Autoimmune Disease

Type 1 Diabetes Explained

Child's fingers doing an insulin blood test

What Causes Type 1 Diabetes and Can it Be Treated Naturally?

According to Beyond Type 1, a nonprofit organization that provides education surrounding diabetes, cases of type 1 diabetes are continuing to rise all over the world¹. As of today, there are approximately 1.6 million Americans that currently suffer from the condition along with 64,000 new cases on a yearly basis. Additionally, this disease accounts for 10% of the 420 million worldwide cases of diabetes. Compared to its sister disease type 2 diabetes (which develops over time leading to the pancreas not producing enough insulin), type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease caused by the immune system attacking beta cells that assist in producing insulin, thus halting insulin production. While many believe this to be a disease one is born with, it actually can occur to anyone at any age, race, shape or size.

Those who are diagnosed with a chronic long-term disease such as type 1 diabetes may feel stressed, overwhelmed or have a plethora of questions to ask their practitioner. Managing it can take a lot of determination and commitment, however with proper care this condition can be managed. At LifeWorks Wellness Center, we help many autoimmune patients treat their conditions with the use of noninvasive therapies, natural treatment methods and dietary changes.

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes type 1 diabetes as “an autoimmune reaction that destroys the cells in the pancreas that create insulin called beta cells”². Insulin is essential for glucose to enter into the body’s cells to produce energy. If this fails to occur, too much sugar will be accumulated and damage the body, thus causing other complications. This condition is called hyperglycemia. Furthermore, the lack of insulin will force the body to break down bodily tissues, carbohydrates, and muscles to use as energy, which explains why weight loss is a significant symptom. Other symptoms of the disease include frequent urination, fatigue, excessive hunger and thirst and blurred vision. The condition is more prominent in children and adolescents, but can develop at any age and last into adulthood. While the condition can be managed and treated effectively with many going on to live full healthy lives, it is unfortunately incurable, and those with type 1 are usually insulin-dependent for life.

What Causes Type 1 Diabetes?

As with other autoimmune conditions, the cause for type 1 diabetes is unknown, however studies have shown that changes within the environment have played a role in its dramatic increase. Expecting mothers that are exposed to fumes, chemicals, tobacco, pesticides, heavy metals or other toxins may be subconsciously placing their unborn children at risk. Moreover, certain viral infections and inflammation buildup have been shown to cause specific autoimmunity, including type 1 if the pancreas is affected. Other researchers have speculated genetics as a possible predisposition, however this theory still remains inconclusive since those with type 2 diabetes have not shown a consistent trend in the development of type 1.

In contrast, parents and ancestors with type 1 have not shown enough consistent evidence of passing on a diabetic gene. However, those born from a parent with the condition may be placed at higher risk due to human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes that can be linked to certain autoimmune diseases. It is also possible that a combination of environmental factors or viral infections could trigger these genes and cause the development of type 1. Still, WebMd calculates that a child’s probability of developing type 1 due to a parent having it is still significantly low³:

Parents with Type 1 Child’s Chances Ratio
Father 1 : 17
Mother (Under 25) 1 : 25
(Over 25) 1 : 100
Both 1 : 4

Treatment Options for Type 1 Diabetes

For those with type 1 diabetes, treatment options usually require blood sugar monitoring, insulin injections, exercise and a healthy diet. At LifeWorks Wellness Center, a diet that we would recommend to all diabetics is the Ketogenic Diet (or Keto). Keto is a low-carb, high-fat diet that is effective in managing certain conditions such as cancer, neurological disorders, and diabetes, including type 1. The purpose of the diet is to decrease one’s carb intake to less than 50 grams per day and instead, consume items with healthy fats. As a result, the body will create ketones from the fat and use it as fuel. While this can be beneficial, those with type 1 should speak with a practitioner and dietitian in order to avoid extreme complications.

Healthline reports that while keto significantly improved A1C levels in patients, some participants experienced blood sugar levels that were considered too low 4 which can cause drastic side effects such as confusion, dizziness or loss of consciousness. To prevent this, proper insulin dosing must be administered and the patient must slowly start the diet to see how their body responds. Along with the keto diet, patients with type 1 will be required to administer insulin three or more times during the day using either an insulin pen or an insulin pump.

Type 1 Shouldn’t Manage You, You Manage Type 1

One prominent figure in today’s pop culture notorious for living with type 1 diabetes is Nick Jonas, the youngest band member, lead singer and guitarist of The Jonas Brothers. In a 2021 Super Bowl commercial, he can be seen advertising a glucose monitoring company called Dexcom where he questions why there are no medical advancements for people like himself who continuously need “fingersticks” to live an average life. The singer was diagnosed at the age of 13 and went public about living with the condition in 2007. In 2015, he co-founded Beyond Type 1, the nonprofit organization mentioned previously. On social media, he addressed the condition with a statement, “This experience has shaped how I approach my health – working out, eating well, and always thinking about my blood sugar and insulin needs”5. Today, Jonas uses an insulin pump to manage his condition, and admitted that when he was initially diagnosed, he felt fearful of not being able to continue life prior to developing symptoms. He revealed that his purpose for co-founding the organization was to let others with the disease understand that they are not alone and to inform them of how they can still thrive with it, rather than feeling hopeless.

At LifeWorks Wellness Center, we provide the same message to our patients enduring similar feelings and symptoms. With the proper diagnostic tools and treatment plans, individuals will feel more in control and not allow the disease to intervene on one’s life. If you or someone that you know has been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes or is suffering from other forms of autoimmunity, call to schedule an appointment with one of our practitioners at 727-466-6789.