I bet you had a friend on the playground in school that wasn’t allowed to have sugary snacks because they had diabetes. And now that you’re older maybe you or someone you know has developed diabetes after pregnancy or as they age. You likely have heard that those two situations are different, however, do you know the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes? The symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are very similar, however, there are a couple of differences between them.
The main thing you should know is that type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where your body attacks its pancreas and destroys the cells that produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes develops over time due to lifestyle choices and your diet. People with type 2 diabetes can’t regulate and use glucose as fuel. I’ll discuss this more in-depth later.
Diabetes has become a major health issue across the world. More than 32 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, a condition where your blood sugar is higher than normal levels, yet not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It doesn’t have to be this way! The good news is that you can reverse your diabetes symptoms.
I will give you the tools to take back your health and share how you can prevent diabetes or reverse your symptoms. Let’s talk about the differences between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
What is Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes was once known as juvenile diabetes. That’s because type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed in children and adolescents. However, it certainly can develop at any age. Type 1 diabetes is not as common as type 2 diabetes. Less than 10% of diabetes diagnoses are type 1 diabetes.1
People with type 1 diabetes produce little to no insulin. Before I tell you more about how this happens, let’s have a quick review of how insulin works in your body.
The Role of Insulin In Your Body
Insulin is a natural hormone produced by your pancreas. It serves two primary functions: regulating blood sugar levels and aids in the storing of excess glucose for energy.2
When your insulin levels are high, your body stores excess glucose in your liver in the form of glycogen. When your insulin levels get too low, the liver turns glycogen back into glucose to keep blood sugar levels within a narrow range.
When your body doesn’t have insulin to regulate the amount of glucose going into your bloodstream it can cause an array of issues. Remember that your liver and kidneys work like filters. They keep toxins from getting into your bloodstream and allow the good to pass through. However, your liver and kidneys aren’t designed to handle high levels of glucose.
When your kidneys and liver have to filter out large amounts of sugar, they can’t stop toxins from getting in the system. Over a long period of time, your liver and kidneys become exhausted and begin to fail. This is why diabetics who do not control their blood sugar levels go on dialysis, a process where toxic blood is removed from the body and replaced with clean blood. This can be prevented by managing your blood sugar levels through diet and exercise.
Causes of Type 1 Diabetes
As I mentioned, type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin.3
If you have one autoimmune disease, you are more likely to develop another.
When you have an autoimmune disease your immune system mistakes your joints, your skin, and even your organs as foreign invaders. A healthy immune system knows the difference between your own cells and foreign ones.
Conventional medicine would have you believe that type 1 diabetes is a disease of your pancreas and treats your symptoms through insulin therapy. This just suppresses your immune system. Functional medicine understands that regardless of what type of autoimmune disease you have, the problem (and solution) lies with your immune system. By focusing on supporting and strengthening your immune system you can get to the root cause of your symptoms and reverse your condition. I’ll tell you how later.
While autoimmunity is the primary cause of type 1 diabetes, genetics also plays a significant role in your risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes are similar to type 2 diabetes, however there are some significant differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. I’ll discuss symptoms of type 2 in just a minute.
Type 1 diabetes symptoms can take weeks or months to develop, however they may not be noticed for months. Once symptoms appear, they can be severe.4 Here’s common symptoms of type 1 diabetes:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Blurred vision
- Weight loss
If you believe you have type 1 diabetes, your functional medicine practitioner can test your A1C levels with a blood test. An A1C level of 6.5% or higher on two separate tests indicates diabetes. A fasting blood sugar test can also be used. A fasting blood sugar less than 100 mg/dl is considered normal. If your blood sugar is 126 mg/dl or higher on two separate tests, your doctor will diagnose you with diabetes.
Now let’s talk about type 2 diabetes and more of the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
More than 90% of all cases of diabetes in the U.S. are type 2 diabetes.This type of diabetes is commonly referred to as adult-onset diabetes. That’s because it typically develops in adults over the age of 45.5 However, it can develop in children and adolescents. I will discuss the causes of type 2 diabetes later.
Type 2 diabetes is similar to type 1 in that both types of diabetes involve how your body regulates blood sugar. They also have a few similar symptoms, however there are a few symptoms that are exclusive to type 2 diabetes that I will tell you about in just a minute. However, that’s where the similarities end.
