Like it or lump it, inflammation is vital in a functioning human body. It repairs injury and helps us fight against infections, but for those of us with diabetes it can also lead to complications and insulin resistance. It’s something we need to know about if we want to make sure it is helpful, rather than harmful, to our bodies.
While we’re yet to figure out how exactly, we know that inactivity and obesity increase the risk for diabetes. The development of type 2 diabetes also appears to be linked with inflammation inside the body. The main cause of Type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance, which can occur as a result of inflammation. The good news is that this suggests type 2 diabetes may be treated or even prevented through an “anti-inflammatory” diet and exercise plan.
Exercise for Children with Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is becoming increasingly common in the UK, as the number of adults and children who are overweight is rising. While 50 years ago feeding ourselves would have involved working in a plot of land, now all we have to do is go to the supermarket.
- Peer pressure draws children to “cool” pastimes like social media, instead of healthier ones like playing outside.
- Many people choose to drive even when their destination is within walking distance.
The most common form of diabetes diagnosed in children is Type 1 diabetes. If you have type 1 diabetes, you can still exercise and take part in all of your favourite sports. In children with diabetes, exercise is something that should be considered carefully.
- Regular activity can help to reduce the amount of insulin you have to take by helping your body use it more efficiently.
- Improving your diabetes management (especially Type 2 diabetes).
For those with diabetes and/or chronic inflammation, a fine balance must be struck with exercise and rest, as both too much and too little exercise appear to be linked with higher levels of inflammation.
What Is Inflammation?
When it comes to fighting unwanted invaders like germs and toxic chemicals, inflammation is a miraculous system. As explained by the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Healthcare, “When an inflammation occurs in your body, many different immune system cells may be involved. They release various substances, known as inflammatory mediators. These include the hormones bradykinin and histamine. They cause the small blood vessels in the tissue to become wider (dilate), allowing more blood to reach the injured tissue. For this reason, inflamed areas turn red and feel hot.” Anyone who has experienced a sprained ankle, nettle sting, rash or skin infection will be familiar with the effects of inflammation.
Bringing more white and red blood cells to the area, the immune system opens the walls of blood vessels so that the injured or infected parts can be reached by more fluid. It helps new cells grow by bringing healing substances like cholesterol to the area to make patches for the damaged parts. While this is a positive process if the infection is in a cut on your leg, the same process happening for days in your coronary arteries, kidneys or eyes is a different matter.
The system should cool down once the invader is defeated. While a few “guardians” may stay around in case of a second attack, most active immune cells will return to other parts of the body. The real issues arise if that cool-down process fails to take place, leaving the tissues hot and swollen. If the affected tissues are blood vessels, this can result in blockage or failure.
The affected area may remain swollen for far longer than is safe or healthy. This type of internal inflammation is common in type 2 diabetes.
Inflammation can become chronic in some cases. This is like having a fire burning in your body, and causes a lot of harm. As Diabetes Self-Management writer Monica Smith notes, “In its acute form, [inflammation] can be quite dramatic… The most obvious sign of acute inflammation is pain, such as when you have a sore throat; you may also experience fever in the case of an infection, or swelling as your body deals with a traumatic injury.”
The main cause of diabetes complications may also be inflammation. Damage throughout the body can occur when diabetes injures blood vessels, and how does diabetes cause this damage? It appears that this damage to blood vessels is actually caused by inflammation, which is triggered by high blood sugar levels.
These high blood sugar levels occur in people with diabetes because their bodies can’t use or produce adequate amounts of insulin.
The immune system runs to the rescue, researchers believe, when small irritations occur as a result of high blood glucose or high blood pressure. The damage in these areas is healed by plaques which act as bandages. These plaques can then cause bigger trouble if inflammation continues, as they break down and move through the system. Researcher Mario Kratz, PhD, says that this type of chronic low-grade inflammation “seems to play a role in all of the major diseases – heart disease, diabetes, [arthritis,] and certain cancers”. The destruction or injury of organs can occur as a result of this process.
Inflammation can also occur as a result of certain chemicals produced by fat cells.
Unfortunately, research into the role of internal inflammation in the development of diabetes and other chronic diseases is still in its early days. If you have diabetes or heart disease, chronic inflammation is a major issue and could be fatal. Knowing its causes – unhealthy foods, chemicals in your environment, stress, infections, allergies and too much or too little exercise – is important, but for some the condition may be unavoidable.
For more information about diabetes, check out Need2Know’s Essential Guide to Diabetes which will look at what the diabetic condition is, the difference between Type 1 and Type 2, how you become diabetic, the types of medication available and how you can manage it. Your body deserves the best, and we want to arm you with the information you need to provide that!