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Diabetes Myths – True or False?

by Karyn Michelle Wofford

Diabetes is extremely prevalent in our society, but so is misinformation and ignorance. With a large majority of our population having type one or two diabetes, it’s surprising to hear and read some of the crazy nonsense I’ve come across. I too am guilty of being a myth believer in certain areas, but after 15 years with diabetes, I’ve learned a lot. So what are some of the most common myths? Are they true?

myth versus reality

Diabetics can’t enjoy indulgent foods – False

The other day I was buying some cheese puffs…naturally flavored of course. It’s evident I have diabetes because I have diabetes equipment hanging all over my body! A man asked me “Can you eat those?” Confused, I replied “Cheese puffs?” First of all it really isn’t his business but I normally would have kindly answered with an educational statement about diabetes. But his tone was awful and judgmental, so I went off on a snippy rant explaining exactly what having diabetes means and that natural food is way better than the artificially colored sports drinks in his cart. Any way, diabetics have nearly as much food freedom as everyone else these days, given the advancement in medication. But if we all, diabetic or not, should really be eat certain things is another conversation.

Diabetics can eat anything – False

I know, I’m so contradicting. But no person should eat some of the stuff that is on our supermarket shelves. No high fructose corn syrup, no food colors, no artificial flavors…this goes for everyone!

Diabetics shouldn’t have kids – True and False

Before you tear me apart, this is super circumstantial. It all depends on where you are in your diabetic journey. Obviously, if your condition is brittle and blood sugar is all over the place, you should consider waiting on growing a precious little one in your womb. If you want to get pregnant, work closely with your endocrinologist and OBgyn to get in tip top shape before conception. Getting yourself to a healthy enough point to have a family is completely feasible.

You’ll definitely go blind – False

Nurses and doctors used this scare tactic against me as a child, which is just cruel. Keep your blood sugar in check, eat right and exercise to increase blood flow to the eyes and you will be fine.

Injected insulin doesn’t work as well – True

Injecting the hormone is an indirect path, unlike insulin produced by the pancreas. It degrades a little before making it to the cells, so you need more of it. This can lead to insulin resistance, so do everything you can, like exercising and avoiding high sugar foods, to keep insulin effective.

Type one and type two are completely different conditions – True

If you want to hear a long rant, tell any diabetic type one and two are the same. Type ones have lost their beta cells due to an immune attack, so it’s an autoimmune disease. Type two is the development of insulin resistance or pancreas burnout, but they still have the cells that make insulin, it isn’t autoimmune. The two are actually so different, they should have separate names.

There is no risk in driving – False

I never thought too much about it until I became an EMT, but driving diabetics can be really dangerous. Before getting behind the wheel, check your blood sugar and avoid a large insulin bolus. Keep juice with you and turn CGM monitor alarms on a high volume level. Pull over if you hear it go off.

Back in the day, urine would be tasted to confirm diabetes – True

How glad I am that we have glucose monitors and urine test strips these day. Diabetes was largely noticed and characterized for causing people to urinate frequently. Diabetes is a Greek derived term meaning “to pass through”, mellitus means “honey”.

Diabetics get cavities easier – True

Our mouths become much dryer than those without the disease. Saliva cleanses the mouth and washes away bacteria, so when there isn’t enough…tooth decay becomes prevalent. Try chewing on natural gum(xylitol sweeteners are recommended because they are natural but don’t dirty up your mouth like sugar). The best solution is to sip water.

Diabetes is always genetic – False

While sometimes genetic, both types are often not. I am type 1 but do not have antibodies against insulin cells, meaning my beta cells were killed off for some other reason.

Diabetics can grow to be old and gray – True!

If you take care of yourself, you can live a long life. Life expectancy of diabetics is improving as technology does. You will have to fight, but it’s worth it.