Alternative Diabetes Treatments
DIABETES MELLITUS more commonly referred to simply as diabetes is a chronic degenerative disease caused by lack of, or resistance to, the hormone insulin, which is essential to the proper metabolism of blood sugar (glucose).
Normally blood sugar rises after a meal as glucose is absorbed into the blood stream causing the pancreas to produce enough insulin to return the blood sugar level to its normal range. Diabetic individuals are either unable to produce enough insulin or their cells have become resistant to insulin, and they are unable to move glucose from the blood stream to the cells, and thus cannot maintain a normal blood glucose level.
Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, limb amputations, and heart disease. The cost of diabetes and its medical complication is estimated at 100 billion dollars annually, accounting for approximately 50% of current health care spending. I feel that most cases of diabetes, especially type 2, can be treated successfully with diet, nutrition, and herbs.
TYPES OF DIABETES
There are two major forms of diabetes.
- Insulin-dependent juvenile diabetes (type 1)
- Non-insulin-dependent adult-onset diabetes (type 2)
TYPE 1 DIABETES: The body is unable to produce enough insulin.
As a result, glucose builds up in the blood stream and spills over in urine while the body literally starves because the cells cannot get the nourishment which is provided by glucose to produce energy for the cell dermal functions. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes include excessive thirst, hunger, urination, dehydration, and at times weight loss. Insulin injections are currently the only method in conventional medicine to control type 1 diabetes but are not considered a cure. Injections must be administered daily and sometimes multiple times during the day. There must be times when the peak action of insulin will occur when the sugar from the meal elevates the blood sugar to its highest level. Type 1 diabetes usually begins in childhood, but it may occur later in life if the pancreas is damaged due to injury or disease.
TYPE 2 DIABETES: accounts for the majority of diabetes cause and is increasingly in an epidemic proportion in the United States due in large part to poor diet, rising levels of obesity, increasing sedentary lifestyles, and greater numbers of people living longer. Symptoms are the same as in type 1 with the exception of weight loss. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas still produces insulin, but the cells are resistant to its action and therefore cannot absorb the glucose produced by the food intake. The cells of the body may also be unable to properly utilize insulin in the absorption of glucose from the blood stream. Often type 2 diabetes can be remedied by dietary management, exercise, weight control, and other natural supplements, herbs, or prescription medications. Oral medications prescribed to stimulate the body to produce more insulin can also be used until blood sugar levels are brought to the normal and stabilized level. When insulin levels in type 2 diabetes are out of control, as a result of dietary abuse and lack of insulin, insulin injections may be temporarily required to restore balance. Once diet and weight are under control, the insulin shots are usually no longer needed.
Either type of diabetes when poorly controlled can lead to heart and kidney disease, atherosclerosis, hypertension, strokes, cataract, retinal hemorrhages, nerve damage, gastro paresis which is loss of peristaltic action of the gastrointestinal tract, gangrene infection in cuts and sores with possible amputation of the feet or legs, loss of hearing, blindness, and even death. These complications are easier to avoid in both types of diabetes if blood sugar levels are kept as close to normal range.
CAUSES OF DIABETES
Although a genetic disposition appears to govern susceptibility to both types of diabetes, a number of other factors can also be involved. Diet and obesity are key elements in the cause of type 2 diabetes. Autoimmune processes in which the antibodies created to fight allergies and certain infections react again the body itself may also play a role in causing both types of diabetes. STATINS HAVE ALSO BEEN SHOWN TO RAISE BLOOD SUGAR.
TYPE 1 DIABETES
In type 1 diabetes (autoimmune disease), the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed and become unable to produce insulin. Seventy-five percent of type 1 diabetics have antibodies to their own pancreatic cells as apposed to 0.5 to 2% of individuals without diabetes, supporting the theory of an autoimmune cause of disease. New autoimmune testing is available.
Microbial infections may be responsible for initiating the autoimmune disease process in type 1 diabetes. Microbes that may induce an autoimmune reaction include the Pertussis whooping cough bacteria, hepatitis virus, Rubella virus, Coxsackie virus, Epstein-Barre virus, cytomegalic virus, and herpes virus 6. Also some people with type 1 diabetes have antibodies to the albumin in cow’s milk which are capable of reacting to the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Susceptibility in type 1 diabetes may also be genetically predetermined.
TYPE 2 DIABETES
Diet, obesity, allergies to certain foods, viral infections are all factors that contribute to the onset of or aggravate type 2 diabetes. An estimated 85% of all type 2 diabetics are overweight when diagnosed. Some people feel that any person 30% overweight for 30 years will become a diabetic or even sooner.
The main cause of obesity is poor diet, and the key factor is not how much but what is consumed. This includes processed foods which are high in calories and stripped of valuable fiber and essential nutrients.
