In order to understand diabetes you have to understand your blood.
This is the way I explained diabetes to my patients.
Hopefully, you will understand what we’re trying to do to control your diabetes.
I want you to think of cotton candy.
If you have ever eaten cotton candy you know that it is nothing but blown sugar.
In the old days, we had a toy that you would put sugar in the center of this bowl and press a button and the toy would whip up a big BLOB of cotton candy.
And that’s all it is – a bunch of whipped-up sugar.
When you eat cotton candy and pull it off its stick what happens to your fingers?
They get sticky, right?
OK, so think of your blood with too much sugar in it.
Now the blood is sticky.
But Suzanne, wait a minute. Why do we even need sugar in our blood?
Good question! Sugar is the food of your cells, tissues, and organs.
They must have sugar to live.
But Suzanne, they’re getting their sugar. In fact, they’re getting too much sugar because my blood is full of it.
And here lies the problem…
We don’t want your sugar in the blood vessels.
We want your sugar in your cells.
It is in the cells that life goes on.
The cells of your body need this sugar in order to grow, repair, and multiply.
OK Step #1…Diabetes is sticky blood
Now we have to get the sugar out of the blood and into the cells.
But we have one problem… The blood is sticky.
This means that your vessels (they look like tubes) that are carrying the blood are sticking together.
They are not open with blood flowing nicely through them.
Go back and imagine yourself eating cotton candy.
Now make a fist.
Are your fingers all sticking together?
Of course they are!
Think of these blood vessels sticking together.
How does this affect you?
Those tiny blood vessels behind your eyes? When they start sticking together because there’s too much sugar in the blood then no blood can get through to feed oxygen and sugar ( the food of your cells, right?) in your eyes and you start losing your sight. All because of diabetes.
Did you know you have tiny blood vessels in your ears? When these tiny blood vessels start sticking together now you can’t get oxygen or food to the nerves that transmit voices to your brain so you can hear. All because of diabetes.
Did you know there are tiny blood vessels in the penis? Did you know that when these tiny blood vessels stick together making the tube collapse you cannot get blood to flow through the penis and it ends in erectile dysfunction? All because of diabetes.
Did you know you have tiny blood vessels to the toes? When you can’t get blood to those feet because the blood vessels are collapsing due to the sticky blood, no oxygen and food can get past that and the feet start to tingle and eventually lose circulation. All because of diabetes.
Last but most important are your kidneys. All blood flows through the kidneys. It is the kidneys’ job to filter the blood.
Now I want you to think about pushing sticky, cotton candy blood through these kidney filters.
They get all gunked up and they can’t filter anything anymore and they begin to fail.
All of this is because your blood is too sticky.
OK Step #2- Get the sugar OUT of your blood
How do we get the sugar out of the blood vessels and into the cells so they can start working properly? Giving me energy? Making me feel better? and helping repair my body? AND, AND…stop making my blood sticky?
Now we have two problems, not just one. Ugh!!
Problem #1 – the pancreas!
The first problem we have is the pancreas.
The pancreas spits out something called insulin.
I want you to think of insulin as a Choo-Choo train 🚂 that carries the sugar into the cell.
Your cells do not recognize sugar.
Your cells only recognize the insulin called a Choo-Choo Sugar train.
and your cells will be happy to let in the Choo-Choo Sugar Train.
If your pancreas does not produce the proper amount of insulin (Choo-Choo Sugar Trains), the cells ignore the sugar and let it keep floating around in the blood vessels. Ugh… we’re back to sticky blood.
Problem #2: insulin resistance (AKA Choo-Choo Sugar train traffic jam)
What happens when you get to Grand Central station and there are too many trains coming into the station at once?
You get a traffic jam, right?
All traffic stops.
The system is overwhelmed.
Well, think of yourselves.
Here come the Choo-Choo Sugar trains (called insulin) knocking on the door of the cells.
But there are too many Choo-Choo Sugar trains, the cells get overwhelmed.
They don’t know what to do. They get worn out.
And they become insensitive to recognizing the Choo-Choo Sugar trains anymore. They basically ignore them.
When the cells stop recognizing the insulin, the Choo-Choo trains, it’s called insulin resistance.
Personally, I don’t like the name insulin resistance. I’d much rather call it “insulin overwhelment”.
Remember, cells do not recognize the people (sugar) on trains. They recognize the trains themselves.
So this is the second reason why no sugar gets into the cells where it belongs but lingers around in the blood where it should not be.
So let’s summarize diabetes, shall we?
The sugar should not be in the blood. It should be in the cells.
Insulin is the Choo-Choo Sugar train that carries the sugar into the cells.
The cells only recognize the Choo-Choo Sugar train, not the sugar.
If the pancreas fails, there’s not enough insulin, the sugar hangs out in the blood.
If there’s too much insulin the cells see a traffic jam, becoming overwhelmed.
Nothing gets in (insulin resistance) and again, the sugar hangs out in the blood.
All of this leads to too much sugar in the blood.
Too much sugar in the blood leads to sticky blood.
Sticky blood makes your tiny blood vessels stick together, collapse, and no blood gets through to any of your toes, eyes, ears, kidneys, and penis.
Without oxygen and food, we begin to lose the function of these magnificent organs. Ugh!
I hope this helps.