Al­co­holism Can Make You Di­a­betic

It dam­ages the pan­creas, which is re­spon­si­ble for pro­duc­ing in­sulin

Business Daily (Kenya) - - TOP NEWS - Dr Mukuhi Ng’ang’a

We all know that al­co­holism can dam­age your liver and brain, but most of us are un­aware of an­other or­gan that al­co­hol pro­gres­sively de­stroys: your pan­creas.

What is a pan­creas?

The pan­creas is an or­gan lo­cated just be­hind your stom­ach. It is re­spon­si­ble for pro­duc­ing di­ges­tive juices (en­zymes) and hor­mones (chem­i­cals) such as in­sulin. In­sulin is one of the hor­mones re­spon­si­ble for reg­u­lat­ing blood sugar in your body.

How does di­a­betes de­velop in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion?

If your body does not pro­duce in­sulin or it does not re­spond ap­pro­pri­ately to the in­sulin it is pro­duc­ing, you are un­able to reg­u­late your blood sugar and you be­come di­a­betic. Some peo­ple are noted to have di­a­betes as chil­dren, whilst the ma­jor­ity de­velop di­a­betes in mid­dle age. Chil­dren and teens de­velop di­a­betes be­cause their pan­creas does not pro­duce in­sulin. Mid­dle-aged peo­ple pro­duce in­sulin, but their body does not re­spond ap­pro­pri­ately to the hor­mone. A few women get di­a­betes in preg­nancy only for their blood sugar level to re­turn to nor­mal after the birth of the baby.

How it af­fects pan­creas?

Al­co­hol abuse in­flames the pan­creas, lead­ing to a con­di­tion known as pan­cre­ati­tis. Most peo­ple who have had an at­tack of pan­cre­ati­tis will re­port that they got a very se­vere pain in the area above the belly but­ton after bing­ing on al­co­hol. This pain is some­times so se­vere, it feels as though it is pierc­ing through to the back. The pain usu­ally does not re­spond to over the counter pain killers. There may be as­so­ci­ated vom­it­ing. In most cases, the symp­toms re­solve after a few days.

How al­co­holism causes di­a­betes?

If you get re­peat at­tacks of pan­cre­ati­tis or long-stand­ing pan­cre­ati­tis (med­i­cally known as ‘chronic pan­cre­ati­tis’), the pan­cre­atic tis­sue gets per­ma­nently dam­aged. It can no longer pro­duce ad­e­quate in­sulin and you be­come di­a­betic. It also can­not pro­duce di­ges­tive juices and you there­fore can­not ab­sorb the nu­tri­ents from your food ap­pro­pri­ately. This leads to weight loss and pas­sage of stools that float once they are in the toi­let bowl. Se­vere con­stant pain is also a prom­i­nent fea­ture and can cause one to limit their day to day ac­tiv­i­ties. Di­a­betes ac­quired as a com­pli­ca­tion of long-stand­ing pan­cre­ati­tis does not re­spond to the usual tablets used to con­trol blood sugar, one needs to be on in­sulin ther­apy.

Pan­cre­ati­tis can kill

Se­vere at­tacks of pan­cre­ati­tis can lead to fail­ure of other or­gans in the body. This in­cludes the kid­neys and car­diores­pi­ra­tory sys­tem (heart and lungs) lead­ing to pos­si­ble death. Pan­cre­ati­tis has been as­so­ci­ated with can­cer.

Chronic pan­cre­ati­tis has been found to be a risk fac­tor for the de­vel­op­ment of pan­cre­atic can­cer. Pan­cre­atic can­cer has a poor prog­no­sis with very low long sur­vival rates (more than 70 per cent of peo­ple are dead within five years of be­ing di­ag­nosed with this can­cer).

Who should you con­sult if you have chronic pan­cre­ati­tis?

Ide­ally, you should start off with a visit to the gen­eral prac­ti­tioner. He/she should be able to do all the nec­es­sary tests to de­ter­mine if you have chronic pan­cre­ati­tis. The tests done will in­clude a scan of your belly to vi­su­alise the pan­creas.

Com­mon mis­di­ag­no­sis: Stom­ach/in­testi­nal ul­cers

Most pa­tients with chronic pan­cre­ati­tis are of­ten mis­di­ag­nosed as hav­ing ul­cers. This is be­cause the pain is in the same re­gion. Pan­cre­ati­tis does not, how­ever, re­spond to antacids and other med­i­ca­tion used to man­age stom­ach ul­cers.

Treat­ment op­tions:

Stop drink­ing al­co­hol: Un­less you stop drink­ing, your pan­cre­ati­tis will not be man­age­able.

Pain con­trol: Once over the counter med­i­ca­tions be­come in­ef­fec­tive, you will need to switch over to pre­scrip­tion pain killers. Th­ese are usu­ally ‘stronger’ but are as­so­ci­ated with a higher risk of de­vel­op­ing de­pen­dency (‘get­ting hooked’). If th­ese don’t work the doc­tor may need to look for more in­va­sive meth­ods such as de­stroy­ing the nerve sup­ply to the pan­creas.

Blood sugar con­trol: Usu­ally need in­sulin

Di­ges­tion prob­lems:the di­ges­tive en­zymes can be given to you as a tablet to be taken with ev­ery meal. Once your body gets back the abil­ity to digest food, you will gain weight.

Surgery: This is usu­ally done in cases where med­i­cal treat­ment has failed to man­age the pan­cre­ati­tis (es­pe­cially pain) or if there are con­cerns that there may be can­cer in your pan­creas.

Know­ing what to eat and how much to eat is crit­i­cal for some­one with chronic pan­cre­ati­tis. You should not sim­ply change to a di­a­betic diet be­cause you know that your body is not mak­ing suf­fi­cient in­sulin. You need to re­mem­ber that your body is also not ab­sorb­ing nu­tri­ents very well. A poor diet will re­sult in poor weight gain de­spite be­ing on proper med­i­cal treat­ment.

Can any ‘type’ of al­co­hol cause pan­cre­ati­tis?

Pan­cre­ati­tis has been found in peo­ple who over-in­dulge in al­co­hol of any kind (wines, spir­its, beers, ciders and tra­di­tional al­co­holic bev­er­ages). It has also been found in peo­ple who drink il­licit brews.

Can ef­fects of pan­cre­ati­tis be re­versed?

If you get mi­nor episodes of pan­cre­ati­tis, the pan­creas of­ten re­cov­ers fully. More se­vere cases, may leave you with fluid and cysts around and in your pan­creas. Of­ten th­ese re­solve with time. Chronic pan­cre­ati­tis, how­ever, de­stroys the pan­creas and its ef­fects can­not be re­versed.

Can di­a­bet­ics drink al­co­hol?

This is a dis­cus­sion you need to have with your doc­tor if you are di­a­betic. Ev­ery in­di­vid­ual is dif­fer­ent. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the sin­gle oc­ca­sional drink is not harm­ful to your health if your blood sugar is un­der con­trol. Binge drink­ing (even though you are not an al­co­holic), is harm­ful to your health.

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