Put simply a person has diabetes as a result of their pancreas failing to produce enough, or any, insulin. Insulin is required by the body to balance blood sugar levels. In my short blog I am not aiming to make you a medical expert but rather give you a better understanding of the condition and bust a few myths to help you feel more confident in accommodating people with diabetes fully in church life.
There is generally regarded as being three types of diabetes:
Type 1 – developed usually in childhood or as a young adult. People with T1 produce no insulin and control their blood sugar level by injections of insulin and through their diet.
Type 2 – usually developed in adulthood and often linked to obesity. It may be controlled by diet alone, by tablets or, like T1, by injection. Controls may change as the condition improves or worsens.
Gestational – developed during pregnancy and usually controlled by diet and tablets. It is normally temporary and stops after childbirth.
People may also be referred to as pre-diabetic and encouraged to make lifestyle changes to prevent them developing T2.
A good blood sugar level is essential to prevent long-term complications which can include damage to eyes, kidneys and circulation. So diabetes must be taken seriously. A person can measure or check their current blood sugar level by a simple and quick finger prick test or, increasingly now for those of us who inject, by simply scanning a disk which we stick to our upper arm. There is NO reason why a person with diabetes cannot play a full part in the life of your church, including junior church activities.
Food: always seems to be the number one barrier. I know there have been events that I have not been invited to because of the menu! If it is a church event, why not ask everyone you’re inviting to let you know of any dietary requirements? Whatever you do, please don’t use an internet search! As I indicated above, food is specific to the type of diabetes and even within type. I follow DAfNE (dose adjustment for NORMAL eating), whilst other T1s prefer ‘fixed dose and carbohydrates’. If it is a buffet, the person will make their choice or alert you in advance.
Sugary Snack: if you have seen a person who is known to have diabetes eat something sweet, it may be that they can tell that their blood sugar is a little low. The vast majority of times this is readily ‘treatable’; if it falls too low, it may require a bit of help – spoonful of jam, very sugary tea etc.
Exercise: is good for people with diabetes. It may lower blood sugar but this can be easily compensated for with a pre- or post-exercise biscuit … or two.
Terminology: try to use the term ‘person who HAS or lives with diabetes’; do NOT say ‘suffers with’ as this is value-laden. I am ‘diabetic’ but not ‘A diabetic’.