Diabetes in increasing at epidemic levels in the United States. Over the next 24 hours, 3836 people will be diagnosed with diabetes, 830 people will die due to either diabetes or a diabetes related cause, 2876 diabetics will suffer from severely deteriorating eyesight, 627 people will be added to the list of diabetics requiring dialysis and 200 diabetics will have some part of their foot or leg amputated. About $671 million dollars in medical costs and lost work will be spent in the next 24 hours to treat this disease (that statistic is not a misprint).
Type II diabetes is the form associated with the current epidemic. It is a type of diabetes that is affected by many factors, most of them controllable. Perhaps the easiest factor to control is carbohydrate intake. For example, the prevalence of high fructose corn has had a profound influence upon the rise in diabetes cases. One study in 2013 demonstrated that diabetes prevalence is 20% higher in countries with high availability of HFCS compared to countries with low availability. Consumption of HFCS, along with poor quality carbohydrates and fats, is the single most important factor to address when confronted with diabetes.
Weight loss is also important to address. As we gain weight, our cells do not listen to insulin that well—this is called “insulin resistance”. Insulin is produced by the pancreas; its presence in the blood influences many cells, but primarily those of the liver, muscles and fat. The more adipose -or fat- tissue someone has, the more resistant the cells of the liver, adipose and muscles are to insulin. As insulin resistance develops, blood sugar levels stay high and the pancreas continues to put out more and more insulin. At some point the blood sugar levels get high enough that we diagnose that person as being a diabetic.
Exercise is of course, important. A person with diabetes cannot hope for long term regulation of blood sugar without exercise. Exercise creates a huge metabolic demand upon your body for glucose; it is the fuel muscles need to maintain the activity. By exercising, then, we lower our glucose level and decrease insulin resistance. Note that exercising does not necessarily mean training to cross-country ski uphill with a fifty pound pack. A two mile walk through the neighborhood is an adequate form of exercise, and a fine place to begin. As your program develops, however, it is good to incorporate some weight training in order to build muscle. This is because insulin is an anabolic hormone, or a hormone that “builds” tissue; it is very responsive to activities (such as weight training) that are anabolic in nature.
In the long term, our society must also address the degree to which mainstream medicine fails diabetics. In eight-minute office visits, diabetic patients simply do not receive the education or attention they need to learn to control their diabetes. Most patients with diabetes do not regularly take their blood sugars, do not know what their hemoglobin A1C score is, or even what it means, have not had any nutritional education, and only see their doctor 2-4 times a year. They are unaware that certain environmental toxins (such as arsenic) can promote diabetes, or that hormone imbalances in testosterone and cortisol play a major role in the development of this disease.
Perhaps more than any other medical malady, diabetes is a disorder that requires both patient participation (read: lifestyle changes) and the support of a naturopathic physician or practitioner whose treatment approach extends far beyond the conventional model. Nutritional counseling, herbs, vitamins, hormonal and endocrine support as well as judicious use of pharmacologic agents have been thoroughly documented to have a profound influence upon diabetes, much more so than medications alone.
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.