The twelfth of series of Autoimmune Disorders.  My reasons for this series is twofold.  First, to make people aware of the many Autoimmune Disorders and to give some history of the well known or more prevalent ones.  It is noted that 1 in 5 Americans have been diagnosed with at least one Autoimmune Disorder, of which 75% are women.  Second, allowing people to be aware, especially those who are affected by Autoimmune Disorders, that they don’t need to live with the residual aches and pains, inflammation, stress, depression, and anxiety.  There are alternative options that work alongside conventional therapies.  My focus, as a Reiki Practitioner and Wellness Advocate, is to educate and better help those who are suffering needlessly.  I teach a class on the benefits of Reiki Energy Healing for those who have been diagnosed with Autoimmune Disorders.  For more information and to register, please contact me at 860-357-5263.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes happens when your immune system destroys cells in your pancreas called beta cells.  They’re the ones that make insulin.

Some people get a condition called secondary diabetes. It’s similar to type 1, except the immune system doesn’t destroy your beta cells.  They’re wiped out by something else, like a disease or an injury to your pancreas.

What Does Insulin Do?

Insulin is a hormone that helps move sugar, or glucose, into your body’s tissues.  Cells use it as fuel.

Damage to beta cells from type 1 diabetes throws the process off.  Glucose doesn’t move into your cells because insulin isn’t there to do it.  Instead it builds up in your blood and your cells starve.  This causes high blood sugar, which can lead to:

  • Dehydration. When there’s extra sugar in your blood, you pee more.  That’s your body’s way of getting rid of it. A large amount of water goes out with that urine, causing your body to dry out.
  • Weight loss. The glucose that goes out when you pee takes calories with it.  That’s why many people with high blood sugar lose weight.  Dehydration also plays a part.
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). If your body can’t get enough glucose for fuel, it breaks down fat cells instead.  This creates chemicals called ketones.  Your liver releases the sugar it stores to help out. But your body can’t use it without insulin, so it builds up in your blood, along with the acidic ketones. This combination of extra glucose, dehydration, and acid buildup is known as “ketoacidosis” and can be life-threatening if not treated right away.
  • Damage to your body. Over time, high glucose levels in your blood can harm the nerves and small blood vessels in your eyes, kidneys, and heart.  They can also make you more likely to get hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Who Gets Type 1 Diabetes?

It’s rare. Only about 5% of people with diabetes have type 1.  It’s more common in whites than in African-Americans.  It affects men and women equally.  Although the disease usually starts in people under 20, it can happen at any age.

What Causes It?

Doctors don’t know all the things that lead to type 1 diabetes.  But they do know your genes play a role.

They also know type 1 diabetes can result when something in the environment, like a virus, tells your immune system to go after your pancreas.  Most people with type 1 diabetes have signs of this attack, called autoantibodies.  They’re present in almost everyone who has the condition when their blood sugar is high.

Type 1 diabetes can happen along with other autoimmune diseases, like Grave’s disease or vitiligo.

What Are the Symptoms?

These are often subtle, but they can become severe. They include:

  • Heavy thirst
  • Increased hunger (especially after eating)
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in your belly
  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss (even though you’re eating and feel hungry)
  • Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
  • Blurred vision
  • Heavy, labored breathing (your doctor will call this Kussmaul respiration)
  • Frequent infections of the skin, urinary tract, or vagina

Signs of an emergency with type 1 diabetes include:

  • Shaking and confusion
  • Rapid breathing
  • Fruity smell to your breath
  • Pain in your belly
  • Loss of consciousness (rare)

How Is It Diagnosed?

If your doctor thinks you have type 1 diabetes, he’ll check your blood sugar levels.  He may test your urine for glucose or chemicals your body makes when you don’t have enough insulin.

Right now there’s no way to prevent type 1 diabetes.

How Is It Treated?

Many people with type 1 diabetes live long, healthy lives.  The key to good health is to keep your blood sugar levels within the range your doctor gives you.  You’ll need to check them often and adjust insulin, food, and activities to make that happen.

All people with type 1 diabetes must use insulin injections to control their blood sugar.

