Like any new relationship, a relationship with type 1 diabetes starts with a Honeymoon Phase.
What is the “Honeymoon Phase”?
Type 1 diabetes is the result of your immune system destroying insulin-producing cells (beta cells) in the pancreas.
But there is a discrete period of time after the initial diagnosis of type 1 diabetes when the pancreas still produces a small amount of insulin. Some refer to this as the “remission phase”; however, we know this term is inaccurate, because complete beta cell destruction is inevitable with type 1 diabetes.
While the onset of type 1 diabetes is typically quick, complete beta cell destruction can take time, and we refer to the period when some insulin is still being produced as the Honeymoon Phase.
Blood glucose is typically easier to control during the Honeymoon Phase, as the body still has some ability to help itself. You might think of this phase as a time to ease into the disease.
What should I expect during the Honeymoon Phase?
The Honeymoon Phase can feel like a roller coaster ride. Some days, management is smooth; other days are full of surprises. After diagnosis, as you are learning how to manage diabetes, your body may feel foreign to you. Things you once took for granted may not always go as expected.
Because your pancreas is slowly “pooping out,” you should expect your insulin needs to eventually increase. At the same time, you will have days that require less insulin (and less work on your part) to keep glucose values in range. In fact, many people report days where they don’t need insulin at all to keep their glucose values in range!
Unfortunately, there is no way to predict when your pancreas will push out some remaining insulin and when it will decide to take an extended rest. This will result in unpredictable glucose values and may lead to frustration.
How long will this phase last?
For some people, the Honeymoon Phase lasts a few weeks or months, and for others it can last as long as two years. In fact, many people do not ever experience a Honeymoon Phase. Unfortunately, there is no crystal ball to answer this question. This said, the goal upon diagnosis is to provide a period of rest for your pancreas, afforded by injections of insulin, which some say may help extend the Honeymoon Phase.
How can I extend the Honeymoon Phase?
There is much research being done to answer this question but no conclusive evidence yet. Do consult with your healthcare team to learn about possible research opportunities, or read more here.
The best advice we can give at this time is to keep your glucose values in a safe range, to avoid “overworking” the functioning beta cells you have left.
How will I know when the Honeymoon Phase is over?
The best indicator of exiting the Honeymoon Phase is when your insulin needs plateau and your glucose values become more predictable.
How should I transition out of the Honeymoon Phase?
“Acknowledging the hard work that goes into managing type 1 diabetes can help relieve feelings of constant self-criticism after a difficult Honeymoon Phase. Grieving may also play a role in a healthy psychology behind diabetes management,” says Fiona Scott, RN, CDCES. “This is not for everyone, but for some, it’s important to grieve for the life before diabetes to be able to accept life with diabetes and see that diabetes is no barrier to achieving your dreams.”