In recent times, there have been a huge bump up in the incidence of diabetes. This is due to the kind of lifestyle that the modern, civil man has come to evolve. A life of more calories and less activity. Unwholesome diet and poor lifestyle choices is the order of the day. All these result in problems, like diabetes for example. If only we will mind the effects of diabetes on the body. Diabetes affects the body adversely in many ways, and this is what this article explores.
What is diabetes?
When we eat, the level of blood sugar, or glucose, increases. Insulin is an hormone that helps us utilize this glucose for energy. It is produced in the pancreas. Sometimes however, when the glucose levels are too high, insulin helps to convert the excess glucose into glycogen for storage. We can then use this glycogen later, when it is converted back into glucose by another hormone called glucagon. Glucagon is also produced in the pancreas.
Diabetes can be classed into two types
Type 1 diabetes
This is the type of diabetes that occurs when enough insulin is not produced. It is due to an auto-immune disease where the body’s immune system attacks the pancreas.
Pancreas is thus prevented from producing insulin adequately or stopped from producing at all. Therefore, the glucose is left to accumulate in the blood.
Eventually, it becomes more than is needed, and symptoms begin to arise as a result of this. 10% of cases are type 1 diabetes. People with this type usually are dependent on taking insulin dosages either orally or by injection throughout life.
Type 2 diabetes
This type of diabetes results when the body is unable to utilize the insulin provided. We say that the body has insulin resistance. There is insulin, but the cells of the pancreas are desensitized to it.
So eventually, it can result in hyperinsulinemia or high insulin levels in your blood plasma and excessive blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes is in 90% of cases. Losing weight (by diet and physical activity), and other lifestyle changes can usually resolve the situation.
Other types of Diabetes or Stages of Diabetes include:
Head here is for a better understanding of Diabetes – Causes, Diagnosis, and Symptoms.
Let’s take a look at Diabetes from an Ayurvedic perspective
Sugar is needed for the body to create energy, and it is essential for survival. However, when it is taken in excess, it leads to the accumulation of toxins (ama), which damage the body.
This leads to symptoms like weight gain, immune problems, risk of heart diseases and stroke, sluggishness, etc. This is in correlation with the modern description of diabetes.
Effects of diabetes on the body systems
Diabetes affects the body, organs and its systems in various ways. The condition leads to symptoms that can further aggravate other symptoms in various body organs and systems. Some of them are as follows:
Effect of diabetes on the cardiovascular system – Heart Health
The cardiovascular system is the set of organs in the body that deal with blood supply and blood circulation. It mainly consists of the heart and the blood vessels. The effects of diabetes on the heart and the circulation are quite deadly.
In fact, cardiovascular complications are the major cause of death among diabetics. To make things worse, people who have diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop heart problem and stroke.
Furthermore, the blood vessels at the extremities, especially the small ones, get damaged. This leads to several more complications as they cannot adequately supply blood to all organs of the body. The toes of the feet are particularly in danger here. This is what might sometimes makes amputation of toes or the whole feet necessary, because the tissues are damaged due to inadequate blood supply. Avascular necrosis (death due to lack of blood supply) of the tissues would have set in.
Reducing the risk of heart complications due to Diabetes
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat less of the bad fats. Take less low density lipo proteins. Eat the right things at the right time and in the right quantities.
- Keep active, exercise at least 30 minutes daily for 5 days weekly.
- Keep your blood pressure under check.
Skin problems due to Diabetes
Remember that, in diabetes, the small blood vessels and the nerves gets damaged. As a result of these, the skin gets dry. So, dry skin is one major effect of diabetes on the skin. The dryness of skin is mostly seen on the feet.
This problem is compounded further. The dry skin cracks, and microbes are able to get in through the cracks. This leads to skin infections, e.g., fungal infections in the feet(Athlete’s foot).
How to keep a healthy skin despite Diabetes?
- Keep blood glucose levels in recommended range.
- Wear gloves when working with cleansers and solvents to prevent further dehydration of the skin.
- Keep off hot baths and hot showers.
- Do not keep hands and feet to close to heat.
- Use non-perfumed cream after bathing.
Effects of Diabetes on the Nervous system
Diabetes causes problems with the nervous system, that is, neuropathies. Neuropathies are present in 60-70% of diabetic cases. The type of neuropathy could be:
Peripheral diabetic Neuropathy
It affects the extremities mostly, those under the control of the peripheral nervous system. It causes burning, loss of feeling in hands, toes, etc. This is why diabetics need to be careful where they place body parts. They might not feel it well enough or feel it late if peradventure they happen to be sitting with their feet too close to the bonfire.
This affects the autonomic nervous system. The affected organs are mainly internal body organs. These include: sexual organs, digestive organs(causes gastroparesis), bladder(not knowing when bladder is full), inability to sense hypoglycemia. Other symptoms are dizziness and fainting.
When the muscles don’t receive enough nervous stimulation, they remain inactive. Inactivity of the muscles cause them to begin to atrophy, that is, they begin to dwindle. Symptoms that can be felt include severe pain in hip, thigh, and weakness in thigh muscles.
How to prevent nervous problems due to diabetes?
- Keep blood sugar levels within the optimal range.
- Eat healthy and stay active.
- Live a healthy lifestyle that keeps your blood pressure in an okay range, and that puts you at less chance of gaining weight.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking.
- Check your A1C levels at least twice yearly.
Effects of Diabetes on the Kidneys
On a general note, having kidney problems puts one at a higher risk of developing heart problems also. With kidney problems, early detection and treatment is key, as they may be incurable. If a problem with the kidney is left untended however, it can lead to total kidney failure and ultimately, death.
The kidney is an important organ in filtering the blood. It has lots of different filters that filter the blood passing through the kidney. These filters help to remove the valuable items and put them back into the circulation, whereas waste materials are added to the urine poo.
However, when there is high blood sugar level, it causes damage to the filters. Consequently, the kidney can no longer perform its filtering function effectively. This could mean that valuable materials that should be preserved are allowed to pass into the urine and passed out.
On the other hand, waste materials that should be passed out could also be retained, leading to toxin build up in the body.
How to prevent kidney problems due to Diabetes?
- Control blood sugar.
- Keep blood pressure in check.
- Take steps to shed excess weight.
- Avoid drinking and smoking.
- Regularly check with the health care provider to know the state of health of your kidney. Remember, early detection is key. They will usually check for the levels of albumin in the blood to see that it is okay.
- Follow prescribed diet and lifestyle regulations.
With all these, it is important that you consult with your health-care provider for a better understanding of your symptoms and management options. This article is meant to serve only as a guide.
See Effects of Diabetes on Your Body (II) for more of understanding of how diabetes can really disturb your body systems, and Ayurvedic herbs to manage diabetes.