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Auto-Immune Diseases: Type I Diabetes    
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Biology of Pancreas and Insulin (Type I Diabetes)

Cells in the pancreas produce insulin, whithout which our cells can not get sugar from the blood stream.

All living things, and all the cells that compose them, need energy to survive.  Metabolism refers to all the processes of the body that involve getting and/or spending energy.  So, metabolism includes eating food, digesting it and breaking it down into nutrients, getting the nutrients to each cell of the body and each cell’s processes that utilizes this food energy.  Learn more about the evolution of metabolism here >>

The best sources of energy for our body are sugars (carbohydrates), fats and proteins in our food.  But not all sugars and fats are equally healthy! For example, highly processed sugars like those found in most candy and soda are harder to digest by the body. 

Digestion is the process through which your body consumes food, and breaks it down to its basic components of sugars, fats proteins and other nutrients. The nutrients are absorbed into the body mostly while passing through your intestine.  The nutrients are taken by the blood vessels to all cells and in your body, that they may get all the energy they need. Digestion is a very complicated process that involves many cells, tissues and organs working together to ensure the most efficient harvesting of energy! Many special organs evolved to help this process become more efficient, like the liver which stores sugars in a special form, and the pancreas.

Diabetes is an auto-immune disease.
Inside the pancreas we find the islet cells (in yellow), surrounded by a capillary. In diabetes, white cells get confused and attack these cells.

The pancreas is an organ in your body located directly below the stomach and liver. It is a vital component of the digestive system, carrying out two main functions:  producing enzymes that digest food in your intestine and secreting hormones that regulate the sugar levels in your blood. 

The crucial step that falters in diabetes is one of the last: getting the ingested sugar from the blood to inside each cell!

Learn more about the difference between sugar and sugar and how it all relates to metabolism here >>

Anytime you eat foods that are high in sugar content, like breads, cereals, fruits, and candy, you increase the level of sugar—in the form of glucose— that is circulating in your blood.  In non-diabetics, there are special cells (beta cells) in the pancreas that secrete a hormone called insulin. Insulin is very important because it regulates the transport of sugar from the blood into the individual cells, where it is converted into a form that can be used for energy.  Without insulin, no matter how much food you eat, your cells would still starve. 

But in Type I Diabetics, the insulin-making cells are destroyed by the immune system, leaving the body without insulin to regulate glucose levels in the blood.  Too much blood sugar can cause hyperglycemia, and if left unregulated, hyperglycemia can lead to many other serious health problems.  That is why it is important for Type I Diabetics to supply the body with the insulin that it can’t produce by itself. 

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