Life With Type 1 Diabetes Alyssa Davenport

What is Diabetes?

When the body takes in sugar -- whether in the form of starches, fruits, or sodas and juices -- the sugar enters the blood, causing the blood sugar to rise. In a healthy body, the pancreas receives a signal to produce insulin. The insulin enters the bloodstream and goes into insulin receptors on the cells. Once the insulin is in the insulin receptors, the cells are able to take in the sugar, which is an energy source for every process the body performs.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes can be brought on by damage to the pancreas. This damage can be the result of an autoimmune disease that destroys the pancreatic cells that make the insulin. In Type 1 diabetes, there is a lack of insulin production. In other words, when the blood sugar rises, the pancreas is unable to produce insulin. the lack of insulin can cause a Type 1 diabetic to start breaking down muscle since the body cannot use sugars for energy. In order to treat Type 1 diabetes, patients typically use an insulin pump so that the body is able to break down the carbohydrates for energy. Additionally, Type 1 diabetics have to be hyper-vigilant about making sure that they take in enough insulin for the amount of sugar they consume.

Dietary Guidelines

As with all diets, a diabetic’s diet should be not only high in fiber and protein but also low in carbohydrates and fats. However, a diabetic has to be very conscious of his or her carbohydrate management. The ratio of percentage of grams in a diabetics diet should be 55:25:20 (carbs:proteins:fats).

Carbohydrate Management:

Diabetics should try to eat between 45 and 60 grams of carbohydrates with each meal, and they should consume no more than 180 grams per day. When looking at a plate, a quarter should be devoted to protein, a quarter to starches, and half to non-starchy vegetables, such as leafy greens. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grain bread and classic steel-cut oatmeal, are best for diabetics because they include fiber and take longer to digest. Simple carbohydrates, such as sodas, juices, and candies, should be avoided because the sugar enters the bloodstream almost immediately, raising the blood sugar.

Foods to eat:

  • Beans -- Beans provide the protein without the fat
  • Dark, Leafy Greens -- Kale, spinach, and collards are filling, low in calories, and full of vitamins and nutrients
  • Fruits -- While a piece of fruit can help satisfy that sweet tooth and provide some fiber, try to avoid large servings of fruit. The simple sugar found in fruit can cause the blood sugar to spike.
  • Whole Grain Carbs -- Diabetes does not mean shunning carbohydrates: it just means managing your intake. When looking in the bread aisle, grab the nutrient-dense whole grain bread rather than the white bread. The whole grain bread has more fiber, and will keep your blood sugar from spiking too much.
  • Fish, Fat-Free Milk, and Yogurt -- Fish, milk, and yogurt are excellent sources of protein. Fish also provides much needed nutrients, such as Omega-3. Try to avoid yogurt that is pre-flavored because they will often be laden with sugar. Rather, buy plain yogurt and add fruit and granola at home.

Monitoring Diabetes

A Type 1 diabetic has to monitor blood sugar levels daily to make sure that the blood sugar does not get too low to too high. Most diabetics use a testing monitor to check blood sugar levels. Many doctors often recommend keeping a daily log of blood sugar levels before and after each meal in order to help newly-diagnosed diabetics with accountability. Prior to eating a meal, blood sugar levels should be 80 mg/dL-130mg/dL; after a meal, blood sugar levels should be less than 180 mg/dL. When blood sugar levels get too high a diabetic will need to administer insulin. Type 1 diabetics often use insulin pumps for treatment rather than insulin injections.


While a blood glucose monitor is useful for testing the instantaneous blood sugar level, it does not give a good overall view of how a diabetic has been managing the disease. In order to get the good overall view, doctors will give patients an A1C test. When sugar enters red blood cells to be transported around the body, it links with the hemoglobin, forming A1C. The A1C test allows the doctor to see how much glucose is entering the bloodstream over the course of three months. Children with Type 1 diabetes should strive for an A1C of 7.5% or less while adults should strive for an A1C of 7.0% or less.

Exercising with Type 1 Diabetes

Exercise for a diabetic is especially important. Staying active can help a diabetic maintain healthy bones, joints, and muscles as well as a stable blood sugar. Exercises such as brisk walks, biking, and swimming are often recommended by doctors. Because the body uses more energy while exercising, diabetics have to keep a simple sugar -- such as a juice or glucose tablets -- nearby at all times to prevent a sugar low. In a diabetic, this sugar low can lead to hypoglycemia, a condition where blood sugar levels drop too low for normal function. Prior to exercising, a diabetic should consider the intensity and length of the activity as well as current blood sugar levels. Blood sugar levels should be checked before and after exercising.

Success Stories

I was advised to drop out of college, move home with my parents, choose a predictable and calm career, and forget about motherhood. Today, I have a doctorate and two master’s degrees. I have worked in television and public health. I have flown more than 3 million miles educating people about diabetes. And, in 1999 I walked down the runway as Miss America. -- Nicole Johnson on overcoming her Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis
Since I learned that I have diabetes, I’ve become more aware of my body and the way it works. I’ve learned how my actions affect my blood sugar, and I’ve learned what I can do to make things better in my daily life, like making sure I get a little exercise here and there. I make sure I eat the right foods and that I have the right tools. -- Nick Jonas on learning to live with Type 1 Diabetes


(n.d.). DLife - For Your Diabetes Life | Diabetes | Type 1 Diabetes | Type 2 Diabetes. DLife - For Your Diabetes Life | Diabetes | Type 1 Diabetes | Type 2 Diabetes. Retrieved December 04, 2016, from

(n.d.). - Trusted, Reliable and Up To Date Health Information. Diabetes - Find Community, News, Information on Diabetes | Retrieved December 04, 2016, from

(n.d.). American Diabetes Association®. American Diabetes Association®. Retrieved December 04, 2016, from


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