We have a diabetes epidemic in America. The latest statistics indicate that 24 million people, or about 8% of the total U.S. population, have diabetes. However, the picture looks much grimmer if the 57 million pre-diabetics are also included – about 26% of adults over the age of 20 and 35% of seniors over the age of 60 are pre-diabetics. That means a total of 81 million people, or 1 in 4 Americans, has either pre-diabetes or the full-blown disease! Diabetes is not something to be taken lightly. It is a very debilitating disease which can lead to:
- amputation below the knees,
- kidney disease,
- heart disease, and
Be that as it may, do you know that type 2 diabetes is completely avoidable and reversible without the use of drugs as long as you are willing to make some diet and lifestyle adjustments?
Types Of Diabetes
There are 2 types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.
In type 1 diabetes, your body’s own immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, resulting in a complete deficiency of the hormone insulin. This type of diabetes is relatively uncommon and typically occurs in people before the age of 20.
Type 1 diabetics have to receive life-long supplemental insulin. The cause of type 1 diabetes is not fully understood but is thought to be related to genetic as well as environmental factors; currently, there is no known cure for the disease.
Type 2 diabetes, in contrast, is a very prevalent disease and is the result of diet and lifestyle factors. Your body is still producing insulin but is unable to recognize the insulin and use it properly. This condition is called insulin resistance.
Since the insulin is not recognized, sugar builds up in your bloodstream instead of being moved into the cells. As a result, diabetics have elevated blood sugar levels. If your fasting blood glucose (mg/dL) level is:
- 70-99, you are normal,
- 100-125, you are pre-diabetic,
- 126 and higher, you are diabetic.
Diabetes Is Not Merely A Disease Of Elevated Blood Sugar
For a long time, researchers thought that diabetes is only caused by the miscommunication between the hormone insulin and the body’s cells, resulting in insulin resistance. However, with the discovery of the hormone leptin in 1994, researchers now realize that diabetes is also a result of leptin resistance.
The following section describes how these two hormones affect your metabolism and the detrimental effects of insulin and leptin resistance on your health.
Insulin is secreted by the pancreas and it works mostly at the individual cell level to regulate the storage of excess energy. When your blood sugar becomes elevated, insulin is released to direct the storage of this extra energy in the form of
- first, glycogen (limited amounts in the cells of the liver and muscles) and
- second, fat (remainder in the rest of the body’s cells, especially the belly).
Insulin’s effect of lowering your blood sugar is merely a side effect of this energy storage process. The more carbohydrates you eat, the more insulin your pancreas has to produce, the more fat you store, and the more likely your body’s cells are going to become insulin resistant overtime.
Leptin is produced by your fat cells. Its primary role is to control energy storage through hunger.
If a person is getting too fat, the extra fat produces more leptin and the leptin sends a signal to the brain to curb appetite, stop eating, stop storing fat, and start burning the extra fat off. Under normal circumstances, this self-regulating process works beautifully because the body’s cells are responding to the leptin signals.
In obese people, this may not be the case. The more fat one has, the higher the levels of leptin in the body. Eventually, the body’s cells will no longer respond to the leptin signals and you have leptin resistance.
Insulin and leptin resistance will cause havoc on your health. In addition to causing diabetes, this condition is directly linked to many chronic degenerative diseases, to name a few:
- high triglyceride levels in the blood,
- high small LDL cholesterol that plaques the arteries and leads to cardiovascular disease,
- high blood pressure,
- reproductive disorders,
- low thyroid,
- osteoporosis, and
- increased risk of cancer.
Non-drug Way To Prevent And Reverse Diabetes
Currently available diabetes drugs aiming merely to lower blood sugar is not the remedy for the disease. They only address the symptom of elevated blood sugar but not the root cause of the problem, which is insulin and leptin resistance.
Further, diabetes drugs have many nasty side effects including weight gain, gastrointestinal disturbances, and liver damage. New studies on these drugs show that they fail to lower the risk of heart attack and strokes associated with diabetes.
Fortunately, diabetes is a disease that is fully preventable and reversible as long as you are vigilant about changing your diet and lifestyle. This is by far, the best and most effective approach to address this epidemic. Popping a pill while abusing your body with a junky diet and a sedentary lifestyle will only give you more health problems down the road.
The following are 5 guidelines to help you improve and regain your insulin and leptin sensitivity:
A diet low in sugar and carbs with high quality protein and fats will help balance your blood sugar.
- Eliminate all sugars from your diet, especially fructose, as it is directly linked to obesity and insulin and leptin resistance. If you need to use a sweetener, natural stevia does not raise your blood sugar.
- Avoid grains (even whole grains), breads, pastas, and fruits if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic. Otherwise, consume in moderation. Don’t drink fruit juice as it contains as much sugar as sodas, ounce for ounce.
- Eat plenty of above ground vegetables, preferably with every meal. The starchy, root vegetables as well as beans can be consumed in moderation. If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, limit to a smaller amount.
- If you need to snack in between meals, do not eat carbs alone as it will adversely affect your blood sugar. Examples of better snacks are a handful of almonds, a slice of organic cheese (preferably raw), or celery with organic nut butter.
- Avoid consuming vegetable oils made from corn, canola, soybean, safflower, and sunflower as they are high in omega-6 fats which can go rancid easily and become trans fat, causing inflammation in the body.
- Get plenty of high quality omega-3 fats from wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies, herrings, and grass-fed meats.
- Avoid processed foods and fast foods as they usually contain bad fats, hidden sugars, chemicals, preservatives, and additives.
- Pay attention to the portion size of your meals. Eat slowly and stop eating when you feel full.
- If you drink, limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink a day and always combine with food. One drink is equivalent to 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of distilled spirits.
Regular exercise Exercise is as important as diet in reversing diabetes. Exercise helps build lean muscle mass, decrease body fat, and regain insulin and leptin sensitivity. Studies show that if you are overweight, just a 10-15% weight loss will improve blood sugar control.
- Aim for at least 30 minutes a day, 5-7 days a week.
- Take a comprehensive approach by incorporating cardio, strength, and flexibility in your exercise program.
High quality sleep Most adults need 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night. Sleep is a powerful regulator of appetite, energy use, and weight control.
- Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible.
- Keep the temperature below 70 degrees F.
- Best bedtime is between 10-11 pm as your body, especially the adrenal system, does a majority of recharging and detoxification between the hours of 11 pm and 1 am.
- Put your work away at least one hour before bed.
- Avoid eating grains and sugars before going to bed as they will raise your blood sugar and delay sleep. In the middle of the night when blood sugar drops too low, you may wake up and be unable to fall back asleep.
Optimize you vitamin D levels
Studies show that vitamin D deficiency may be linked to poor blood sugar control. Therefore, if you are not getting enough sun exposure, take a vitamin D3 supplement. Check your levels regularly and make sure it is between the optimal range of 50-70 ng/ml.
Probiotics for gut health
Your gut is a living ecosystem full of both good and bad bacteria. Multiple studies show that obese people have less good gut bacteria than lean people. You can re-establish the good bacteria by regular consumption of fermented foods like natto, miso, kim-chee, sauerkraut, raw organic cheese, and unsweetened yogurt. Or, you can take a high quality probiotic supplement.