Last month, in A Brief Insight Into Diabetes Part I, I discussed the basic tenets of Type II diabetes, the form of the illness that is increasing in epidemic proportions. I focused primarily on lifestyle changes. This month, I am going to focus more on testing and treatment.
If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, be sure to request a comprehensive blood panel on your first visit to your doctor. At a minimum this panel should include the following markers: blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c, a lipid panel, a c-peptide or insulin, homocysteine, highly sensitive c-reactive protein (hs-crp), vitamin D, liver enzymes, testosterone (in men) and a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP). Some of these tests may be new to you: the hemoglobin A1c is the standard medical lab used to indicate what the average blood glucose level has been over the past three months; a c-peptide and insulin level will tell us how capable the pancreas is at producing insulin and when a diabetic definitely needs to be put on insulin; homocysteine and hs-crp are inflammatory markers; men with low testosterone will have greater difficulty managing their blood sugar and a CMP identifies any immediate issues with the kidneys and liver that must be prioritized in the treatment protocol. There are additional tests that may prove valuable. For example, a salivary cortisol test will identify any imbalances in adrenal hormones that -if left unaddressed- could promote ongoing obesity, poor sleep, anxiety, lack of satiety and low energy.
Although the mainstream management of diabetes does involve some very helpful advice on lifestyle changes (e.g. weight loss, smoking cessation and stress management) it is primarily managed with medication. These prescriptions involve oral hypoglycemic agents (OHA), blood pressure medications, statin drugs and injectable medications such as insulin and byetta. This style of management -the use of medication without comprehensive, holistic support- has been proven to be inefficient. Statistics show that typically a patient who is put on one OHA will need within three or so years a second OHA, and will require insulin within six years. It represents a paradigm of a downward spiral that treats symptoms and fails to address core medical issues, leading only to further complications and rarely to restoration of health. This is not to say that a diabetic should not use prescriptions. Rather, I am saying that medications should be used judiciously and only as part of a thorough, naturopathic protocol designed to optimize health and rejuvenate overwhelmed organs and tissues. In this context, many patients would be able to use these medications in lower doses for less time.
Alternative practitioners, quite simply, are far better a getting results. We educate patients about making appropriate food choices and about why the recommendations of the American Diabetes Association are so tragically ineffective. We work closely with patients to help them develop an exercise program. We make sure we address any hormone imbalances, such as low testosterone or high cortisol and explain why achieving results requires restoring hormonal balance. We identify any vitamin and mineral deficiencies that are common to diabetics. We use nutrients and botanicals such as alpha lipoic acid, berberine or bitter melon to protect the body from damage caused by high blood sugars. We address inflammation in ways that minimize or eliminate the need for aspirin or ibuprofen. We develop protocols to treat body systems. These protocols not only effectively lower blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c, but they also alleviate stress on the pancreas, improve blood flow, increase sexuality, prevent atherosclerosis, heal the kidney and the eyes, lead to weight loss and improve vitality.
Remember: everything starts with the basics. Diet and exercise are the place to start. But, if you or a loved one develops diabetes, seeing an alternative practitioner is the best advice you can give them.
Dr. Daniel Smith practices at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic. His office is on 2612 Barnett Ave. He specializes in naturopathic oncology, but still maintains a strong family practice, treating all manner of conditions. He can be reached at 541-770-5563 or at firstname.lastname@example.org If you would like to schedule an appointment, please ask specifically for Dr. Dan.