One of the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes is that the pancreas still produces insulin in people with type 2 diabetes. If you have type 2 diabetes, there are two interrelated problems going on: Your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin and your body responds poorly to the insulin – also known as insulin resistance.6
If you have type 2 diabetes and do not control it, it can lead to heart disease, nerve damage, kidney disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and vision loss.7 The good news is you can control type 2 diabetes, and even reverse it! I will tell you how later. Another major difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes is the cause of it.
What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes usually starts to develop when your body becomes resistant to insulin. While genetics certainly plays a role in developing insulin resistance, lifestyle choices are the main causes of type 2 diabetes. You are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you are overweight, have too much belly fat, live a sedentary lifestyle, smoke, drink alcohol, or don’t get enough sleep.8
As your body becomes resistant to insulin, your pancreas begins to produce more insulin to keep up. Over time, your pancreas gets worn out and can no longer keep up with the demand for insulin. This leads to prediabetes and eventually type 2 diabetes. People with insulin resistance or who are prediabetic have a 50% chance of developing type 2 diabetes within 5 to 10 years.
Knowing that, it makes sense that if you address the root causes of type 2 diabetes, you can reverse it. Before I talk about the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, optimal blood sugar levels and how to test them, let’s look at the risk factors.
Risk Factors of Type 2 Diabetes
If your parents or siblings have type 2 diabetes, you are more likely to develop it.9 Age also plays a factor. Adults over the age of 45 are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than younger adults, adolescents, and children. Here’s other risk factors for type 2 diabetes:10
- Developing gestational diabetes while pregnant
- Being overweight or obese
- Not being physically active
- You have high blood pressure, heart disease, PCOS, or depression
- You have skin tags on your neck or armpits
- You are Black, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian, or a Pacific Islander
Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
There are a few similar symptoms with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, such as increased thirst and urination. However, the symptoms are one way to differentiate between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
People with prediabetes often develop type 2 diabetes within five years if they do not make the necessary lifestyle changes. Once type 2 diabetes develops, symptoms can be mild or not noticeable in the early stages. This means you may not realize you have type 2 diabetes until its already developed.11 Here’s a look at the symptoms of type 2 diabetes:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Always feeling hungry
- Feeling tired
- Blurry vision
- Slow healing cuts or wounds
- Bruise easily
- Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
- Patches of dark skin in the creases of the neck, armpit, or groin
- Itching and frequent yeast infections
Similar to type 1 diabetes, your functional medicine practitioner can test your A1C levels with a blood test to determine if you have type 2 diabetes. An A1C level of 6.5% or higher on two separate tests indicates diabetes. An A1C of 5.7% to 6.4% on two separate tests indicates prediabetes.
Another difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes is that a glucose tolerance test can be used to diagnose type 2 diabetes. This is not commonly used, however it is an effective test. You’ll fast for 8 hours and be given a sugary drink at the doctor’s office. Your blood sugar levels are then tested over the next few hours.
A blood sugar level less than 140mg/dl is considered normal. A blood sugar of 140 to 199 mg/dl is considered prediabetes, while a blood sugar of 200 mg/dl or higher after two hours suggests diabetes.
LetsGetChecked’s home diabetes testing is a great way to test hemoglobin A1c levels. They also offer at-home diabetes and heart test, which also tests triglycerides, cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL, cholesterol, and HDL% of total cholesterol. You can also get a basic at-home lipid panel test. The results are available online so you can share them with your functional medicine doctor.
Now that you know the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, I will tell you the steps you can take to get your blood sugar under control and how you CAN reverse your diabetes symptoms.
Natural Ways to Reverse Diabetes Symptoms
Regardless of whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you can take control of your health and reverse your symptoms. I’m going to tell you how.
The Myers Way®
The absolute most effective way to take back your health and reverse your diabetes symptoms is The Myers Way®. About 10 years ago, I developed an autoimmune condition, and conventional medicine failed me. I have made it my mission to make sure it doesn’t fail you too. This is why I created The Myers Way®.
This proven approach is based in functional medicine, a medical approach that looks at the whole body rather than individual systems. It gets to the root cause of your symptoms and autoimmunity and empowers you to live a healthy, energetic pain-free life.
The Myers Way® rests on four pillars – heal your gut; remove gluten, grains, and legumes; tame the toxins; and heal your infections and relieve your stress. Each of these pillars have been tested through extensive research and I saw amazing results with thousands of patients over my own years of practice as a physician in my clinic.
Here’s the great news about The Myers Way®: Once you start following this way of life, you’ll notice that it isn’t willpower keeping you on The Myers Way®! I know following The Myers Way® can empower you to reverse your diabetes symptoms naturally – restoring your energy, vitality, and health.
