It’s therefore crucial that
people with diabetes control
their blood sugar
effectively, and avoid the
up and down yo-yoing of
their blood sugar.
Diabetes is a controllable
disease despite the
challenges that it can pose,
and the first step is the
normally recommend the
following dietary changes:
Do not overeat; eat
meals of equal size
Limit the intake of
Eat more protein and
Eat more fiber, as it
helps to stabilize blood
Avoid coffee; caffeine
speeds up the rate at
which the body uses
sugars, & hampers
People with diabetes have access to glucometers and will often have one in their home; they can test their blood sugar levels throughout the day and adjust and regulate insulin intake as needed. There are nutritional supplements and natural herbs that can help diabetics control their blood sugar in different ways by potentizing insulin, stabilizing fluctuations, slowing or blocking the release of sugars or reducing ill effects of excess sugar in the system as well any secondary symptoms.
What is it? Insulin is essential for the proper metabolism of glucose. Glucose is one of the most essential fuels within the body, required for basically all functions. Insulin is excreted by the pancreas in response to increased blood sugar levels, and helps to escort glucose into our liver, muscle and fat tissues where it is stored as glycogen to later be used used for energy. Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease caused by either a lack of (Type I), or a resistance to (Type II), the hormone insulin.
Diabetes is often diagnosed based on symptomology, the classic triad including polyuria, polydipsia and polyphagia (increase urination, increased thirst and increased hunger). There is usually some unexplained or unintentional weight loss observed in Type I diabetes, whereas type II diabetics are often overweight. Lab work essential for diagnosis of diabetes includes a marked elevation in blood glucose, both post prandial and fasting. Levels lower than 6.1 (fasting) and 7.8 (2 hours following a meal) are considered normal, although these amounts are increased slightly when setting goals for diabetes treatment. Hemoglobin A1C is often tested before treatment, as well as periodically throughout treatment to monitor the efficacy of the intervention. It is a more long-term assessment of overall patterns of blood sugar regulation.
Who is at risk? There is a genetic influence involved with the development of both Type I and II diabetes. In the case of Type I, many believe that a microbial infection may also play a part in the activation of the autoimmune reaction. Pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis, rubella, coxsackie, Epstein-Barr, cytomegalovirus, and herpes virus-6, may all be associated with an infection induced development of type I diabetes.
The World Health Organization has declared an apparent epidemic of diabetes throughout the world. There is a significant correlation between the development of Type II diabetes and obesity. An estimated 85% of individuals who develop Type II diabetes are overweight at the time of diagnosis. A poor diet, high in processed foods is at the root of the problem. Prevention and often cure can be directly attributed to diet and exercise interventions resulting in leanness.
There is significant research to suggest that food sensitivities may play a role the the development of Type I diabetes, as well as the diabetic reaction of Type II diabetics. Research has shown that Type I diabetes, an autoimmune reaction to our own pancreatic cells, may actually be caused by cow's milk. Children given cow's milk in the first 3 months of life have been shown to be more susceptible to the development of Type I diabetes. Similarly, there is a reduced risk in infants that are exclusively breast fed during this time. Bovine serum albumin, a protein found in cow's milk, very closely resembles a molecule found on the surface of most pancreatic cells. It is thought that they body initially reacts to the milk and then thinking it is the same molecule, continues to react to these similar molecules on the pancreatic cells until they are subsequently destroyed.
In Type II diabetics, one theory suggests that specific food intolerances over time lead to inflammation that again destroys the insulin producing cells of the pancreas. Foods often at the root of these problems include corn, dairy, wheat and chocolate. Some studies have shown that eliminating the offending food(s) has resulted in decreased, if not total elimination, of diabetic reactions. Individuals at risk for diabetes or who have been diagnosed as pre-diabetic may find that an hypoallergenic diet, assessment and elimination of the offending foods may be all that is needed to regulate blood sugar levels and prevent any need for medication or further dietary restrictions.
