.
Carbohydrates turn into glucose in our bodies.
A large part of my 'healthy' diet was carbohydrates.
Because I don't produce enough insulin, in my pancreas, I am unable to properly deal with excess blood sugars.
The answer, quite simply, was to drastically cut down my carbohydrate intake – according to many testimonies I'd read.
Is reducing our carbohydrate intake key? Many people say it is.
So what food is carbohydrate? Bit of a shock here – everything I like!!
Really bad: potato, rice, bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, highly processed foods, cakes.....
Less bad but not great: most fruit, below-ground vegetables, processed 'light' or 'diet' food.
Very good: quality meat (with fat), above ground veg (cabbage, brocolli etc.), cheese, avacado, some nuts, double cream!, and the best of anything - eggs.
Bit of an anathema this!
Didn't some of this go against everything many of us thought to be healthy?
Whatever, at least there's some good stuff I can get stuck into.
Among many things I've learned is this: we have no minimum requirement for carbohydrates.
Don't believe that? Look here.........
We have 3 sources of calories (or energy), which are also known as macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
Of these three, carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of energy. Carbohydrates break down into glucose pretty quickly. It is an immediate source of energy especially for the brain and muscles.
BUT, we don't NEED carbodydrates.
However we do NEED proteins and fats. Really??
The biggest problem is that carbohydrate - vis sugar / glucose - can cause REAL problems.
Added sugar contains no essential nutrients. No, I had no idea either
Excess sugar can cause diabetes in addition to other problems. Obesity for example.
Not wanting to shove stuff down peoples throats (to coin a phrase) but if you read nothing else, read this:
One problem about our perceptions of carbs / sugar is that they are found in many of our staple foods. Cereals for example. A massive industry from field to supermarket shelf, and as such a hugely powerful force when the products are advertised. 'They're Grrrrrrreat!' Remember Tony the Tiger helping Kelloggs promote their cereals. Happy, nice-looking tiger unknowingly peddling problems for cereal munchers. Back when I was a kid (50 years ago), nobody knew that excess sugar caused problems. But now that an increasingly large body of research tells us that sugar is not all as sweet and innocent as we'd thought, the industry is so HUGE that it can neither afford to change the message have the will to even try.
Remember when contestants on A Question of Sport sat there smoking! Well, that changed didn't it - eventually. But not until countless people had died of smoking-related diseases and the tobacco companies ran out of excuses (and money).
Perhaps the reason why we are slow to change our opinions on 'dietary evolution' is summed up by this paragraph:
In a 2015 paper titled: Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time? A team of scholars at the National Bureau of Economic Research sought an empirical basis for a remark made by the physicist Max Planck: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
Of course, if we are already diabetic (and many people are close to it or undiagnosed without realizing it), excess glucose can literally be a killer.
We can get all the nourishment we need from other sources – including saturated fat!
What?? I've been told all my life that anything fatty will head straight to my arteries and clock up the whole works. It appears that this is not the case. Red meat is bad? No, it isn't.
Now, all that may sound wacky but the fact is that, at the very least, we can all benefit from a vast reduction in sugar.
Killjoy eh? I know. This however seems to be the real deal - as they would say across the pond.
I'll come back to all this later but I knew that if I was to try and tackle my condition, I'd have to make changes.
Armed with my fledgling knowledge, and uncollected prescription, I went to meet my nurse...........
Read on........Next page. Appointment with the diabetic nurse