Glucose dysregulation basics

1 in 4 Australians are diabetic or pre-diabetic. How staggering is that!

Further, 1 in 16 adults have full blown type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). This is the type diabetes that can result from inappropriate diet and sedentary lifestyle. It usually occurs in adults after years in poor lifetyle choices, although sadly, the current trend is that more younger people are getting this diagnosis each year. The other one, type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is an autoimmune disease that is less common. It usually starts at a younger age, hence it also called juvenile diabetes. Only about 5-10% of diabetics have this condition.

These statistics indicate that while a fair few pre-diabetics manage to reverse their condition, many do not. This is an instant where disease prevention is most critical.

“1 in 4 Australians are diabetic or pre-diabetic.”

The position statement of the Australian Diabetes Society states the following. “ In people with pre-diabetes, there is no proven role for routinely testing: capillary blood glucose; glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) levels; serum insulin or pancreatic c-peptide levels; or testing for ischemic heart disease or the microvascular complications of diabetes”.

This means if that an individual is prediabetic, routine diagnostic tests cannot provide a diagnosis. Hence, the allopathic medical system tends not to capture prediabetics, and hence does not provide treatment. It pretty much waits for these individuals to get really sick to then give them the big guns in diabetic therapy.

The good news is that natural health practitioners can fill in that much needed gap. A naturopath or nutritionist can pick up on clues years before diagnosis is given and help turn things around.

1 in 16 Australian adults have type 2 diabetes mellitus

The cellular development of  diabetes

When blood glucose (or blood sugar) is high, excess glucose flows into endothelial cells of blood vessels and beta-cells. Beta-cells are the pancreatic cells that secrete insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for regulating levels of glucose in the blood.

These two types of cells are insulin-independent, meaning they do not require the action of insulin for glucose intake. This means glucose just flows in freely. An excessive glucose flux created by high blood sugar triggers the release of superoxide radical. This is the primary reactive oxygen species  (ROS), a free radical that causes oxidative damage to the tissue. Superoxide radical is a signalling molecule that switches on cellular defences. A little is needed, but in excess it causes oxidative damage leading to inflammation and cell degeneration.

Beta-cells affected by excessive oxidative stress may end up with altered insulin secretion, impaired glucose tolerance (high blood sugar after eating) or diabetes (chronic high blood sugar). Endothelial cells affected by excessive oxidative stress will affect endothelial tissue. Endothelial tissue makes up blood vessels. Damage to endothelial cells of blood vessels may end in cardiovascular, which is a complication of diabetes. There also other diabetes complications related to blood vessel integrity such as blindness, kidney disease, nerve damage and skin infection and ulcers.

Hyperglyceamia (high blood sugar) can also occur in the healthy individual. Glucose challenges (ie. glucose spikes of high and low levels) can trigger pro-inflammatory cellular activity. The effects of glucose spikes and the ensuing oxidative stress can linger for up to 6 days. So unfortunately, binging on food and drinks once a week, on the weekend for example, can be quite damaging in the long run. This is particularly exacerbated in individuals are not sufficiently physically active.

The good news

The good news is that beta-cell and endothelial cells function can be restored. If you suspect you have glucose dysregulation you can be assisted by a naturopath or nutritionist. These practitioners can guide you to make changes in your diet and lifestyle to reverse any damage and limit oxidative stress and inflammation.