Sensitivities to certain foods as well as viral infections can result in lower insulin levels in type 2 diabetes, causing inflammation and ruin or damage to the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Stress and the individual’s ability to manage stress are also important factors affecting the course of diabetes and insulin requirements. Stress can result in the production of adrenal and cortisol which increases blood sugar and interferes with diabetic control.
The goal for my patients is to bring the blood sugars under control and to stabilize them to normal or near-normal levels. For type 1 diabetics, which are usually permanently insulin dependent, a proper diet as well as exercise is essential. This usually reduces the amount of injected insulin required. Type 2 diabetics can adequately control their blood sugar by experimenting with various foods, frequency and size of meals, and other aspects of their lifestyle such as exercise and stress reduction. At times, they may even be able to forego insulin or oral medicine entirely when blood sugar levels are stabilized by weight reduction, exercise, nutrient supplements, and a sensible food plan. In either case, lowered sugar intake means the likelihood of fewer complications from the disease.
In this disease process, research has shown that the number one culprit is the huge increased intake of processed white sugar, white bread, refined carbohydrates and are accelerating diabetes worldwide.
Diabetic mortality when charted against the consumption of refined carbohydrates, that is white sugar and white flour, rather than the total consumption of carbohydrates showed a much closer statistical correlation between refined carb consumption and diabetic mortality.
The diet high in complex carbs with low glycemic index is the key. Fiber is the key. We need to reduce our insulin levels by slowly controlling the release of glucose into the blood stream. The fiber in plant foods can also be beneficial for diabetics by absorbing water in the body and forming a natural sponge when its food particles are suspended. Diabetics should avoid simple carbohydrates such as fruit juices and foods containing refined sugars such as processed foods, cookies and pastries. This is because the foods raise the blood sugar rapidly, thereby requiring a sudden rise in insulin levels. That places stress on the pancreas.
James Anderson, M.D., of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs at the University of Kentucky has found that eating a diet high in fiber and complex carbohydrates helps control type 2 diabetes and allows the patient to reduce insulin requirements. In his nutrition plan, he calls for 55 to 60% of the daily caloric intake to be derived from carbohydrates. Two-thirds of these come from complex carbs, 14-20% from protein, a minimum of 45 grams a day, and 20-25 or less from fat.
WATCH OUT FOR HIDDEN SUGARS
Finding out whether a food product contains sugar requires more detective work than it once did. Only a few manufacturers currently include the word “sugar” in the list of ingredients in their sugar-containing products. Instead, wanting to avoid the sugar stigma that could negatively impact sales, many food producers hide the sugars in the products behind a host of chemical names.
Take note that any product listing of any of the following ingredients really does contain sugar:
- corn sweetener
- high fructose corn syrup
- modified corn starch
- fruit juice concentrates
COOKED ANIMAL FAT AND TRANS FATS
These are a major contributor to the onset of diabetes. An excess of saturated animal fats and trans fats is associated with increased diabetes, cancer of the breast and prostate, immune dysfunction, and infertility.
Over 30,000 premature deaths each year are attributable to the consumption of trans fats. Foods high in trans fats include margarine, commercial peanut butter, prepackaged baked goods, cakes, pies, and cookies. Naturally occurring trans fats can also be found in some animal products such as dairy products and beef fat since the trans isomer is produced by bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract of cattle.
These naturally-occurring trans fats may account for as much as 21% of the food sources for American adults according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Trans fatty acids disrupt cell membranes because they change from a cis fatty acid to a trans fatty acid or from a curved shape to a straight shape. This actual molecular structure is thus changed and decreases the function of the cell membrane.
Let’s be clear that not all fats are horrible. The omega-3 fatty acids and mono and saturated fats improve insulin function. Evidence suggests that a raw vegetarian diet moderately high in walnuts, almonds and sunflower seeds may help in the prevention of diabetes and regulating sugar control. This may be because the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and the mono and saturated fats act to strengthen and repair the cell membrane structure and function.
ACHIEVING NORMAL BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS
To shift our blood sugars as well as insulin levels down, within one to three weeks on my program I feel this can be done. Some people, particularly those with syndrome X also known as metabolic syndrome, may take three to four weeks or even slightly longer. Everyone is different. Psychologic stress as I pointed out creates elevated cortisol which increases inflammation and undermines our ability to control insulin and glucose.
Diabetes is a complicated metabolic imbalance of carbohydrates, lipids, and protein involving inflammation, heavy metal toxicity, nutritional deficiencies and other hormonal imbalances. Complications involve free radical damage, sorbitol buildup in the tissues and organs, and glycosylated protein buildup. All of these greatly accelerate the aging process. Diabetes in this context can be considered the sign of accelerated aging.
