Diabetes, a chronic metabolic disorder characterized by high blood glucose levels, affects nearly 400 million people worldwide and results in 5 million deaths per year. The disease is the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer.
U.S. spending on diabetes diagnosis and treatment totaled $101 billion in 2013, and has grown 36 times faster than spending on heart disease, the country's No. 1 cause of death, researchers reported. U.S. spending on diabetes diagnosis and treatment totaled $101 billion in 2013, and has grown 36 times faster than spending on heart disease, the country's No. 1 cause of death, researchers reported.
It is an often debilitating and, as mentioned, sometimes fatal disease in which the body either cannot produce the insulin it needs or cannot properly use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that controls the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Your body gets glucose from foods like bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, milk and fruit. The body needs insulin to use sugar as an energy source. There are three types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational. The signs and symptoms of all types of diabetes include increased urine output, changes in weight, blurred vision, frequent or recurring infections, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, trouble getting and maintaining an erection and decreased appetite and fatigue. Diabetes is diagnosed by blood glucose testing. The mode of treatment depends on the type of diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1, formerly called juvenile-onset or insulin-dependent diabetes, strikes 5 to 10 out of each 100 people with diabetes. In Type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system destroys the cells releasing insulin. This eventually eliminates that cell production in the body without which the body cannot absorb glucose necessary for the production of energy. In essence, the body’s immune system attacks part of its own pancreas mistaking the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas as foreign and killing them. These cells, known as islets, sense the blood’s glucose and respond by producing the necessary amount of insulin required to normalize blood sugar. Insulin allows the glucose to enter the cells which lets it be used for energy. Without insulin, sugar builds up in the blood and the body’s cells starve for lack of glucose. It is then necessary to take insulin to remedy the condition. It is also necessary to monitor blood sugar levels several times a day and maintain a healthy diet and regular physical activity and medical checkups.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, also known as adult-onset or non-insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition striking 90 – 95 out of 100 people with diabetes and affecting the way the body metabolizes sugar (glucose). With Type 2 diabetes, the body either resists the effects of insulin (insulin-resistance) or the pancreas produces less and less so that it is not producing sufficient insulin to maintain a normal glucose level (insulin-deficiency). It can develop at any age but it is most commonly diagnosed in adulthood although its incidence in children is on the rise. Unlike Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 can often be managed by diet, weight control and exercise.
The third form of diabetes, gestational, occurs in 2 – 4% of pregnancies typically resolving after childbirth. However, persons experiencing gestational diabetes can have an increased risk of developing Type-2 diabetes after pregnancy as can their babies. During pregnancy the mother to be develops insulin resistance and her body cannot make and use all the insulin it needs for the pregnancy. Again, without sufficient insulin, glucose builds up in the body leading to hypoglycemia. This can affect the unborn baby. The first line of treatment is through diet and exercise although if glucose levels remain high insulin may be required.
Left untreated, the high levels of blood sugar in diabetes can lead to damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves and the heart and even to stroke, coma and death. It can also lead to foot or leg amputations.
CBD's and Diabetes
Cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychotropic element of marijuana and hemp, has proven to modify disease progression and may offer symptomatic relief to those suffering from diabetes. A 2006 study published in the journal Autoimmunity reports that 5 mg per day injections of CBD reduced the incidence of diabetes in mice. CBD also alleviates diabetic-related neuropathic pain.
Chronic inflammation plays a key role in the development of insulin resistance and therefore type 2 diabetes. Excess weight increases the risk of developing a variety of pathological conditions, including type – 2 diabetes mellitus. CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory improving the body’s metabolism. It is also a powerful vasorelaxant so benefits the cardiovascular system of diabetics with accelerated atherosclerotic disease by protecting against the vascular damage caused by a high glucose environment, inflammation and type 2 diabetes. The December 2010 issue of the Journal of American College of Cardiology reports research showing the effects of CBD on myocardial dysfunction using a mouse model of type-1 diabetic cardiomyopathy. They state “CBD attenuated myocardial dysfunction, cardiac fibrosis, oxidative/nitrative stress, inflammation, cell death and inter-related signaling pathways… Collectively these results, coupled with the excellent safety and tolerability profile of CBD in humans, strongly suggest that it may have great therapeutic potential in the treatment of diabetic complications.”
A human study at Hebrew University of Jerusalem also led researchers to conclude that CBD improves heart function, cell growth, the immune system and sugar metabolism. They showed a 58% decrease in type-1 diabetes insulin usage after CBD treatment. Their study showed strong evidence that CBD can remedy diabetic complications such as neuropathy, nephropathy and retinopathy.
Diabetic neuropathy is a nerve disorder associated with diabetes that tends to primarily affect the hands and the feet. It is associated with tingling, numbness and pain. Nephropathy means kidney disease or damage. Diabetic nephropathy is damage to your kidneys caused by diabetes. Diabetes can damage this system. High levels of blood sugar make the kidneys filter too much blood. This extra work is so hard on the filters that they eventually start to leak losing useful protein in the urine. In severe cases it can lead to kidney failure but not everyone with diabetes has kidney damage. Diabetic retinopathy is the most prevalent diabetic eye disease and is the primary cause of vision loss facing adults in America today. Approximately 4% of adults age forty and older are affected by diabetic retinopathy the leading cause of diabetes induced blindness which results in the destruction of retinal cells from oxidative and nitrative stress. The 2006 March issue of the American Journal of Pathology reported that rats treated with CBD for periods of one to four weeks experienced significant protection from diabetic retinopathy. As previously noted, CBD reduces inflammation, cell dysfunction and oxidative stress and hinders leaky eye blood vessels.
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