Saturday, April 21, 2012

Busting Myths through Social Media

Today, via Wego Health’s #HAWMC, we are supposed to use a Madlib website to create a poem.  I tried, and it was a complete failure.  It was beyond illiterate and ridiculous and not remotely funny.  So, instead of rewriting it I decided to do a bit of online advocacy.

Today I’d like to conduct an experiment via social media to see if I can do something to help bust some of the myths about diabetes.  I plan to post a link to this blog post on my Facebook page in the hopes that others will share it.  Maybe, just maybe, someone out there will be enlightened and more informed about diabetes. (crossing my fingers)

One of the major myths about diabetes is what causes it to appear.  How do we get diabetes? Here are my very simplified explanations:

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease where the pancreas ceases to produce enough insulin (or any at all.)  People who have type 1 diabetes must inject insulin in order to live.  Type 1 diabetes most often shows up in children but can also manifest in adults.  What does insulin do?  Here is a quote from 

“In simple terms insulin encourages your body’s cells to drain glucose from your blood and store it as glycogen in the liver and muscles of your body. This is then used as an energy source for your body as and when required and stops the body burning fat to create energy.”

Without insulin there will be too much glucose in the blood which will cause organ damage.

People with type 1 diabetes didn’t “get it” by eating too much sugar. There is no cure.  It won’t just go away.  No matter how/what they eat, people with type 1 diabetes will always require insulin injections, until there is a cure.

Type 2 diabetes is a different story.  Most people with type 2 diabetes are “insulin resistant”.  Their pancreas may produce insulin but the cells are resistant to accepting it.  (There are numerous variations on this but I don’t intend to splain it all here.) There is a strong genetic component with type 2 diabetes.  In other words, people who develop diabetes are pre-disposed to get it. (Thanks dear ancestors).  While an unhealthy diet and inactivity may hasten the development of type 2 diabetes, it does not cause it.  Just like with type 1, people with type 2 didn’t eat their way into the disease.  Not all heavy/inactive people will get type 2 diabetes and not all people with type 2 are heavy/inactive.

There is a lot of talk in the media about a cure for type 2 diabetes.  It is said that all we have to do is lose weight and exercise and we’ll be cured.  This is a fallacy.  Type 2 diabetes can be controlled with a healthy diet and regular exercise but there is not a cure….yet.  Even those people who go through bariatric surgery and see their glucose numbers lowered are not cured.

There is also no such thing as a “diabetes diet”.  There are numerous ways to eat and successfully control our blood sugar.  Controlling the amount of carbohydrates we consume is definitely the right direction to head.  Each individual who has type 2 diabetes (and type 1 for that matter) must use a glucose monitor to determine what and how much food they can consume.

Every person who has diabetes, regardless of type, is just like you.  They don’t deserve to be treated any differently.  They shouldn’t be looked down upon because they have this disease.  It’s not their fault.  They didn’t do this to themselves.  People with diabetes know what they can and can’t eat; please don’t attempt to advise them or assume you know better.

It’s my hope that people will read this and possibly understand a little better.  We all hope for a cure.  In the meantime we work hard, each and every day, to control our disease the best we can.  Thank you for taking the time to educate yourself.  Now, pass it on!


  1. great post Kate! i created a link on my FB page, so i will be interested to see how many of my friends read your post and repost it too!

  2. Hi Kate, I respect the depth of knowledge you have and the responsible way you share it with your audience. Could you help me understand where my experience fits in with the absolute answers you give? I'm certainly naive compared to those of you who have lived with this for decades and seen so many false claims. Before my type 1 LADA diagnosis 3 years ago I knew almost nothing about diabetes. So after my oral meds honeymoon ended 15 months ago and my A1c began the rise toward required insulin (according to everyone), I took my own look at the science. And I looked toward eastern medicine too. I had to drastically change my lifestyle, but to the amazement of my healthcare team, not only has my A1c dropped below 6, but more unprecedented, my c-peptide is up, supposedly impossible at this stage. I can't believe I'm a genetic fluke. I know this kind of reversal (especially for an autoimmune variety of diabetes) is difficult to believe for you long-timers. The problem is, I think anecdotal reports like mine are all we're gong to get on this possibility. There's nothing patentable about this option, so it won't get researched or widely reported. I could just quietly enjoy this extremely healthy, puncture-free body I now have, but it just feels like a responsibility to try to make my experiment part of the discussion. Have you already deleted this? What if a real answer was buried "Cry Wolf" style amongst the snake oil pitches of the past?

    1. Hi Russell, wow I'm so impressed with the turn-around of your condition! The first thing that comes to mind is: kudos to you for educating yourself and finding something that works for you. I'm not sure I am clear on what "absolute answers" that I have posted that you are referring to, but let me say that I certainly don't have all the answers. In fact, I'm a huge advocate of searching out your own answers. I am not a doctor or an expert; I'm simply someone who lives with type 2 diabetes and I want to share what I've learned.

