The Cure

Forget the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes? Read this blog to refresh your memory!

As a type 1 diabetic it is impossible not to hope for a cure one day. There is a ton of money that is poured into research on diabetes and an ongoing search for a cure. One of the hard parts is that no one knows for sure what causes Type 1 diabetes just like most other autoimmune diseases. Some cases have been linked to genetics but I’m one of many with no known genetic predisposition. It’s impossible to stop new cases of a disease when the cause isn’t known, but if possible that would be much cheaper than a cure after getting the disease!

Most Type 1 diabetes is cause when the body’s T-cells mistake the pancreas’s beta cells as a foreign substance and attack, killing them. Without functioning beta cells, the pancreas can’t make insulin. Without insulin to unlock cells and allow sugar to enter, the cells release toxins into the bloodstream. When too much builds up, organs shut down and the body dies. This whole process is called diabetic keto acidosis (DKA). Before the discovery of insulin 100 years ago, Type 1 diabetics only lived 1-3 years after diagnosis and that was only if they essentially stopped eating. It was death by a combination of starvation and DKA. Although insulin has allowed many Type 1 diabetics to live a normal life span, it is not a cure.

The Type 1 diabetic community on social media is used to being flooded by so called “herb doctors” offering a cure to Type 1 diabetes if you buy their concoction, most that only a crazy person would try! I don’t know why they try so hard because Type 1 diabetics know such cures are a joke. There is nothing I can eat or drink that will make my beta cells start producing insulin again! But still they are relentless in their offers. I have had herb doctors comment on my social media posts which I promptly delete. There are many memes about herb doctors.

There are many other well meaning friends who will mention they heard that cinnamon cures diabetes (or a keto diet, or loosing weight or a celery diet, etc). While studies have shown that cinnamon can reduce inflammation and therefore reduce insulin resistance (which is the source ofType 2 diabetes although pretty much all humans have some insulin resistance including Type 1s), it is not a cure for either type of diabetes. There are treatments that have allowed some Type 2 diabetics to go into remission but the same isn’t true for Type 1s.

I get asked sometimes why pancreas transplants aren’t used more often to cure Type 1 diabetes. A transplant of a major organ is a major surgery and requires the patient to be on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their life. While organ transplants are a no-brainer for people who will die without it, Type 1 diabetes usually isn’t life threatening with insulin treatment. There are pancreas transplants that happen every year for people who are dying or really sick from the complications of T1D such as those in kidney failure.

People with transplants on anti-rejection meds often have side effects like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and weight gain. For an otherwise healthy person with Type 1, the risks from a pancreas transplant outweigh the risks of living on insulin. There is also a chance that the T-cells might once again attack the new beta cells and the person will once again have Type 1.

The closest to a cure in the near future is a fully functioning artificial pancreas. Insulin pumps are great at helping control blood sugar but there is a new pump in trials that has both insulin and glucagon (what is naturally released by the liver to raise blood sugar). With this pump and a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), it is programmed to keep blood sugar in range without any input needed from the wearer. Other than changing sites and refilling the pump, the Type 1 diabetic can live life normally and not have to pay attention to blood sugar and carbs. It’s not as good as a complete cure, but potentially easier than the Type 1 life currently is!

Pump with insulin and glucogon

While I would love to someday be cured of Type 1 diabetes, if that doesn’t happen in my lifetime, I will still be fine. I will keep living this life as best as I can. I will look for the blessings and otherwise keep on keeping on the best that I can.

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