How to manage your diabetes

World Diabetes Day at Benenden Hospital

This week (13-19 June 2022) is Diabetes Week. For the millions of people living with diabetes, there are many factors to consider, and it can be stressful knowing what to do for the best, but this doesn’t mean that you should put your life on hold.

There’s lots you can do to live well with the condition.

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is a condition where your blood glucose (sugar) level is too high because your body can’t make a hormone called insulin.

This happens because your body attacks the cells in your pancreas that make the insulin, meaning you can’t produce any at all.

We all need insulin to live. It does an essential job. It allows the glucose in our blood to enter our cells and fuel our bodies.

When you have type 1 diabetes, your body still breaks down the carbohydrate from food and drink and turns it into glucose. But when the glucose enters your bloodstream, there’s no insulin to allow it into your body’s cells. More and more glucose then builds up in your bloodstream, leading to high blood sugar levels.

What causes type 1 diabetes?

We’re still not sure what causes type 1 diabetes to develop. It’s got nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. But researchers and scientists around the world, including our own, are working hard to find answers.

About 8% of people with diabetes in the UK have type 1 diabetes. It’s a serious and lifelong condition.

Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage your heart, eyes, feet and kidneys. These are known as the complications of diabetes. But you can prevent many of these long-term problems by getting the right treatment and care. This can help you manage your blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol.

You can learn more about managing your diabetes by visiting Diabetes UK.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a condition where there is too much sugar circulating in your bloodstream, which means your blood glucose (sugar) levels keep rising.

What causes type 2 diabetes?

We all need insulin to live. It does an essential job by allowing the glucose in our blood to enter our cells and fuel our bodies.

When you have type 2 diabetes, your body still breaks down carbohydrate from your food and drink and turns it into glucose. The pancreas then responds to this by releasing insulin. But because this insulin can’t work properly, your blood sugar levels keep rising. This means more insulin is released.

For some people with type 2 diabetes this can eventually tire the pancreas out, meaning your body makes less and less insulin. This can lead to even higher blood sugar levels and mean you are at risk of hyperglycaemia.

Around 90% of people with diabetes in the UK have type 2. It is serious condition and can be lifelong.

If left untreated, high sugar levels in your blood can seriously damage parts of your body, including your eyes, heart and feet. These are called the complications of diabetes. But with the right treatment and care, you can live well with type 2 diabetes and reduce your risk of developing them.

Living with type 2 diabetes

Learning how to live with type 2 diabetes can be challenging. Some people can manage it through healthier eating, being more active or losing weight. But eventually most people will need medication to bring their blood sugar down to their target level. There are different types of medicine which help control your blood sugar and advice around diet and what you can eat and what you should limit is important. It is also important to keep active and try and maintain a healthy weight. Alongside this regular check-ups on your eyes, feet, blood pressure, kidneys and cholesterol are important.

Weight loss surgery can be a very effective way of losing weight and putting type 2 diabetes into remission.

Evidence shows that surgery is a very effective treatment option for some people with type 2 diabetes, but remember, everyone is different, so treatment will vary depending on your own individual needs.

The surgery involves bypassing or reducing the size of your stomach — so you feel fuller sooner and eat less. This type of surgery is known as bariatric surgery or metabolic surgery.

Bariatric surgery and diabetes

For people with type 2 diabetes, bariatric surgery isn’t just about weight loss. It is now seen as an actual treatment for type 2 diabetes, and the weight loss becomes a bonus. It helps your body to produce and use insulin more efficiently and effectively.

Research has shown people’s blood sugar levels dropping to below the diabetes range soon after surgery, even when they haven’t lost weight. Because of this, most people who have bariatric surgery have their diabetes medications stopped soon afterwards. 

Bariatric surgery changes the way the digestive system works, in ways that are beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes. It can:

  • Make you feel full more quickly, which means you eat less
  • Change how the hormones in your gut work, which in turn affects how your body makes insulin
  • Increase the amount of bile acids that your body makes – these make your body more sensitive to insulin
  • Improve the way your body uses insulin, leading to lower blood sugar levels

While obesity is linked to type 2 diabetes, it should be noted that not everyone who has it is obese. There are other factors, like age, ethnicity and family history that play a role in our risk of type 2. These factors influence how well the liver and pancreas work and where we store our fat. We can’t change those things, but we can usually change our weight.

When is surgery recommended?

Weight loss surgery should be considered for people who meet certain criteria. These include:

  • If you have a BMI of 40 or more, or a BMI between 35 and 40 and an obesity-related condition that might improve if you lost weight (such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure) 
  • If you've tried all other weight-loss methods, such as dieting and exercise, but have struggled to lose weight or keep it off 
  • If you agree to long-term follow-up after surgery – such as making healthy lifestyle changes and attending regular check-ups 

If you’re thinking about weight loss surgery, you can book an initial no-obligation consultation with the team at here at Benenden Hospital.  Simply call the Private Patient Team on 01580 363158 or complete our online form.

There have been lots of studies that have found that weight loss surgery can help put type 2 diabetes into remission; you can find more information on this and other aspects of Diabetes by visiting Diabetes UK.

Published on 14 June 2022