This is part one of a series of non-consecutive posts which are intended to explain in the simplest of terms the nature of a disease called diabetes mellitus. Although I will often grossly oversimplify in these posts, I will promise to still be factual. I will also try to present it in smaller chunks than my usual long posts. --------- Your body is made up of tiny little building blocks called "cells." Inside cells, the construction and demolition work of running your body takes place. There are different kinds of cells, such as muscle cells and nerve cells. Your body's blueprint, a substance called "dna," is stored in your cells.
In order to do their work of carrying on the life processes of your body, the cells need raw materials and an energy source. They also need their trash picked up. The delivery of raw materials and the collection of waste are taken care of by the bloodstream.
The raw materials are chemicals. These chemicals come primarily from the food you eat. Molecule chains are constructed or broken down, as needed. This is the constant work that goes on in the cell.When the cell is constructing, the process is called "anabolic activity." When the cell is taking molecules apart to use their parts, the process is called "catabolic activity." In both cases, heat is given off as a byproduct of the chemical reaction and the "burning" of the fuel. The overall process of either building something or taking something apart is called "metabolism."
Cells need fuel to carry on these life processes. This fuel is called "glucose." Glucose is an end-product of the digestion of food substances called "carbohydrates."** Digestion means the breaking down of complex molecules into their simpler components. Eventually, they are simple enough to enter the bloodstream.
Cells won't allow just any substance to enter. In order to cross the cell's membrane, the substance must be recognized by the cell. Glucose, for example, must be attached to a special substance the cell recognizes, a hormone called "insulin." Then the cell will allow the glucose to pass through a special portal in its membrane. Without insulin, the cell won't allow glucose inside, even though the cell might need glucose very badly.
If the glucose can't get into the cell, it keeps building up in the blood until dangerous life-threatening levels are reached. At the other end, the cell is starving in the midst of plenty, and will malfunction and eventually die.This hormone called insulin is very important to us all. It is one of the things produced in a large gland called the "pancreas." --------- **Although glucose is normally obtained from the digestion of carbohydrates, the body can also make glucose out of protein, though much less efficiently. This means if you deprive your diet of carbohydrates, you body will begin breaking down protein to make glucose. Your body doesn't make glucose out of fat. If you don't eat protein either, then your body will begin breaking down its own protein: skeletal muscles and organ tissue. When your body does this you are in a condition called starvation. When the organs can no longer function, you will die. --------- Next: exactly what is diabetes?