      I think we are in a very interesting time when it comes to diabetes research. I believe that the more that people find their own ways to combat this disease and talk about it, the more the possibility increases that scientists and doctors are going to pay attention to alternative methods.

      I've always said that there is more than one way to deal with diabetes. I've also stressed that there isn't just one way! I will admit to knowing very little about LADA and I certainly know nothing about your situation. I'm stunned, and impressed, that you can manage without injections. I do think that your case is out of the ordinary. I would encourage you to tell your story so that others might learn from it, provided that you don't start telling the world that you have found a cure.

      Thank you for commenting so intelligently on my blog! I fail to see why you would think I would delete your comment. Good luck to you on your journey.

    2. Thanks Kate. Sorry for the "delete" comment. Besides tending to be a little dramatic, I suppose I'm also little defensive about what some see as a heretical view. I do try to be careful about the word "cure" even if that is the practical result for me. It'll be years before all doubt can be removed since LADAs can go anywhere from 2-12 years before the steady rise in A1c and complications require insulin. I only contemplate reversal because of my significant break from the pattern. As for absolutes, it just seems that as the true "spectrum" nature of diabetes is uncovered, a few long held conceptions seem to be called into doubt. Nothing is as black and white as we were originally told. As you say, Type 2 CAN have a genetic component and my LADA, which certainly has a genetic component appears to be triggered by bad diet and stress. Another truism that's fallen recently is the idea that a long-time Type 1s pancreas is dead. Two recent studies are showing beta cell activity even in people with decades of insulin use.

      Anyway, I'm curious why you don't think the evidence for diet/activity reversals for Type 2s is strong. Besides the studies, stories like all the "biggest losers" that started with diabetes and by the end brought blood sugar to normal seem compelling, don't they?

      If someone is interested in my experiment, is it OK to say they can Google me? I don't want to be rude and put my blog address :)
      Thanks again for offering such a helpful space,
      Russell Stamets

    3. Not sure where to begin here. I do think there is strong evidence that, through hard work, dietary changes and increased exercise, many people with T2 can control their condition even to the point of no longer needing medication. Terms like reversal and cure are deceptive. Changing your diet and moving more might give you normal blood sugars but you still have diabetes. You will always have diabetes (unless there is a true cure found). If these people on "biggest loser" return to their old ways, they will again see higher blood glucose readings. Even those people who go through bariatric surgery and have normal blood sugar will forever have to eat a very restricted diet in order to maintain their weight loss and better glucose control. They aren't cured. A cure(or reversal) to me means that, 1. You no longer need medication/insulin to control your blood glucose. 2. You are free to eat whatever you want without worry that your glucose will spike. Show me that and you've shown me a cure/reversal.

      I applaud everyone who has found a way to successfully control their diabetes. I've said it, ad nauseum, that it's up to each of us to find what works best for us. I implore people to take charge of their condition and find the best way to live with it.

      As for people finding your blog, all they need to do is click on your name which will take them to your profile where you blog is listed. I have no problem sharing other people's blogs here. In fact, I have a whole list of blogs on the left that I follow and encourage others to follow as well.

      This banter has gotten lengthy! :) I appreciate the dialog.

  3. I agree that type 2 has genetic copenents that make it possbile inside your body. After several years of smoking, sedentary lifestyle and overeating regularly...I shockingly developed Type 2 and truely I was shocked because I had no recorded history of that in my family. Interestingly enough, my older but seemingly healthier sister (nonsmoker, thin, and active) developed celiac disease. We now, both believe that due to changing hormones within our systems (yes, we are of that age group) this seemed to have triggered a genetic response from both of us but each in a different way. After much research from her daughter I am beginning to believe that not only were my sloppy health issues and odd genes could be the reason for my disease, I also am beginning to think that the genetic altering of our food sources (like wheat, barly and oats) could also trigger these autoimmune issues. Get all these combinations together and add stress and your gonna get issues. It is not curable but it is controllable, if I have to have a disease (and apparantly, I do) at least I know I can actively try my best to make it better and liveable....

    1. Hi Michelle, yes I agree that the way our food is processed has added yet another layer to our health issues. The sad part, aside from having our own farms, is that we can't avoid some of this stuff! I fear that it will be a difficult thing to fix since a lot of the tampering has been to make our food more plentiful to feed the masses.

      Those of us who are dedicated to improving our health are on the right track.

  4. Very good post. we do need more myth busting. Incidentally, I thought the book 50 diabetes myths that can ruin your life and the 50 diabetes truths that can save it written by a patient, is very good. A real myth buster.

  5. very interesting and useful post for us. but i want to know more about type 1 diabetes.

    1. Grivin, check out the list of diabetes blogs on the left of my page. Many of those are written by people with type 1.


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