Dealing With Diabetes

Are gluten-free, fat-free and sugar-free diets effective?

Can you lose weight by cutting out a single ingredient in your diet? Fat-free and sugar-free diets can be deceptive because they often replace fat and sugar with chemical substitutes and frequently contain as many calories as the foods they’re replacing. Gluten-free diets can eliminate processed and fast foods, but they run the risk of being vitamin-deficient. The Doctors conclude that the best way to shed unwanted pounds and keep them off for good is still to eat a nutritious and balanced diet, consume fewer calories and exercise.



Discussing Diabetes

Across the nation, type 2 diabetes in children is at an all-time high. Twenty-three million people have diabetes, and six million of them don’t even know it. More kids than ever are being diagnosed as pre-diabetic. The Doctors answer your questions about this daunting disease.


Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not properly produce or process the hormone insulin. Although there is no cure for diabetes, many serious consequences can be avoided if it is properly managed.


How It Works

When food is digested, it is broken down into glucose, which is then released into the blood stream. The pancreas responds to the elevated glucose levels (also known as blood sugar levels) and produces insulin, which binds to the glucose and shuttles it from the blood vessels into the cells of the body. Organs, muscles and other tissues use glucose as energy. Without proper insulin regulation, glucose can’t get into the cells and instead builds up in the blood. Not only does glucose cause harm in the blood stream, it doesn’t get to the parts of the body that depend on it for basic cellular function.  


High glucose levels can damage the kidneys, eyes and heart as well as increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and dehydration. If left unchecked, high blood sugar degrades blood vessels, nerves and organs.


Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. “It’s more of a lifelong accumulation of bad habits such as not exercising and eating poorly,” pediatric endocrinologist Dr. David Geller explains. “It used to be that type 2 diabetes was truly an adult-onset disease. But now, we see that bad habits occur earlier and earlier, so it starts the clock ticking much earlier. We now see type 2 diabetes in teens and young adults.” 


The type 2 diabetic’s pancreas still produces insulin, but the body is unable to process it properly. The result is an insulin-resistance, which leaves high levels of glucose in the blood stream. To compensate, the pancreas produces more and more insulin to bind with it and eventually the pancreas “maxes out” and shuts down.


Sixteen-year-old Autumn went to her yearly physical exam and was stunned to learn that she is pre-diabetic. Her insulin levels are high and it is critical that she control her blood sugar levels through changes in diet and exercise. The good news is that if she does this, her pre-diabetic condition is reversible, unlike diabetes. “Consider it a warning sign,” Dr. Geller cautions.


Next, type 1 diabetes is the most serious form of the disease. It is hereditary and presents in childhood or early adolescence. The pancreas loses its ability to produce insulin and requires injections of insulin via shots or pumps every few hours. For the type 1 diabetic, life is filled with constant calculations of how much sugar is in the blood, how much energy has been expended and how much insulin is needed. Miscalculations can have dire consequences, so constant vigilance is imperative.


Carla Pennington, executive producer of The Doctors, has firsthand experience with type 1 diabetes. Her 8-year-old son, Jackson, was diagnosed with it at a very early age. After the initial shock of the diagnosis, they had to adjust their lifestyle. Carla diligently charts every bite of food Jackson eats, how much exercise he does and how much insulin she gives him. “You’re on constant alert just to make sure that he’s OK,” she explains, “we had to become nurses overnight.”


A representative from Medtronic introduces Jackson to a lightweight, state-of-the-art insulin pump and explains that a small sensor placed on the skin constantly measures glucose and insulin levels. Dr. Geller explains that insulin pumps have come a long way since their inception and have gained popularity among diabetics for their portability and ease of use. Medtronic surprises Jackson with one of the pumps along with a year’s supply of insulin. “I think I’ll try it when I’m like … 10,” he says thoughtfully.     


Symptoms of Diabetes

Increased Thirst and Frequent Urination

Increased Hunger

Weight Loss


Blurred Vision

Dry Mouth

Frequent Urination

Nausea and Occasional Vomiting

Numbness or Tingling of the Hands or Feet

Frequent Infections of the Skin, Urinary Tract or Vagina


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OAD 10/17/08