Type 2 Diabetes
Prevention and Healing
When discussing blood sugar control one must look at both diabetes and hypoglycaemia. Glycemic index is also a factor, but is not discussed in this article. Diabetes is the more prevalent and life threatening condition, therefore it is the main focus of this article.
Diabetes mellitus is an inability to metabolise carbohydrates resulting from inadequate insulin production or utilization. There are two types of diabetes mellitus, type 1 and type 2. This article concentrates on type 2 diabetes, which has also been called adult-onset diabetes or non-insulin-dependent diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can also affect children. With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas often makes enough insulin, but the body has trouble using it. This has been called insulin resistance, as it appears the body has become de-sensitized to the effects of insulin. This is probably the result of long-term high sugar intake and explains why adult onset is most common. Years of processed sugar and high GI foods bombard the body with un-naturally high amounts of simple glucose.
The good news is that Type 2 diabetes frequently responds well to natural therapies.
Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar (glucose). Occasionally, hypoglycaemia can be dangerous (for example, from injecting too much insulin). It may also indicate a serious underlying medical condition, such as a tumour of the pancreas or liver disease. Common symptoms of hypoglycaemia are fatigue, anxiety, headaches, difficulty concentrating, sweaty palms, shakiness, excessive hunger, drowsiness, abdominal pain, and depression.
Diabetes is a significant cause of ill health and premature death in the United States and New Zealand. It affects about 200,000 people in New Zealand but only half of these people have been diagnosed. The prevalence of diabetes across the population of New Zealand is currently estimated at around 4 percent. In the United States people aged 20 years or older with diabetes total 25.6 million, or 11.3 percent, of people aged 65 years or older there are 10.9 million, or 26.9 percent.
People with diabetes cannot properly process glucose, a sugar the body uses for energy. As a result, glucose stays in the blood, causing blood glucose to rise, however, the cells of the body are starved for glucose. People with diabetes are at high risk for heart disease, atherosclerosis, cataracts, retinopathy, stroke, poor wound healing, infections, and damage to the kidneys and nerves. In addition, those with diabetes have a higher mortality rate if they also have high homocysteine levels (often as a result of eating too much red meat).
Foods for diabetes
Eating carbohydrate-containing foods temporarily raises blood sugar and insulin levels. The blood sugar–raising effect of a food, called its “glycemic index,” depends on how rapidly its carbohydrate is absorbed. Many starchy foods have a glycaemic index similar to table sugar (sucrose) and those eating large amounts of foods with high glycaemic indexes are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, eating a diet high in carbohydrate-rich foods with low glycaemic indexes (eg. beans, peas, fruit and oats) is associated with a low risk of type 2 diabetes. A high-fibre diet is also important in controlling diabetes and blood sugar levels.
High-fibre supplements, such as psyllium, guar gum, pectin (from fruit), and oat bran have improved glucose tolerance in studies. Positive results have also been reported with the consumption of powdered fenugreek seeds every day. Focus should be placed on fruits, vegetables, seeds, oats, and whole-grain products.
Eating fish has shown protection from diabetes. Incorporating fish into a weight-loss regimen is very effective at improving glucose and insulin metabolism and high cholesterol.
Vegetarians are reported to have a low risk of type 2 diabetes. People with diabetes who switch to a vegan diet (no meat, dairy, or eggs), have reported a vast improvement in their condition after only days. Vegetarians also eat less protein than do meat eaters. Reducing protein in the diet reduces kidney damage caused by diabetes and also improves glucose tolerance.
Diets high in fat, especially saturated fat, worsen glucose tolerance and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Saturated fat is found primarily in meat, dairy fat, and the dark meat and skins of poultry. In contrast, glucose intolerance has been improved by diets high in monounsaturated oils. The best way to incorporate monounsaturates into the diet is to use extra virgin olive oil and flax seed oil, which have high antioxidant values.
Eliminating alcohol and cigarettes is associated with an improvement in diabetes. Both alcohol and cigarettes worsen glucose tolerance and enhance the risk for eye, nerve and kidney damage.
Those who suffer with hypoglycaemia usually improve when they adapt a similar diet as the above for diabetes, eg. eliminate refined sugars and alcohol, eat foods high in fibre (such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts), and eat small, frequent meals. Even modest amounts of caffeine may increase symptoms of hypoglycaemia. For this reason, caffeinated beverages (such as coffee, tea, and some soda pop) should be avoided.
Weight loss and exercise
The majority of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Excess abdominal weight does not stop insulin formation, but it does make the body less sensitive to insulin. Type 2 diabetes improves with weight loss programs.
Exercise helps decrease body fat and improve insulin sensitivity. People who exercise are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who do not. However, people with diabetes should never begin an intensive exercise programme without consulting a healthcare professional.
Supplements for diabetes
A variety of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other supplements are known to help with symptoms and deficiencies associated with diabetes and hypoglycaemia.
Improved glucose tolerance with lower or similar levels of insulin has been reported in more than ten trials of chromium supplementation in people with varying degrees of glucose intolerance. Chromium supplements increase sensitivity to insulin and therefore combat the onset of diabetes.
People with type 2 diabetes tend to have low magnesium levels and its supplementation improves insulin production. The American Diabetes Association acknowledges strong associations between magnesium deficiency and insulin resistance.
Alpha lipoic acid, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, B12, Biotin, Coenzyme Q10, Zinc and Fish oil are also very important nutrients in the prevention and treatment of Diabetes so a multi vitamin would be helpful.
Herbs for Diabetes
Several herbs are also known to help managing the symptoms associated with diabetes, including the control of blood sugar levels.
Gymnema is known to stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin in people with type 2 diabetes. It also improves the ability of insulin to lower blood sugar in people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Gymnema is not a substitute for insulin, but insulin amounts may need to be lowered while taking gymnema to avoid hypoglycaemia.
Fenugreek seeds are high in soluble fibre, which helps lower blood sugar by slowing down carbohydrate digestion and absorption. Research suggests that fenugreek may also contain a substance that stimulates insulin production and improves blood sugar control.
Whole, fried slices, water extracts, and juice of bitter melon have been shown to improve blood-sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes, according to preliminary trials.
Supplementing with psyllium has been shown to be a safe and well-tolerated way to improve control of blood glucose and cholesterol. In a double-blind trial, men with type 2 diabetes who took 5.1 grams of psyllium per day for eight weeks lowered their blood glucose levels by 11 to 19.2%, their total cholesterol by 8.9%, and their LDL (bad) cholesterol by 13%, compared with a placebo.
Products that aid in the regulation of blood sugar and weight loss include Satisfed, the Ultimate Herbal SLIM and DETOX ‘n SLIM protein drink. They contain therapeutic amounts of Gymnema and Chromium along with Psyllium and other fibre. The blood sugar balancing effects of these products has been very successful, especially when the program is followed for the long term. Starting with a herbal DETOX is a great way to start the process of healing type 2 diabetes.
© Brett and Moira Elliott