Complications: Often much more concerning than the initial symptoms of diabetes, are the complications that can occur over the long term if blood glucose levels are not effectively regulated. Most of these complication are due to a dysfunction of the circulatory system, causing damage to the blood vessels that supply various organs and areas within the body. Diabetic neuropathy occurs most commonly in the lower limbs and is characterized by pain and numbness in the feet and legs. This can also be associated with foot ulcers, including gangrene. The nerve and oxygen supply to the feet become so compromised that sometimes amputation is the only treatment option. Diabetics must be diligent about keeping their feet clean, dry and warm, as well as avoiding situations in which trauma to the foot can go unnoticed (due to nerve compromise), once again predisposing them to ulcers. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by the formation of fragile new blood vessels forming in the retina as a means to increase a deficient blood supply to that area. These new vessels are prone to breakage and often hemorrhage into the eye, causing damage if not treated. Diabetic nephropathy results from damage to the small vessels supplying the kidney, eventually causing damage and kidney failure. Even a small amount of kidney damage can then have detrimental effects on blood pressure. Diabetics are are more prone to stroke and heart attack due to damage of the vessels leading to the brain, and heart respectively.
Lifestyle and supplement recommendations:
Following a fairly simple but strict diet is key to effective management of blood sugar levels for any diabetic. First and foremost, refined sugar needs to be avoided. Processed foods, cookies, pastries and sugar laden fruit juices cause major spikes in blood sugar. The goal of any diabetic is to regulate blood sugar levels, keeping them at a steady level throughout the day. Increasing fibre and lean protein, as well as making sure to eat smaller portions more often throughout the day, can go a long way in maintaining balanced blood sugar levels. Some medical professionals promote a diet consisting of 40-50 grams of fibre/day. The typical North American diet contains an average of 10-23 g/day. If you are starting low, make sure to increase your fibre gradually all the while increasing water intake at an equal pace. Psyllium, ground flax seed, oat bran and konjac root (glucommanan) have all been studied and shown benefits for diabetics. Fibre also promotes healthy cholesterol levels, a concern for many diabetics on their way to metabolic syndrome. Protein helps to slow carbohydrate digestion and once again, prevent unhealthy highs (or lows) in blood sugar. Limit red meat, which is high in saturated fat, and focus on lean poultry and fish, as well as quinoa, nuts and legumes. Vegetables and fruits can also be high in fibre, but beware of too much fruit, which can also be high in sugar. Limit your intake to 2 (max 3) servings/day. Focus on low glycemic vegetables, including sweet potatoes and yam and green leafy vegetables. Diabetics do not need to cut out carbohydrates altogether, but simply focus on complex carbohydrates, which are digested more slowly. High fibre, low glycemic grain options include brown rice, oats, whole wheat and spelt, among others.
As far as supplements go, there are so many to choose from. For the most part, most of these products are aimed at regulating blood sugar and therefore also preventing complications associated with poor glucose control. A B-complex is a good place to start. Vitamin B6, specifically, drops significantly after the age of 50, when Type II diabetes is most likely to occur. 50 – 100 mg/day is recommended to support healthy blood sugar levels. A form of B1 called Benfotiamine, biotin, niacin (B3) and B12 can also support the regulation of blood sugar and prevent diabetic neuropathy by supporting nerve health. Don't forget about your vitamin D. More and more research is supporting the use of vitamin D for the prevention and management of both type I and Type II daiabetes. Chromium is an essential trace mineral that plays an important role in sugar metabolism. Look for the picolinate form, as it is the most widely studied. Gymnema is an herb that has been shown to help stimulate insulin secretion from the pancreas, as well as possibly restore function in pancreatic cells that are unable to make insulin. It has therefore been implicated in the treatment of both Type I and Type II Diabetes. Magnesium deficiency is common in individuals suffering from Type II diabetes and has been associated with insulin resistance. Supplementing with magnesium is also helpful in supporting healthy nerve function. Essential fatty acids, particularly omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil have been shown to help improve glucose tolerance, reduce triglycerides and cholesterol levels and by supporting the overall health of the cardiovascular system, including the vessels to the eyes and kidneys, can help to prevent retinopathy and nephropathy complications. The last supplement I want to mention is Alpha Lipoic acid (ALA). ALA is a powerful antioxidant that helps to support healthy glucose metabolism, as well as prevent complications.
(CLICK SUPPLEMENT NAME FOR PRODUCTS).