Many people in the Rochester, NY area have been diagnosed as diabetic or pre-diabetic. They go to the doctor after having a blood test, the doctor tells them their blood sugar is too high, they suggest diet changes and more exercise, and then send them out the door. When a patient comes to our office saying they want help with their diabetes, the first question we ask is “what do you know about diabetes?” Understanding what a disease is and how it is affecting your body is always a good first step to taking control of your health. Let’s talk about diabetes, the different causes of the disease, why you get certain symptoms, and how we take care of it.

Diabetics are unable to regulate their blood sugar due to problems with insulin - the hormone responsible for signaling the body to remove sugar from the blood. In type 1 diabetes, a genetic defect causes your immune system to attack beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Eventually, there aren’t enough beta cells left to create enough insulin and blood sugar can’t be controlled. In type 2 diabetes, constant consumption of sugar causes beta cells to become overworked and eventually stop producing insulin. It is also possible for insulin resistance to occur. When this happens, insulin will try to tell cells to begin pulling sugar out of the blood but the cells ignore that message.

Diabetics will present with symptoms that are related to elevated blood sugar. Polydipsia or constant thirst is due to sugar spilling into the kidneys. Water will follow the sugar and be removed together, causing dehydration. Diabetes can also cause polyphagia or constant hunger as well. As we said before, elevated blood sugar is because sugar can’t get into the cells. Cells use sugar for energy and so when the sugar can’t enter them, they are starved of the energy they need. In response, they will begin sending signals to the brain saying to eat food.

The reason diabetes is dangerous is because elevated blood sugar damages blood vessels. Smaller vessels are the first to feel the effects of chronically elevated blood sugar. The first to go are typically the blood vessels that supply nerves in the extremities. Early signs of uncontrolled diabetes are neuropathies, or loss of sensation, in the hands and feet. Over time, larger vessels will begin to harden from damage done by the excess sugar. Harder blood vessels increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. The skin also becomes vulnerable with uncontrolled diabetes. High blood sugar pulls water in from the skin causing it to dry out. The dry skin easily cracks leaving the area susceptible to infections.

The best way to combat diabetes is to learn how to control your blood sugar. In type 1 diabetics this means being able to recognize the signs of elevated or low blood sugar and act accordingly. Type 2 diabetics need to begin taking steps to reverse insulin resistance. Exercise, especially weight training, helps improve insulin sensitivity and sugar utilization. Try to get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week. Also, start switching to foods that won’t spike blood sugar. Whole grains break down slower and keep blood sugar at a more manageable level. If you are having trouble making these switches, schedule a free consultation with our nutritionist. Here at Rush-Henrietta Family Chiropractic, your Rochester chiropractor, we specialize in helping diabetics learn to control their blood sugar without drugs. Call us today and take back control of your health.