There are a lot of myths out there about Type 1 Diabetes including how it’s caused, who is susceptible to this disease, and many others. So, this week I would like to break the myths of T1D with help from JDRF, more formerly known as, “Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation,” and Catherine Marschilok, M.S.N., C.D.E., Board Certified in Advanced Diabetes Management. Let’s get started!
Myth: Type 1 Diabetes is caused by obesity or eating too much sugar.
Fact: While obesity has been identified as one of the “triggers” for Type 2 Diabetes, it has no relation to the cause of Type 1 Diabetes. Scientists do not yet know exactly what causes T1D, but they believe that both genetic and environmental factors could be involved. Eating too much sugar is also not a factor.
WebMD’s Definition of Type 1 Diabetes:
“Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s own immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas (called beta cells).
Normally, the body’s immune system fights off foreign invaders like viruses or bacteria. But for unknown reasons, in people with type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks various cells in the body. This results in a complete deficiency of the insulin hormone.”
Myth: Only kids get Type 1 Diabetes.
Fact: Type 1 Diabetes, formerly known as “juvenile” or “juvenile onset” diabetes, is often first diagnosed in children, teenagers, or young adults. However, people may develop T1D at any age. For example, I was diagnosed with T1D when I was 23.
Myth: Taking insulin and eating healthy will cure Type 1 Diabetes.
Fact: Taking insulin keeps people like me with T1D alive, but does not cure the disease. Eating healthy will keep my blood sugar levels under control, but it will not deteriorate the disease any less. While progress towards finding a cure has been substantial, there is still no cure for T1D.
Myth: People with diabetes should never eat sweets.
Fact: We can eat sweets! I do have to admit, when I was first diagnosed, I thought this myth was a fact, and I was devastated. However, sweets can fit into my meal plan, just as they would for people without diabetes. And there are times when sweets are a must: If my blood sugar drops too low, sweets (or juice, or soda) can be the surest to raise it, and prevent the onset of hypoglycemia. But remember, like everything else in life, all in moderation.
Myth: People with diabetes can’t participate in athletics.
Fact: Physical exercise is important for everyone’s health, and is especially important for people with diabetes. Regular exercise helps lower blood sugar levels keeps it in the target range.
My husband and I currently participate in an indoor soccer league, and one of my favorite past times is jogging at Memorial Park in Houston. However, I do have to monitor my blood sugar at all times because physical activity does lower it and can potentially bring my levels to dangerous lows.
Myth: Women with diabetes shouldn’t get pregnant.
Fact: Thanks to advances in diabetes research, the outlook for pregnant women with diabetes is significantly better today than it was a generation ago. However, diabetic pregnancy requires extra effort and commitment, excellent blood sugar control, and education in all areas of diabetes management.
I personally have not experienced pregnancy yet, but I can’t wait to conquer this myth when the time comes!
*This along with more information about the myths and facts of diabetes can be found on JDRF’s website at http://jdrf.org/life-with-t1d/type-1-diabetes-information.