What Is Diabetes?

Let’s set a scenario. Someone you know has been diagnosed with diabetes.

Right – so you kind of know what that is yes? You’ve seen it on the news. Basically they can’t eat sugar right? Or they’ve eaten too much and that’s why? But aren’t there two types? Or just 1? So they need to take insulin – is that forever?

Even some of the people closest to me still don’t quite get the whole diabetes thing so I thought I’d do my best to clear it up. This is a post to just give a basic outline of what diabetes “is”.

First of all – it’s actually really common. It is estimated that around 1 in 20 of us in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes and over 500,000 of us are walking around with the condition who aren’t even aware of it. And these figures are only rising.

Everything we eat, and a lot of what we drink, contains glucose in varying amounts. Diabetes is a condition where the amount of glucose in your bloodstream is too high because your body has an inability to use it.

We all need a certain amount of glucose in our blood stream at any given point and there is a “safe” level which those with a working pancreas can regulate. Unfortunately, those with a dysfunctional pancreas have a problem.

This is due to one of your organs, the pancreas, not producing enough (or any) insulin to help your glucose enter your body’s cells correctly. Glucose is used in a number of ways but essentially it provides us with vital fuel in order to live our lives and do what we want. With diabetics, the glucose stays in the blood stream rather than being used by the body and this is where complications occur.

If you want to know some of the complications they can be found here.

There are two types of diabetes.

Type 1


Type 1 Diabetes is a condition where the insulin producing pancreatic cells in your body have been destroyed and because of this you are unable to produce any, or enough, insulin to regulate blood glucose levels. It is an autoimmune condition – your body attacks itself.

It accounts for approximately 10% of all diabetics. It requires an artificial input of insulin to manage either by injections, pump or tablets. Unfortunately, there is no cure as of yet so we have to pump/ inject/ swallow insulin for the rest of our lives.

Just to give you an idea of how many times that is – currently I inject myself around 6 times a day (based on 4 meals a day and 2 background injections). That’s 2190 times a year. Let’s say I make it to 75 years old that’s another 105,000 or so injections to go.

We live in hope.

Type 2



Type 2 Diabetes is developed when the insulin producing pancreatic cells in the body are unable to produce enough insulin (they still produce some) to cope with the level of glucose in the blood stream. This is otherwise known as insulin resistance.

The stereotype is that it is usually down to a very poor diet, being overweight and a lack of looking after yourself, which in a lot of cases is true, but isn’t always correct. Type 2 Diabetes can be treated by an amount of injected insulin or just by a healthy diet and a increased level of exercise – it varies from patient to patient.


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Dan has been a Type 1 Diabetic since November 2011 and writes about his experiences living with two autoimmune conditions (Type 1 Diabetes and Ulcerative Colitis), nutrition, exercise and living an overall healthier life on his blog and via his social media platforms.

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