The role of insulin in the body must be understood in order to understand Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas in response to elevated blood sugar. The most important role of insulin is to transport blood sugar (glucose) from the blood into the cells. This is how it works.
- Blood glucose levels are elevated by eating a carbohydrate (eg bread).
- The pancreas responds to the elevation of blood glucose by secreting insulin.
- Insulin opens up the gates of cells to allow glucose to enter.
- Glucose is then absorbed into the cells.
- Blood glucose levels are normalised.
The development of diabetes occurs when insulin secretion is either extremely low, or the cell receptors become insensitive to insulin causing the body to keep secreting insulin.
In order to appreciate how Type 2 diabetes develops, consider the following example.
A person eats pieces of white bread, which are made from refined flour. Due to lack of fibre, protein and essential fat, the piece of white bread breaks down into blood sugar (glucose) and enters the blood-stream at a rushing speed (bread has a high glycemic index rating). In order to deal with this, the pancreas secretes insulin.
If the person continues to eat a diet filled with refined carbohydrates and does not consume sufficient fibre, protein and essential fat, and does not exercise, the body will try to adapt by continuing to secrete insulin to deal with the excess sugar.
Excess insulin creates two serious problems.
1. It causes excess glucose to be stored as fat,
contributing to weight gain.
2. It causes blood sugar to drop too low into a
state known as hypoglycaemia.
Hypoglycaemia symptoms include fatigue, moodiness, mental fogginess and cravings. In order to satisfy a powerful craving and get an energy boost again, one tends to grab the closest sugary or starch treat, causing this cycle to begin all over again. This constant cycle is the first stage in developing Type 2 diabetes.
Poor lifestyle habits which contribute Type 2 diabetes are:
* An increase in high glycemic index foods,
such as refined flours, and sugars (white pasta, rice, cookies, crackers, white bread, soft drinks etc).
* An increase in portion size (super-sizing).
* An increase in obesity.
* A decrease in physical activity.
By making smart choices and exercising regularly, you can regain control of your blood sugar levels, your weight, and your health..