Diabetes

Honeymoon phase in diabetes: What you need to know

When someone is first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and insulin treatment starts, their blood sugar can stay at near-normal levels, and their diabetes symptoms vanish.

This near-normal blood sugar condition is achieved with decreasing amounts of insulin, and some people manage to come off insulin temporarily. This status quo is known as the honeymoon phase.

In this article, we take a look at the honeymoon phase in diabetes, and how long it might last. We also examine how it affects blood sugar levels and diabetes management.

What is the honeymoon phase in type 1 diabetes?

Woman with diabetes injecting herself with insulin during honeymoon phase.
After an initial diagnosis of diabetes type 1, a honeymoon phase may occur.

The honeymoon period occurs in some people with type 1 diabetes right after their initial diagnosis and once insulin treatment is started. During this time, a person’s diabetes may seem to go into remission or disappear.

Type 1 diabetes is the result of an immune attack against the pancreas, which is the organ that produces insulin.

When a person is first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, some of their insulin-producing cells still function. With these cells continuing to do their job, the body retains some ability to produce insulin.

The need for synthetic insulin may decrease initially once treatment with insulin has begun. Some people may come off shots altogether.

This period, known as the honeymoon phase of diabetes, may last from a few weeks to several months but will eventually end.

Unfortunately, when a person with diabetes experiences the honeymoon phase, it does not mean that their diabetes has been cured. After a while, their remaining insulin-producing cells will stop working, as indicated by blood sugars rising again and an increasing need for synthetic insulin.

Once the insulin-producing cells die, the pancreas can no longer produce insulin and the honeymoon period ends.

After this happens, a person with type 1 diabetes will not have another honeymoon period and will depend on external insulin.


Is there a honeymoon phase in type 2 diabetes?

Healthy tofu quinoa bowl.
Eating a healthful diet and exercising regularly is usually recommended for those with type 2 diabetes.

While some people may experience a reduction in their type 2 diabetes symptoms after they are diagnosed, this is not the same as a type 1 honeymoon phase.

Doctors may advise someone with prediabetes, or a person who is first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, to modify their diet and lifestyle. This may include getting regular exercise and eating a healthful diet.

These changes can lower a person’s blood glucose levels. However, if they stop these healthful habits, blood glucose levels can rise again.

Honeymoon period duration

There is no standard time for a type 1 diabetes honeymoon phase to last, and no guarantee that each person with type 1 diabetes will experience this phenomenon.

Each person who goes through the honeymoon phase after a type 1 diabetes diagnosis will experience it differently, and for differing amounts of time.

The honeymoon phase usually occurs in the first 3 months after diagnosis.

Over a period of weeks to as much as a year or more, the immune system will continue to attack the pancreas and kill off the remaining cells that are producing insulin. As more insulin-producing cells die, the honeymoon period comes to an end.


Blood sugar levels during the honeymoon period

Person with diabetes measuring their blood sugar levels.
As the honeymoon period ends, blood sugar levels will no longer remain normal.

During the honeymoon period, a person with diabetes may experience normal or nearly normal blood sugar readings while taking no or minimal insulin.

Normal blood sugar levels, or plasma blood glucose readings, for people with diabetes, are:

  • After fasting: 70–130
  • After meals: Less than 180
  • At bedtime: 90–150

During the honeymoon period, a person with diabetes may see these blood sugar readings regularly while taking little or no prescribed insulin.

However, over time, they will notice fewer readings within the normal level, signaling that the remaining insulin-producing cells no longer function and the honeymoon period may be ending.

Diabetes management during the honeymoon period

It is vital for a person to work with their doctor to find the right amount of insulin during this time.

During the honeymoon period, people should take some insulin, as doing so may preserve the remaining insulin-producing cells for longer.

Some doctors try to extend a person’s honeymoon period as long as possible, as blood sugar levels can be healthy during this time.

A doctor may suggest a person in the honeymoon period of diabetes take a certain amount of insulin in addition to making dietary changes.

Some research suggests that people with diabetes can extend their honeymoon period by following a gluten-free diet.

One study looked at newly-diagnosed children with type 1 diabetes. Half of the children were instructed to follow a gluten-free diet. Those that adhered to a gluten-free diet had better blood sugar levels after 6 months than those who did not.

Another study found that taking vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids supplements may help extend the honeymoon phase and better manage diabetes. Researchers gave vitamin D supplements to 19 people out of 38 with type 1 diabetes.

The 19 people that were taking the vitamin D supplements had a longer honeymoon period than those who were given placebos.

Ongoing studies are actively looking at ways to delay the progression of type 1 diabetes.

As blood sugar levels may be within a normal range with little or no insulin treatment, a person in the honeymoon phase of diabetes must avoid taking too much insulin. Too much insulin can cause blood sugar levels to drop too low, leading to hypoglycemia.

A doctor will work directly with a person to determine the right amount of insulin for them.


Outlook

Unfortunately, the honeymoon period during diabetes is only temporary. As the disease progresses, the remaining insulin-producing cells will die, and a person will become dependent on insulin treatments.

There is currently no cure for type 1 diabetes. After the honeymoon period ends, a person with type 1 diabetes will need to take insulin every day for the rest of their life.

There are several different ways to take insulin, including pumps, injections, and pens. A doctor will recommend the best treatment option for a person.

Treating type 1 diabetes and managing blood sugar levels can help a person avoid some of the serious complications that can occur with diabetes, including:

  • heart disease
  • vascular disease
  • kidney failure
  • blindness
  • loss of limbs

The better a person with diabetes controls their blood sugar, the less chance they have of experiencing these complications.

If a person with diabetes manages their blood sugar well, they can live a healthy and active life.