It’s hard to believe that in January of 2012, it will be 9 years since our 18 year old was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
Our happy-go-lucky 4th grader had been acting uncharacteristically crabby for a few months before, so much so I had to make good on my threat to send him back to public school and out of our home school situation. It was 2 days after he returned to school that our world was changed forever. I wish we would have figured it out sooner, but we missed these telltale signs:
- He had lost weight and was really lean, but we chalked that up to growing and being active.
- He had debilitating stomach aches after eating a meal (especially meals with carbs), gas maybe?
- A normally great student, he couldn’t concentrate and always wanted a snack because he was hungry.
- On a car trip, he had to pee, a ton, every hour. We just thought he was having too much liquid.
- He was combative though his nature is to be a lover, not a fighter
Even though I grew up in a household with a diabetic, I was a child and so the onset symptoms were not something I had witnessed. As more and more symptoms cropped up, something clicked and I decided to use an extra Blood Sugar meter to “just check” his blood sugar.
At 1pm, on January 3rd, 2003 the blood sugar meter read 580.
A normal person’s blood sugar would rarely be higher than 120. My heart dropped to the floor. There is no other word but DEVASTATING to describe the moment that my suspicions had been confirmed in the kitchen of my mom’s house.
He has always been so mature, so curious, so steady, that even when he asked, “Mommy, do you think this means I have Diabetes?“, and I whispered yes. He did not seem too terribly upset. His only fear was that he would have to spend the night in the hospital. I hugged him and told him I would be there with him the whole time. He was, and still is, an unbelievably brave soldier.
So began his life-long journey with needles, finger-poking, doctors, emergency rooms (only once thank God!), millions of questions from friends and strangers, insurance forms, prescriptions and tons of prayers.
What Diabetes Is and Isn’t
Why do I share this? Because many of you are aware of diabetes, but are not in full understanding of what diabetes is and what is it not. There is confusion because there are actually 2 different metabolic diseases with the same name. But the causes and lifestyles differ.
The purpose in sharing this is to clear up some confusion and so that when you encounter someone who says they have diabetes, you have enough knowledge that you can have an intelligent conversation about the topic. I am telling you the short, layman version of the story. It is not meant to be any sort of medical description or diagnostic tool. It’s just ME sharing what I have learned with YOU…..
Watch this video because trust me, I have encountered this guy or at least people like him!
Read on, so YOU are not this guy!
Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes differ, here are a few ways:
- Type 1 is typically an Auto-Immune disease, the body fights a good part of the body because it is similar in structure to an enemy of the body. In the case of T1D, it all happens in the pancreas, where insulin is made. The body attacks the islet cells that make insulin and over time, the production of insulin stops, forever.
- Type 1 usually strikes people under the age of 40. One sibling was diagnosed at 11 years old, and another was diagnosed at 26 years old.
- It can run in families, but even if Diabetes is not present, simply being in a family with auto-immune disease may make it more likely that if the auto-immune response is triggered, Diabetes will happen.
- There is no cure. There is only management. My personal opinion is that there probably is a cure somewhere, but because Diabetes (in all forms) is such big business, like cancer, there is too much money to be lost by curing it.
- Insulin by injection or pump infusion is required to convert carbs to energy. In order to take a correct amount of insulin, the diabetic needs to become very skilled at knowing how many carbs they are eating, and how much insulin they need to keep their blood sugar in the normal range. If your underestimate, the symptoms as I described above can return, and if they go onto long, may result in hospitalization or death. If insulin is overestimated, then the diabetic will experience a Low Blood Sugar- this may result in sweatiness, loss of concentration, loss of consciousness, seizures, and potentially death.
- Type 1 Diabetics need to check their blood sugars upwards of 4-8 times a day, yes sticking their fingers that many times. Unless they have a sensor that is worn on the body that is “connected” to a pump. Even then, they still need to test 3xs a day.
- Most people think that Type 1’s can’t eat sugar. That is actually not true because if it were, they could not eat fruit, and as we know, even veggies have carbs which will break down into sugar. They just have to estimate the carbs to provide the correct amount of insulin to keep the blood sugar in check.
Type 2 Diabetes:
While it shares the same name as the disease above, there are only a couple of ways that is it similar, but the cause and root are very different.
- Type 2 Diabetes may or may not require medication and/or insulin.
- They are often not required to take their blood sugar as often, maybe once a day, or once a week.
- This type is a result of Insulin Resistance. The body makes it, but the body has become desensitized to the effects due to over consumption of complex carbs and sugars as well as a lack of exercise or simply moving throughout the day.
- The complications of having constant high blood sugars are pretty much the same for both diseases. Heart disease, blood vessel blockages in the retinas, kidneys and the far ends of the limbs (fingers, toes, legs) are all caused by too much sugar in the blood which hampers circulation.
- Adherence to a carb-restricted diet is not only helpful, it is actually darn, near curative. People have completely turned around their disease simply by diet change and adding some movement.
- This disease has historically been something that happens over time, in adulthood. But, because of our crappy processed food that abounds, children are now dealing with it, as well as obesity.
In both cases, what you put in your mouth plays a pivotal role in whether or not the disease will be in control of you, or you will be in control of the disease.
While it is true so often in life that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, I would have much preferred something else for my child. I prayed that God could somehow transfer the disease to me, the same as I had all those years ago when my younger sibling was diagnosed. It was not to be.
He is doing well, off living on his own, getting a taste of what it is to be an adult. He has more than most young men have to deal with, but he is still steady. He does his best to eat as often as he can (according to time and budget) as close as he can to Paleo. He is so motivated that he does Crossfit on his own in the backyard of the house he rents, by himself!
Yeah, he is still a teenager, but he is starting to figure out that when he eats meals that have very little processed carbs and grains in it, he feels better and his disease is easier to manage. It’s not perfect or what any of us would want, but it is the best of a bad situation.
What started as a quest to help our son stay as healthy as possible, has turned into as desire to share what I learn with anyone who wants to be their healthy best. Yeah, I may be “just a mom” but as tenaciously as I worked to learn, teach and coach my son through his disease is how I work with the clients who seek my help. As it will be for you too.
Much thanks to Robb Wolf who has always put up with a ton of questions about this topic from me, maybe excessively so.
NO MORE EXCUSES-Cuz you ain’t got one anymore!
It’s time for you to GET LEAN, STRONG and HEALTHY!
Let’s do this, together.
Anne (Annie) Berryhill is a Crossfit Level 1 Trainer, USA Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach, Crossfit Athlete and competitor who owns and operates OC Fitness Revival in Orange County, CA. Services include personal and group training, nutrition classes and counseling. As well as providing incredible health-improving supplements to help people to make the most out of what they’ve got.