Relieve Your Stress
Stress is also a critical factor in developing diabetes. When your body is under increased levels of stress it releases the hormone cortisol. When your body recognizes it’s under stress, a part of the brain called your amygdala sends a message to your hypothalamus. This sets off a chain reaction that tells your adrenal glands to produce cortisol.12 Cortisol mobilizes glucose reserves for energy and facilitates the consolidation of fear-based memories so you can survive in the future and avoid danger.
However, too much cortisol can suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure and blood sugar levels, decrease libido, and contribute to diabetes. Your body is just not designed to live in fight or flight mode all the time. It needs to rest and relax to function optimally.
Adopting daily stress-relieving strategies will help you get your blood sugar under control. Some of my favorite ways to relieve stress include getting in my Sunlighten infrared sauna, dancing with my daughter Elle, listening to music, or taking a walk with my family and our dogs Mocha and Mac.
Most diabetic diets aim for no more than 45% of calories from carbohydrates, such as dietary fiber, sugar, and alcohol. If you follow The Myers Way®, you will already be eliminating sugar, gluten and alcohol from your diet.
That’s not all. Dairy contains lactose, a sugar that’s found in dairy milk, and it can definitely raise your glucose levels. What’s more, dairy contains casein, a protein that has a very similar structure to gluten. I recommend everyone remove gluten and dairy from their diets.
You should also avoid processed foods and sugary drinks. You likely are aware that soda, energy drinks, and those fancy coffee drinks and teas all contain a huge amount of carbohydrates and sugar. Yet even options you think are healthy, including green juices, kombucha, and even freshly-squeezed fruit juice, all pack in the sugar.
One quick note about alcohol: Alcohol is toxic to all of us and if you have diabetes it can damage your liver even more. Remember, if your liver is having to work too hard to filter sugar, it cannot filter out toxins. What’s more, even a sip of alcohol can lead to high blood sugar.
Rest assured, there are great, delicious foods you can eat if you have diabetes. Here’s a list of six foods I recommend eating if you have diabetes:
- Organic berries, especially blueberries due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Leafy green vegetables.
- Spices, particularly turmeric and cinnamon
- Wild-caught fish
- Paleo Protein powders
I cannot stress enough the importance of physical exercise if you have any blood sugar issues. Our bodies function at their best when we exercise regularly. If you are overweight, which contributes to diabetes in the first place, exercise can help you manage your weight and control your blood sugar. Movement helps lower blood sugar, reduces your risk for heart disease, reduces stress, and alleviates depression.
If you have diabetes, consult with your functional medicine practitioner before starting an exercise routine. Remember to start slow. You may need to discuss how to manage any medication with exercise if you are on diabetic medication that already lowers blood sugar.
Once you begin your exercise regimen, stop immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Sores on your feet
Start by creating a routine by setting a time every day to exercise. Generally, 30 minutes of movement is needed to get the benefits. There are many online fitness options available, and the best part is you can do them in your home with little to no equipment. Canned goods are great hand weights for strength training!
Be sure you take care of your feet. Because diabetes can cause numbness in the extremities, it could be difficult to know if your feet are suffering during exercise.
Understanding the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes is the first step in taking back your health and reversing your symptoms. Diabetes is a major health problem around the world and it doesn’t have to be. Now that you have the tools to prevent and reverse your symptoms, you can take back your health and get on the path to optimal health!
- Diabetes: Facts, Statistics, and You. Jessica Timmons. Healthline. 2021.
- Type 1 Diabetes. Mayo Clinic. 2021.
- Type 1 Diabetes. Mayo Clinic. 2021.
- Diabetes Symptoms. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021.
- Type 2 Diabetes. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021.
- Life Doesn't End With Type 2 Diabetes. American Diabetes Association. 2021.
- Diabetes Complications. American Diabetes Association. 2021.
- Insulin Resistance Causes and Symptoms. Sari Harrar. Enocrineweb. 2021.
- The Link Between Family History and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes is Not Explained by Anthropometric, Lifestyle or Genetic Risk Factors: The EPIC-InterAct Study. InterAct Consortium, R.A. Scott RA, C. Langenberg, et al. Diabetologia. 2013.
- Diabetes Type 2. Medline Plus. 2021.
- What are the Early Signs of Type 2 Diabetes?. Nicole Galan, RN. Medical News Today. 2020.
- Glucocorticoids, Stress, and Fertility. Shannon Whirledge and John A. Cidlowski. Minerva Endocrinologica, vol. 35. 2010.