How Genetics Changed Everything I Knew About Living With Diabetes

I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes as an athletic 11 year old. In the middle of a rep hockey, school soccer, and football season, I spent a week in the hospital. I was way too young to grasp the immensity of the situation, but in a weird, backwards-happy note – I have no memory of a non-diabetic life. Happier, meaning, that ignorance really is bliss.

Needles are the least scary part of diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that causes the destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Insulin is a hormone that the body needs to control glucose levels in the blood. Glucose comes from the carbohydrate food sources being broken down in the gut. Without insulin therapy, Type 1 diabetics are unable to clear glucose from the blood, resulting in the build up of glucose in the blood: hyperglycemia. Sadly, living with diabetes comes with a long list of short-term dangers such as diabetic coma, and long-term complications including heart disease, kidney problems, and diabetic neuropathic eye problems. These are all sobering reminders of the daily necessity to manage the disease. There is no known cause of Type 1 diabetes, but researchers believe a mix of genetics, environmental factors, and possibly a virus, could trigger Type 1.

 

Sobering Diabetes Facts

Even as an active kid, my love for the game of hockey always outweighed my skill for it. By the time I went to university in 2007, I was dramatically less active. Mix in the participation of a typical social life living in residence; diabetes, regrettably, took a backseat to beer pong and a small amount of studying.

In 2015 I started working at Athletigen as the Social Media, Video & Copy Editor. I received my profile shortly after and was left equally shocked and self-assured with the results. My Athletigen profile showed me that although I have diabetes, I am genetically likely to consume less carbohydrates daily, and a Mediterranean diet was recommended to compliment my body’s response to unsaturated fats. Before Athletigen, I was grinding my way through 60 grams of carbohydrates at breakfast, 40 grams at lunch, and 80 at dinner; a diet that I had adopted years ago on the advice of a paediatrician and dietician. The diet no longer served me as my lifestyle changed dramatically from middle school to university, and it no longer felt like my body was responding to the diet. My blood glucose levels were inconsistent, at best, and I never felt fully rested. After I received my Athletigen results, I decided to change my macronutrient intake.

Since incorporating Athletigen’s recommendations and changing my diet to better balance my macronutrients, I have more energy in the mornings, my blood sugar has decreased to a healthy level, my blood pressure has decreased, and the hemorrhaging in my eyes (an early sign of glaucoma) occurs less frequently.

Having Type 1 diabetes does not shield me from the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The more efficiently I am able to control my blood sugar through diet and exercise, the less likely I am to develop Type 2 diabetes later in life. With the minor adjustments to the macronutrients in my diet I have successfully created a recipe to combat the fight against Type 2. Having the knowledge that Athletigen was able to provide made everything very easy. I’ve since been able to remove the guesswork involved in knowing how my body will react to diabetes.

The lack of dietary education I received as a preteen became detrimental to my health as I entered my 20s. Although a carb-loaded diet may have helped my early development as a diabetic, it had adverse effects on my general health through university and beyond. With Athletigen’s individualized recommendations based on my genetics, I have been able to regain control of my diabetes, and overall health.

Jon Mann is the Social Media, Video, & Copy Editor at Athletigen. He has undergraduate degrees from Acadia University, the New York Film Academy, and is an award winning documentary filmmaker.

Infographic References:

    1) “Diabetes in Ontario – Canadian Diabetes Association.” 2015. 31 Mar. 2016 <https://www.diabetes.ca/getmedia/5941b1c2-8b03-45bf-8db0-e18b969d9aa6/diabetes-charter-backgrounder-ontario-english.pdf.aspx>
    2) “Diabetes in Canada – Canadian Diabetes Association.” 2015. 31 Mar. 2016 <https://www.diabetes.ca/getmedia/513a0f6c-b1c9-4e56-a77c-6a492bf7350f/diabetes-charter-backgrounder-national-english.pdf.aspx>
    3) “Statistics About Diabetes: American Diabetes Association®.” 2014. 31 Mar. 2016 <http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/>

 

 

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