BLOOD GLUCOSE LEVELS
What are conventionally considered normal glucose levels are actually unhealthy. It now appears that optimum fasting blood sugar, which is blood sugar first thing in the morning, should be about 85. The normal healthy range glucose is between 70 and 85. Accelerate aging occurs when the fasting blood sugar is 86 or greater, and with this there is an increased risk of premature death. We have just begun to recognize that even a high normal glucose can eventually become a serious threat to our health. The point is that we need to understand the complex toxic effects that high blood sugar creates in the body.
HIGH GLYCEMIC DIET
The following is a list of symptoms that occur with a high glycemic diet. These include hypoglycemia, asthma, depletion and imbalancing of neurotransmitters in brain chemistry, migraine headaches, anxiety, atherosclerosis, depression, PMS increased triglycerides, acid stomach, diabetes, increased cholesterol, hypertension, arthritis, cataracts, increased risk of Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, emphysema, multiple sclerosis, tooth decay, kidney damage, etc.
The key to healing diabetes is eating and living in a way that creates a fasting blood sugar between 70 and 85. A potent means of achieving this is associated with caloric restriction. This information comes from animal studies and our clinical experience where caloric restriction induced significant reduction in blood glucose levels.
THE MESSAGE IS THAT THE LESS WE EAT, THE LONGER WE LIVE, AND THE BETTER CONTROL WE HAVE OVER OUR BLOOD GLUCOSE. BY DECREASING CALORIC INTAKE, OUR RISK OF AGE-RELATED DISEASE IS DIMINISHED, AND THE SLOWING OF AGE IS ACTIVATED.
When people eat too much in general, their blood sugar often rises. On a caloric-restricted diet, their blood sugar is more likely to stay at normal levels.
GLYCEMIC INDEX AND INSULIN INDEX
Another approach to help lower blood sugar is decreasing the intake of high glycemic index foods and high insulin index foods. The glycemic index is a measure of what happens to your blood sugar when you consume particular foods. The glycemic index shows how much one helping, 50 grams, of a particular food raises your blood sugar.
Although useful, the glycemic index does not provide a complete and accurate understanding of the full range of foods and their effect on glucose metabolism. In some instances, the food has a low glycemic index rating but a high insulin index rating.
Research has shown that a more accurate assessment of dietary factors to insulin response is a realistic goal. The insulin index is based on the insulin response to various foods and certain foods such as lean meats or proteins. We realize that animal protein seems to increase insulin despite there being very little carbohydrates present. Additionally, other foods seem to cause a disproportionately increased insulin reaction to carbohydrate load.
A number of other factors other than the carbohydrate content mediate insulin secretion. For example, protein-rich foods with the addition of protein to a carbohydrate-rich meal can stimulate a modest rise in insulin secretions without increasing blood sugar concentrations. Similarly, adding fat to a carbohydrate-rich mean also increases insulin secretions, although the plasma glucose response is reduced.
Some complex carbohydrates do not produce insulin responses much greater than protein-rich foods such as beef or fish.
Associated with high blood sugar is the destructive effect of glucose and its link with protein in the process called glycation. The higher the blood glucose, the more severe the glycation process is. This results in poorly functioning enzymes, poorly functioning cell membranes, and cross-links of protein in all tissues. This accelerates the aging process.
OXIDATIVE STRESS AND FREE RADICALS
A higher blood glucose creates oxidative stress as well. This causes premature aging and is the etiology of all disease.
Many of the nutritional supplements have been shown to stabilize blood sugar.
These include B vitamins such as B6, biotin, as well as B12 and others. Vitamin C has been found to reduce insulin needs, maintain eye health and help prevent cataracts. Megadoses of vitamin C have been shown to prevent or delay the vascular complications of diabetes by promoting the production of collagen while strengthening the blood vessels. Please note that kidney function should be evaluated prior to initiation.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant having significant anti-clotting effect and can help prevent development of vascular complications. Other supplements include chromium, magnesium, potassium, vanadium, zinc, alpha lipoic acid, Q10, essential amino acids, and digestive enzymes. Herbal supplements include Gymnema sylvestre which an ayurvedic herb used in the treatment of diabetes. It has been show to reduce the insulin requirements of type 1 diabetes, and there is some evidence that it may regenerate or revitalize the cells of the pancreas responsible for reducing insulin. Other supplements include stevia, fenugreek, bilberry and others.
TREATMENT OF THE COMPLICATIONS OF DIABETES
Treatment of the complications of diabetes includes lowering of free radicals, improving circulation, and treating or preventing neuropathy. I use several nutritional supplements as well as proprietary creams which I feel are effective in the treatment of pain.