When your doctor talks about insulin, he’ll mention three main things:

  • “Onset” is the length of time before it reaches your bloodstream and begins lowering blood sugar.
  • “Peak time” is the time when insulin is doing the most work in terms of lowering blood sugar.
  • “Duration” is how long it keeps working after onset.

Several types of insulin are available.

  • Rapid-acting starts to work in about 15 minutes.  It peaks around 1 hour after you take it and continues to work for 2 to 4 hours.
  • Regular or short-acting gets to work in about 30 minutes.  It peaks between 2 and 3 hours and keeps working for 3 to 6 hours.
  • Intermediate-acting won’t get into your bloodstream for 2 to 4 hours after injection.  It peaks from 4 to 12 hours and works for 12 to 18 hours.
  • Long-acting takes several hours to get into your system and lasts for about 24 hours.

Your doctor may start you out with two injections a day of two different types of insulin. You may progress to three or four shots a day.

Most insulin comes in a small glass bottle called a vial.  You draw it out with a syringe that has a needle on the end and give yourself the shot.  Some now comes in a prefilled pen.  One kind is inhaled.  You can also get it from a pump — a device you wear that sends it into your body via a small tube.  Your doctor will help you to pick the type and the delivery method that’s best for you.

Lifestyle Changes

Exercise is an important part of treating type 1, but it isn’t as simple as going out for a run.  You have to balance your insulin dose and the food you eat with any activity, even simple tasks around the house or yard.

Knowledge is power.  Check your blood sugar before, during, and after an activity to find out how it affects you.  Some things will make your levels go up; others won’t.  You can lower your insulin or have a snack with carbs to prevent it from dropping too low.

If your test is high, test for ketones — acids that can result from high sugar levels.  If they’re OK, you should be good to go.  If they’re high, skip the workout.

You’ll also need to understand how food affects your blood sugar.  Once you know the roles that carbs, fats, and protein play, you can build a healthy eating plan that helps keep your levels where they should be.  A diabetes educator or registered dietitian can help you get started.

What Happens Without Treatment?

If you don’t keep your type 1 diabetes well controlled, you could set yourself up for serious or life-threatening problems:

  • Retinopathy. This eye problem happens in about 80% of adults who have had type 1 diabetes for more than 15 years.  It’s rare before puberty no matter how long you’ve had the disease.  To prevent it — and keep your eyesight — keep good control of blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides.
  • Kidney damage. About 20% to 30% of people with type 1 diabetes get a condition called nephropathy.  The chances grow over time.  It’s most likely to show up 15 to 25 years after the onset of diabetes.  It can lead to other serious problems like kidney failure and heart disease.
  • Poor blood circulation and nerve damage. Damaged nerves and hardened arteries lead to a loss of sensation in and a lack of blood supply to your feet.  This raises your chances of injury and makes it harder for open sores and wounds to heal and when that happens, you could lose a limb.  Nerve damage can also cause digestive problems like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Genetics and Type 1 Diabetes

If you have type 1 diabetes, you might wonder if your child would get it, too.  Or if one of your parents has it, what it means for you.

Your genes definitely play a role in type 1, a less common form of diabetes that’s often diagnosed in children and young adults, but they’re not the whole story.  Like much in life, it’s a mix of nature and nurture.

Your environment, from where you grow up to the foods you eat, also matters. Researchers don’t know exactly how — and how much — all those things affect your chances of getting the disease.  Your genes set the stage, but you can’t be certain how it’ll all play out.

Your Genes

There’s no diabetes gene that gets turned on or off to give you type 1.  Instead, a bunch of them play a role, including a dozen or so that have the biggest say: the HLA genes.  They make proteins your immune system uses to keep you healthy.  Since type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease — your body destroys the cells that make insulin — it makes sense that HLA genes are front and center.

There are thousands of versions of them in the human gene pool.  Which ones you get from your parents affect your chances of diabetes in a big way.  Some make you more likely to get it, while others can help protect you from it.  You have type 1 if your body makes little or no insulin, a hormone that helps your body turn sugar into energy.

