What is diabetes? Diabetes is a chronic health problem stemming from elevated blood sugar. The body's metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats lead directly to the production of glucose, otherwise known as blood sugar. Glucose is needed to supply energy to every cell in the body. If glucose levels become too elevated, it presents a toxic danger to every organ in the body.
In the case of type 1 diabetes, the person experiences a deficiency of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that transports glucose into cells.
In the case of type 2 diabetes, the cells are resistant to insulin, blocking the blood sugar's entry into the cells. This type of diabetes, often referred to as "adult-onset diabetes", is actually growing at alarming rates among children, who also reflect a growing obesity epidemic.
What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes? Symptoms in adults include excessive thirst, increased urination, fatigue, blurred vision, weight gain, yeast infections, gum problems, rashes, impotence in men, and tingling and burning in the extremities. It's interesting to note that symptoms in children are often different. Most children are obese or overweight and asymptomatic.
The third type of diabetes is known as gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy. This form of diabetes affects about 4% of all pregnancies in the United States each year.
While children were once only associated with type 1 diabetes, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) now estimates that up to 45% of newly diagnosed children and teens have type 2 diabetes. The Center for Disease Control predicts that at least one out of every three Americans born after 2000 will develop diabetes.
Diabetes is growing at epidemic rates. Approximately 10% of the U.S. population has diabetes, and there are 41 million Americans living with pre-diabetes. What is pre-diabetes? Pre-diabetes is defined as a condition in which your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not at a diabetic level. Doctors use tests to identify people with pre-diabetes. Blood sugar levels between 140 mg/deciliter and 199 mg/deciliter two hours after a meal indicate you have pre-diabetes. It is estimated that 41% of the U.S. adults from ages 40-74 have pre-diabetes.
Under the new definition, the cutoff point for normal fasting blood sugar levels was reduced from a 109 mg to 100 mg per deciliter. This means a value of 100 mg/deciliter or above would lead to a diagnosis of pre-diabetes. Studies show that many people who fall in the pre-diabetic range will develop diabetes within ten years.
While a half a million people die annually from complications associated with diabetes, others suffer serious health complications. Diabetics often succumb to diabetic retinopathy, a condition that impairs the tiny blood vessels of the retina and causes approximately 12,000 new cases of blindness a year. Diabetics are also at increased risk of cataracts and glaucoma, heart disease, stroke, and peripheral neuropathy in which the body's nerves are damaged.
According to the ADA, two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease and stroke. A study reported in the November 2003 issue of Diabetes Care found that young people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes between the ages of 18 and 44 are 14 times more likely to suffer a heart attack than those without diabetes.
What causes type 2 diabetes? The exact cause of type 2 diabetes is unknown, however, there does appear to be a genetic factor, and poor diet can play a big part.
What are the risk factors for type 2 diabetes? Risk factors included the following: age (over 40), family history of diabetes, being overweight, not exercising regularly, ethnicity (African-American, Hispanic-American and Native-American), history of diabetes in pregnancy or giving birth to a baby weighing more than nine pounds, low level of HDL, or high triglycerides.
Should you be tested for diabetes? Absolutely. Children who have a weight problem or have a poor diet, or adults over 40 should be tested for diabetes even if you do not have any other risk factors. If you are younger than 40 and have one or more risk factors, you should be tested.
What is the treatment for diabetes?
1) Follow a diet high in fiber, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, water soluble fibers found in oat bran, beans, nuts, and apples, for example helps to balance blood sugar. An excellent source is ground flax seeds which should be consumed daily.
2) Consume vegetable proteins which include legumes, nuts, seeds and peas, or lean animal protein (turkey, chicken and fish) with each meal. Protein drinks that have low sugar levels are good as they help modulate blood sugar levels.
3) Focus on quality fats. Salmon and other fish as well as nuts and seeds are excellent "good fat foods" that help combat disease. Another way to integrate more quality fats into your diet is to use olive and flax oil in your salads.
4) Eat several small meals throughout the day, keeping your insulin and blood sugar levels regulated.
5) Because hormone deficiency has been linked to diabetes, you want to eat lots of brewers yeast, wheat germ, whole grains, soy products, onions, and garlic. Onions and garlic will help lower blood sugar levels and protect against heart disease.
6) Enjoy plenty of berries, plums and grapes which contain vital chemicals that protect your vision.
What foods should you avoid? Stay away from simple sugars. The obvious offenders include deserts, candy, sodas, and other sweets. Avoid fruit juices. Fruits that are low in fiber such as oranges, are best consumed along with meals. White, refined bread also spikes blood sugar levels. Better choices include whole-grains and complex carbohydrates. Avoid cow's milk. Some studies have found a link between cow's milk ingestion and type 1 diabetes in children. Some children may react to the cow's milk protein (casein), which causes an autoimmune reaction with the pancreas. Eliminate alcohol and limit your caffeine intake to one cup of coffee a day. Reduce your consumption of saturated fats. Saturated fat has been shown to increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Avoid artificial sweeteners such as Equal, Sweet and Low, or Sucralose. Use a diabetic-safe, healthier, natural sweetener such as Stevia or Xylitol.
I recommend the following health supplements for those with diabetes:
Chromium: Chromium improves tolerance and balances blood sugar levels. Studies have found chromium supplementation helpful with type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.
Gymnema Sylvestre: This herb improves insulin production by the pancreas and the ability of insulin to lower blood sugar levels.
Alpha Lipoic Acid: Improves insulin sensitivity and reduces symptoms of diabetic neuropathy.
Vanadyl Sulfate: This is a nutrient that improves glucose tolerance in those with type 2 diabetes.
Biotin: Biotin is involved with glucose metabolism and helpful for type 1 diabetes.
A food-based multivitamin: The body needs vitamin and mineral supplements to carry out all the chemical reactions that take place in the body.
Essential Fatty Acids: Ensures proper insulin function and supports nerve health.
Perfectlyhealthy Metabolic Balance Pack at (www.perfectlyhealthy.net) - Metabolic Rx Capsules and Gluco Solution Drops
A healthy diet combined with regular exercise and specific supplements help tremendously to control your diabetes. It is best to work with a nutritionally oriented physician.
About the author
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D. has specialized in Integrative Medicine for over twenty years, using conventional and natural methods to determine and discover the "root of the cause" in her clinic, South Coast Medical Center for New Medicine in Irvine, California, each and every day. Many people come in to the clinic from all over the world with severe chronic illnesses that conventional medical protocols have been unsuccessful treating. She realized early on that she can truly change lives through education as well as treatment protocols.
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D. and her medical staff strives to look at the whole person while exploring the effects and relationships among nutrition, psychological and social factors, environmental effects and personal attunement.