Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to make insulin. Insulin is a hormone made in your pancreas that allows glucose (sugar) to enter your cells.
The cells in your body use glucose from the foods you eat as a source of energy. If you have type 1 diabetes, though, your insulin-producing beta cells are destroyed. This means they no longer make enough insulin to process the glucose in your blood.
High levels of blood glucose can cause a variety of symptoms. You can typically manage the symptoms of type 1 diabetes by regularly checking your blood sugar levels and taking daily insulin injections.
No cure for type 1 diabetes currently exists, but promising research is ongoing. Read on to learn more about how doctors and scientists are working toward a cure for type 1 diabetes.
According to a research from 2021, current research into type 1 diabetes falls into three major categories.
Typical diabetes management includes daily insulin replacement with injections or sometimes insulin pumps. This is called exogenous insulin, or insulin from outside the body.
Research into insulin replacement usually has more to do with improving treatment than curing type 1 diabetes. But the quality-of-life improvements they can offer are significant.
Areas of investigation include artificial pancreases, artificial intelligence, and the use of insulin analogs (genetically altered versions of insulin).
This approach has to do with getting your body to produce enough insulin internally.
Islet transplantation is one way to achieve this. This method uses functioning pancreatic cells from a donor. Current research, such as this
Other cell-based approaches include turning other types of pancreatic cells into insulin producers and getting your body to regenerate beta cells. As discussed in a
Beta cell protection
The third major area of research aims to protect your existing beta cells.
A 2020 case report described the case of a 17-year-old boy who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Additional symptoms led to a later diagnosis of an underlying immune disorder. The immune disorder was treated with medication. After 1 year of medication (21 months after the initial diabetes diagnosis), he was able to safely stop taking insulin.
Articles such as this encourage doctors and lead them to pursue new avenues of diabetes research. However, they should also be read with care. The case in this report is isolated and specific. Not enough time has passed to know what the long-term results will be.
Still, it provides evidence that there’s hope for a diabetes cure in the future.
Sometimes, people falsely claim to have discovered cures for diabetes. Unfortunately, this is just not true. No cure for diabetes exists yet.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, these claims usually include a scheme to sell you something. It could be anything from marketing materials (like books and presentations) to pills, supplements, and unproven procedures.
Perhaps the most common claims are those about curing diabetes with a specific diet.
Can type 1 diabetes be cured with diet?
Blood sugar and insulin production are both connected to digestion. Because of this link, it may seem logical to think that certain foods or minerals can cure diabetes. However, it’s not that simple.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is straightforward in its nutrition advice to people with type 1 diabetes. Diets are as unique as individuals, and nutrition guidelines for people with diabetes have much in common with those for people without diabetes:
- Eat portions that are appropriate for your health goals.
- Choose foods rich in fibers, vitamins, and minerals.
- Minimize foods with added sugars, sodium, and unhealthy fats.
The biggest challenge to curing type 1 diabetes is that the cause of the condition is still unclear. Genetic and environmental factors might play a role. But according to this 2021 review, it’s not known why the immune system attacks and destroys beta cells.
If the cells under attack are healthy beta cells, the immune system may be making a mistake and misrecognizing them. On the other hand, it could be that the beta cells are somehow dysfunctional and the immune system is doing its job by destroying them.
In either case, research is active and making progress. It’s believed that a cure for type 1 diabetes is attainable.
According to the ADA, you can manage your type 1 diabetes in a variety of ways.
Blood sugar testing
Every individual has unique needs when it comes to blood sugar testing. You can expect to check your blood sugar at least four times per day. Some people may need to check it more than 10 times daily.
Once your body stops making enough insulin, you will need to give yourself insulin through other means. For most people, this means injections or the use of an insulin pen. Insulin pumps may also be an option.
There is no one specific “diabetes diet.” People navigating diabetes are encouraged to eat the same healthy, balanced meals recommended to everyone and to avoid skipping meals. It’s also a good idea to eat at similar times every day. Healthcare professionals typically advise people with type 1 diabetes to count the number of carbohydrates in their meals and to give insulin based on this amount.
Regular physical activity provides health benefits for people both with and without a diabetes diagnosis.
Exercise can lower (and sometimes raise) your blood sugar. This can be managed by:
- doing a proper cooldown
- staying hydrated
- monitoring your blood sugar levels before, during, and after exercise
The ADA points out that it’s easy to measure blood sugar levels and then tie an emotion to the number. A mental health professional may be able to help you to manage some of the feelings or issues you encounter while navigating your diabetes diagnosis. These might include:
While no cure for type 1 diabetes exists today, there is reason to be hopeful that a cure may one day be found. This is an active area of research and scientists are exploring many avenues to treat this condition.
Some people with type 1 diabetes have been able to stop the use of insulin, but these cases are somewhat unique. Until more widely effective treatments are found, be aware of false claims of a cure. Work together with a trusted doctor to manage your diabetes in a way that works for you.