Monday, November 8, 2010

Treatments, Part II.

So, if your not the type of diabetic who must take insulin, what are your other options for treatment? Well, there are several, and we’re talking about them today!

Pills/Oral Medications

Let me say first thing, that I am not an expert on all the oral medications available for diabetics. Oral medications to treat diabetes do not work for Type 1 diabetics, because they work by either reducing the amount of glucose the liver releases, increasing the amount of glucose the cells can use, or stimulating the pancreas to make more insulin. None of this will work in a Type 1, because a Type 1 diabetic does not make insulin at all. These medications are primarily for use in Type 2 diabetics. There are several different classes of oral medications (see this Wikipedia link for a nice overview), and many Type 2 diabetics will use 1, 2 or a combination of these medications. Like insulin, each patient is different, and will require a different combination of drugs at different doses to gain the best control.


Diet is an important part of the treatment for diabetes. For Type 1 and Type 1.5 diabetics, it is only one part of the treatment package. For some Type 2 diabetics, and those with gestational diabetes, they may be able to gain sufficient control by diet alone, but often that is not possible. The subject of diet is a very difficult one to cover, because what works for one person will not work for the next, and people tend to be very opinionated about the best diet for their particular brand of diabetes. There are people that swear by low-carb diets, and those that eat as many carbs as they want. What I will say here though, is that there is no one “diabetic diet,” that people should exercise moderation in all things, that diabetics CAN have sugar, and that sometimes “sugar free” foods are worse for diabetes than foods that contain sugar. Most diabetics who are managing their disease with a high degree of involvement will keep meticulous track of everything that goes in their mouth. Seriously, if you ever want to know how many grams of carbohydrates something contains, you should try to ask a diabetic, because chances are, they’ll give a pretty accurate estimate! Eating affects blood sugar, so the more you know which foods affect your blood sugar and how they affect it, the better you can manage your diabetes.

Basically, the take home message from me on diet is, it is important in the treatment of diabetes to differing degrees for different people. Diabetics expend a LOT of energy calculating how food will affect them (to the point that eating is often not an enjoyable experience anymore) And also, that you should not judge a diabetic based on what they are eating, PERIOD!


And finally, exercise is good for everyone and that goes for diabetics as well. Usually, exercise will reduce the need for insulin or medications. (The only time a diabetic should not exercise is if their blood sugar is high, because that can actually make it go higher—counter intuitive, I know.) And the amount a diabetic exercises really just depends on how they’re managing their illness, their physical health and ability to exercise, and their personal preferences.

IN CONCLUSION, with regards to treatments for diabetes, the basic take home messages are these:

  1. Type 1 and 1.5 diabetics must take insulin
  2. Treatments for other types of diabetics depend on a lot of different variables but can include insulin, pills, diet and exercise.
  3. There is NO CURE, and all treatments are imperfect.

Next Up: Diabetes by the Numbers!

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