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Under New Management

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Under New Management

It is estimated that more than two million Canadians live with diabetes and that number is increasing well beyond the expectations of most world experts on the subject. Obesity and lack of adequate physical exercise are universally blamed for these troubling statistics.

It is estimated that more than two million Canadians live with diabetes and that number is increasing well beyond the expectations of most world experts on the subject. Obesity and lack of adequate physical exercise are universally blamed for these troubling statistics.

Many diabetics seek the advice of a natural health care provider to find ways to manage their blood sugar levels more naturally than the insulin injections and prescription pills they are already using. Improved blood sugar control is possible, regardless of the type of diabetes, with the right food and supplement choices. In many cases, medication and even insulin shots can be significantly reduced or eliminated.

Diabetes Basics

Normal fasting blood sugar levels range between 4 to 7 millimoles per litre (mmol/L). Anything above that level is referred to as diabetes mellitus, a condition in which the pancreas is unable to produce insulin, the hormone that helps the body convert food glucose into energy.

Diabetes presents in several forms:

Type 1 (juvenile) or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) occurs most often in children and adolescents and is caused by the body’s failure to produce insulin. According to the Canadian Diabetes Association (diabetes.ca), about 10 percent of all
diabetics have this form of the disease and they usually need insulin injections for the rest of their lives.

Type 2 (adult) or non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) usually develops in people 40 years or older and is often related to excess weight. Approximately 90 percent of all diabetics have NIDDM, and insulin resistance causes their disease. This means enough or even too much insulin is produced, but the body’s cells somehow resist its action, causing glucose to build up in the blood instead of being converted to energy. Most cases of type 2 diabetes can be controlled almost entirely by diet.

According to a 2004 study in the British Journal of Medicine, the rise of type 2 diabetes in children is associated with increased obesity and consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks.

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a transient form of diabetes that occurs in approximately 3.5 percent of pregnant women, whose blood sugar levels return to normal after delivery. These women have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.

The long-term complications of all types of diabetes include coronary artery disease, hypertension, severe circulation problems, peripheral neuropathy (numbness), kidney failure, diabetic retinopathy (retinal disease), and loss of vision. All can be controlled or prevented by normalizing blood sugar levels.

Four Effective Diet and Lifestyle Changes

Stop smoking. Cigarettes increase risk of heart attack and stroke, conditions that already puts diabetics at risk. Smoking cancels out all your hard work to control blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol, so why smoke?

Eliminate all sources of simple carbohydrates and follow a low-glycemic index diet, which focuses on whole foods and complex carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables. High-glycemic index foods such as sugar and processed foods are rapid inducers of insulin, make blood sugar control difficult, increase craving for sweets, and lead to greater weight gain, higher triglycerides, and higher cholesterol.

Get tested for food allergies as they also can cause havoc with blood sugar control. Grain and dairy products are the most common cause of unsuspected food allergies, making a low-glycemic index diet that eliminates them an even better idea.

Other lab tests that are well worth doing include blood, urine, and hair mineral analysis to assess the levels of essential nutrients and toxins such as lead, cadmium, mercury, and aluminum. Blood tests for hormones such as thyroid, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), testosterone, cortisol, progesterone, estrogen, and others are also helpful because blood sugar can be greatly affected by these hormones. According to new research, low levels of testosterone and DHEA, in particular, are linked with greater degrees of insulin resistance and diabetes.

Ideally, consult a natural health care practitioner and get properly tested for hormone levels, nutritional deficiencies, and food allergies. Improvements in your blood sugar levels as well as your general health are just a few weeks away.

Natural Versus Synthetic Insulin

The original insulin employed for treatment of diabetes was derived from animals; since the 1970s, it has been used in a purified form. Genetically produced “human” or synthetic insulin was first introduced for broad use in 1982. According to the Insulin Dependent Diabetes Trust (iddtinternational.org) campaign to prevent the discontinuance of animal insulin, synthetic insulin has not, to date, been proven to offer any significant clinical advantage over natural insulin. Moreover, synthetic insulin is genetically modified, significantly more expensive, and more likely to have adverse side effects.

Health Canada approved an inhaled form of insulin earlier this year. It should be available for sale in early 2008.

Therapeutic Foods for Diabetics

Consuming one or several of the following special therapeutic foods can dramatically lower insulin requirements.

Therapeutic foodWhat it doesHow much to take
brewer’s yeastprovides a rich source of the mineral chromium, which normalizes glucose tolerance1 Tbsp (15 mL) twice daily
soybeans and other dried legumes such as kidney beans, lentils, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, and lima beansprovides fibre, which retards the rate of absorption of carbohydrate into the bloodstream1 cup (250 mL) or more daily
onions and garlicmay normalize blood sugar regulation by decreasing the rate of insulin eliminated by the liverhalf a clove twice daily and half a medium onion or 3 stalks of green onion daily
aloe vera gelstimulates the increased synthesis of insulin by the pancreas1/2 tsp (2 mL) twice daily
fenugreek seedsreduces fasting and postprandial (after meal) blood sugar levels in both juvenile and adult-onset diabetics by improving cell sensitivity to insulin1 Tbsp (15 mL) twice daily
blueberry or bilberry leaf teareduces high blood sugar levels through the action of its active component, myrtillin1 cup (250 mL) twice daily
bitter melon (balsam pear)a tropical fruit widely cultivated in Asia, Africa, and South America, the juice of which contains several compounds with strong blood sugar lowering action2 oz (60 mL) daily
Jerusalem artichoke and chicory rootcontain inulin, a complex sugar that
stabilizes blood glucose levels. Inulin can also be found in high concentrations in asparagus, globe artichokes, dandelion greens, leeks, garlic, and onions
1 to 2 cups (250 to 500 mL) daily

Best Supplements for Diabetics

The following are the most important nutritional supplements for better blood sugar control. The doses should be adjusted according to biochemical tests (blood, urine, hair mineral analysis) and other individual needs. Monitor your blood sugar levels with a lucometer regularly and adjust drug, insulin, and supplement dosages accordingly.

SupplementWhat it doesHow much to take
alpha lipoic acidprevents numbness and other complications of diabetes150 to 300 mg daily
Gymnema sylvestrelowers blood sugar by increasing insulin levels gradually500 mg daily
banaba leafhelps lower blood sugar levels500 mg or more daily
chromium picolinate, citrate, or chelatean essential mineral that is an active ingredient of GTF (glucose tolerance factor); corrects both high and low blood sugar levels1,000 mcg daily
cinnamonimproves insulin resistance and helps reduce abdominal girth6,000 mg daily
Siberian ginsengimproves blood sugar control500 to 1,000 mg daily
glucomannansoluble fibre that reduces glucose levels500 to 1,000 mg daily
guar gumanother soluble fibre that can reduce abnormally high levels of blood sugar500 to 1,000 mg daily
B-complex vitamins, especially B1, B3, B6, B12, biotin, and folic acidinvolved in the metabolism of carbohydrates100 mg or more daily
multi trace mineral supplement containing magnesium, vanadium, manganese, zinc, copper, selenium, potassium, and siliconaffects the pancreas and numerous
hormones that regulate blood sugar levels
3 to 6 capsules daily
antioxidant supplement containing beta carotene, vitamins A, C, E, grapeseed extract, alpha-lipoic acid, and bioflavonoidshelps prevent high blood sugar levels as well as some of the complications of diabetes such as numbness and retinal problems3 to 6 capsules daily
vitamin Dnew research indicates that adequate levels of vitamin D can improve insulin resistance. Ask your doctor to check your levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D to see if you need this supplement4,000 IU daily unless you are getting at least half an hour of sun exposure daily
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