Certain genes are more common in one group of people than in another.  That’s why race and ethnicity affect things, too.  For example, white people are more likely to have type 1 diabetes than others.

But even if you have genes that make you more likely to get type 1, that doesn’t mean you definitely will.  Even with identical twins — who have the same exact genes — sometimes one gets it and the other doesn’t. That’s where the environment comes into play.

Diabetes Odds

If you’re a father who has type 1, your child has about a 1 in 17 chance of getting it.

For mothers with type 1 diabetes who give birth:

  • Before age 25, the child has a 1 in 25 chance.
  • At 25 or older, the child has 1 in 100 chance, which is about the same as anyone else.

A few things can boost those odds:

  1. If the parent had diabetes before age 11, the child’s chances double.
  2. If both parents have it, the odds could be as high as 1 in 4.
  3. If the parent also has a condition called type 2 polyglandular autoimmune syndrome, their child’s chance of having type 1 diabetes would be 1 in 2.

All those numbers can be confusing. Keep in mind that most people with type 1 diabetes don’t have relatives who do, so it often seems to come out of nowhere.

What if My Sibling Has It?

If your parents don’t have it but a brother or sister does, you have about 5% chance of getting type 1.  That’s about the same as if your father had it.  If your identical twin has it, though, your odds may be as high as 50%.

How Does Type 1 Diabetes Affect Your Brain?

Many tools and tips can help you control your type 1 diabetes, but left unchecked, it can affect several organs, including your brain. Big spikes and dips in blood sugar levels are linked to depression, shortened attention spans, and slowed reaction times, both physically and mentally.

More research needs to be done for experts to figure out the exact short-term and long-term effects of diabetes on the brain — but they’re hopeful that they’ll find ways to prevent and even reverse damage.

How High Blood Sugar Affects Children

A 2014 study published by the American Diabetes Association shows that really high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can slow the growth of a brain as it develops.  The same is true when a child’s levels swing up and down a lot.

Brain scans show differences between a child with diabetes and one without.  Still researchers found no major differences in their IQs, mood, behavior, and learning and memory skills.  It’s still unknown if the disease can affect things like their muscle movements and how fast they process information.

How It Affects Adults

Adults who’ve had type 1 for a long time have slower physical and mental reactions.  The condition doesn’t seem to impact a person’s learning and thinking skills, researchers say.  But memory and attention span can be affected.

Type 1, like type 2, is linked with a high rate of depression.  High blood sugar levels and the stress of managing a long-term disease are to blame.

What Can You Do?

The best defense is to control your blood sugar, eat a healthy diet, and follow all of your doctor’s instructions.

The longer your levels stay really high or low, or swing to extremes, the more likely your brain will be affected.  Continuous glucose monitors are a great tool, since they measure blood sugar every 5 minutes.

What Are the Holistic and Alternative Modalities for Type 1 Diabetes?

Reiki Energy Healing is one of the holistic and alternative modalities to help decrease or release residual inflammation, aches and pains, and mental and emotional stresses due to chronic Autoimmune Disorders.

Reiki supports and enhances the body’s ability to heal itself.  It works equally well whether it is used to help accelerate the body’s healing process while recovering from illness or as a form of preventive self-care.

It is one of the most powerful techniques known for alleviating stress, anxiety, and pain.  It naturally creates deep states of relaxation and feelings of well-being.

Reiki supports and strengthens the immune system’s ability to fight infection of any kind, including viruses and bacteria.

It is not just for treating physical problems.  It works with the body’s natural healing wisdom to restore states of inner peace and balance at all levels… physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

Those affected with Autoimmune Disorders quite often deal with stress, anxiety, depression, lack of self-confidence and self-esteem, toxic overload from pharmaceutical medications, lack of mobility, and/or decreased social activities.  Reiki can release these symptoms, increase mobility, and facilitate a return to a healthier and happier lifestyle.

Other modalities may include Certified Pure Essential Oils, meditation, sound healing, pranic healing, crystal healing, EFT/Tapping, yoga, qi gong, acupressure/acupressure, and dietary changes.

Information on Type 1 Diabetes is from