I looked at the body on the table and instantly knew what played a major role in his demise. He was a middle aged man, who could have had many good years ahead of him had it not been for type 2 diabetes.
I cannot count how many times I'd seen the ravages of this disease in both the living and the dead. It starts with sugar cravings, then weight gain. Next, the arteries and nerves of the legs become blocked, along with loss of feeling known as neuropathy. Next come the leg sores and non-healing wounds of the feet. Following this will be toe amputations, foot amputations, and finally, leg amputations. Eventually the stumps that are left will become infected, requiring numerous skin grafts, until the person finally succumbs from infection-but not after being bedridden and suffering for years.
Perhaps the person's head will be affected too. Their teeth will rot and fall out, their eyes will be damaged, and their brain will function poorly. Bones weaken and break easily, then heal improperly, causing difficulties for the remainder of the person's life.
In many cases, the kidneys shut down, requiring the person to go on dialysis, which is another slow, terrible way to die. Because the kidneys no longer function to filter the blood, toxins build up in the body. To save the person's life, their blood must be drained from their body, filtered through a machine, then put back into their system. It's an exhausting process for the patient, that may be repeated several times a week. As soon as they recover from one session, they have to go back for another. Many die in the middle of a session. The veins are destroyed in this process and must be surgically replaced by vessel grafts. Occasionally those grafts rupture, and the person bleeds out everywhere.
The best way to die if you are diabetic is from a heart attack, before the disease cripples you. My recently deceased patient likely died from sepsis, a blood infection, caused by the non-healing sores he had all over his legs.
It pains me to see the effects of diabetes in both the living and the dead. At least the dead no longer suffer, but I can almost feel the lifetime of pain when I look at their morbidly obese, disease-wracked corpses. It is worse observing the living because they have the power to stop their pain, but they continue suffering. Type 2 diabetes is a reversible condition, which means, these people DO NOT HAVE TO SUFFER. But they just can't give up soda or stop eating sugar. Weight loss is an uphill battle, and diet change seems impossible.
How many people do you know that are like this? Perhaps even you are. But you can stop this right now. You don't have to suffer. Your friends don't have to suffer. It can get better.
Diabetes could be comparable to Celiac disease, in which the intestines can't handle gluten. If a person with Celiac disease eats a gluten free diet, their intestines will remain happy and disease free. Likewise, if someone prone to diabetes avoids sugars and starchy carbohydrates(which are broken down by the body into sugars), their pancreas will be happier and not try to kill them. But the effects of sugar-laden foods and beverages aren't always immediately seen in diabetes like in Celiac disease, especially since insulin can be injected as soon as someone downs a package of Twinkies(I have a friend who does this. I keep one of his rotted molars in a jar of formaldehyde on a shelf in my guest room). The long term effects of diabetes are insidious. Why can't we see it? Are the Twinkies really worth it?
The way to save your life if you have diabetes is to stop eating and drinking crap. Get rid of sugar, simple carbohydrates, highly processed foods, and eat a lot of vegetables.
It sounds so simple, but most people can't just do it. Why is it so hard? Because we are up against an enemy so massive, that we cannot face it alone. We are being assaulted by corporations that have spent millions of dollars on scientific research to find out what exactly what we crave. They have tricked our bodies into thinking the junk food they are selling is good and delicious. The more medical research proves that their food is detrimental to our health, the more they invest into marketing strategies to keep us hooked. It makes me furious. It's not conspiracy, just capitalism. These corporations never knew when they began creating this food that it would make people sick, and when they found out, it was too late, for they had already made their millions and wanted to continue making more. Now they say that their food should "be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet." When is the last time you ate a bag of chips in moderation?? I can't even do that. There is no such thing as moderation when it comes to crave-able crap.
The only way to avoid being sucked into this trap is to keep crap food out of sight, and out of mind. Don't buy it or keep it in your house. Don't even go down the junk food aisle at the store. Make meals ahead of time so you don't have to go to fast food restaurants.
This is possible to do, but it may require accountability. Food can be a form of addiction. We need someone who can provide guidance and give the kind of tough love that says, "Don't eat that, don't give in to what THEY want you to do." It's NOT ok to drink a soda, ever. You can't cheat even just a little, because the cravings will return when your body tastes what it used to love." We also need encouragement when we succeed, because this is a dramatic change for our bodies. In fact, this is an entire mindset shift. Food is no longer comfort or entertainment, but fuel. We might need help to see this. And that is ok.
This might sound harsh and difficult, but it is truly a matter of life and death. There is no casual "trying to lose weight" when it comes to diabetes. Either you lose weight and give up your old ways, or you die a slow, painful death. You don't have to suffer. You don't have to be weaksauce. You can do this. And if you need me, I am here for you too.