Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition, where there is insufficient insulin to meet the body’s needs. This results in a decreased ability to efficiently clear blood sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream. The problem can be due to decreased secretion of insulin, a problem with the release of insulin, insulin that cannot properly stimulate insulin receptors on the cells that require it (insulin resistance), or insulin that is inactivated before it is able to function.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the beta cells in the pancreas. Once released into the bloodstream insulin allows glucose (blood sugar) to be transported into the cells, to be used primarily for energy production. After a meal containing carbohydrates, blood sugar increases. In response to rising blood sugar levels insulin is released by the pancreas, which enables the cells of the body to extract glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream. As such, insulin decreases blood sugar and provides cells with the glucose they require for energy production.
Insulin resistance appears to be the first stage of diabetes and a pre-diabetic state. As a result, blood sugar remains elevated, even though insulin is still being produced by the pancreas. In response to this, the pancreas releases even more insulin, and hyperinsulinemia (too much insulin in the blood) occurs. Eventually, the cells that make insulin in the pancreas can “burn out” and insulin resistance may turn into the type of diabetes that requires insulin injections (Type 1 Diabetes).
The risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes appears to be associated with genetic defects. However, new evidence points to diet and lifestyle as important factors that may be responsible for the development of the disease. Research has shown a strong connection between upper body obesity (people with “apple shapes”) and the development of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.
Most people with type 2 Diabetes or pre-diabetes are overweight. Excess abdominal weight does not stop insulin formation, but it does make the body less sensitive to insulin. Weight loss has been shown to reverse this problem.
Diabetes increases the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, retinopathy (a disease of the retina) and blindness, peripheral neuropathies (a disease of the nervous system), circulation problems that can lead to amputation, problems with the immune system, and skin ulcers and poor wound healing.
Heart disease is the leading cause of diabetes-related deaths, with adults having two to four times higher heart disease death rates than adults without the disease. The risk of stroke is two to four times higher in people with diabetes. Patients with diabetes develop more atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) than people without diabetes, and some 60-65 percent of patients with diabetes have high blood pressure.
Dietary and Lifestyle Factors
Weight Loss and High Fiber Foods - In most studies, Type 2 Diabetes has improved with weight loss. As well, most doctors recommend that people with diabetes reduce intake of sugar from snacks and processed foods, and replace these foods with high-fiber, whole foods
A high-fiber diet has been shown to work very well in controlling diabetes. Studies show that when diabetic subjects ingested a diet containing 50 grams per day of dietary fiber exclusively through the consumption of foods naturally high in fiber—such as leafy green vegetables, granola, and fruit, their blood sugar and blood insulin levels dropped down very significantly and there was a marked decrease in LDL-cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and triglyceride levels (blood fats).
Fiber is the indigestible part of plant food that acts as roughage for the body. There are two types of fiber. Water-soluble fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, and legumes in the form of guar, pectin, and gums. These products form a gel in the gastrointestinal tract that allows for a food to be held there longer, causing a slow rise in blood sugar. This type of fiber also helps to lower cholesterol. Insoluble fiber is made of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignins, and can be found in grains and bran. This food also takes longer to be broken down and used for energy, but its main value is in adding bulk and preventing constipation
High-fiber supplements, such as psyllium, guar gum (found in beans) pectin (from fruit), and oat bran, have improved glucose tolerance in some studies
Lower Glycemic Carbohydrates - Authorities also recommend lowering the glycemic index of the diet to improve the control of diabetes. Eating carbohydrate-containing foods, whether high in sugar or high in starch (such as bread, potatoes, processed breakfast cereals, and rice), temporarily raises blood sugar and insulin levels. Beans, peas, fruit, and oats have low glycemic index, in that their carbohydrates are absorbed more slowly and tend not to cause a sudden rise in blood sugar.
Almost all legumes (beans and peas) have a moderate glycemic index. They also provide a source of water-soluble fiber that is valuable for lowering cholesterol.
Some vegetables have a high glycemic index and should be used in moderation in cases of diabetes or to improve a pre-diabetic state. These include white potatoes (baked), carrots, beets, and turnips. However, if an individual is eliminating other sources of refined sugar in the diet and is decreasing the amount of complex carbohydrates (breads and pastas), he/she should be able to eat these vegetables with moderation
Fruits are generally in the middle of the road in terms of glycemic index; but dried fruits, which are concentrated, have a higher index. To lower the glycemic index and total calorie consumption from fruit juices, they should be limited or diluted with three-fourths water.
Most sweeteners such as honey, molasses, sugar, and white grape juice concentrate tend to have a high glycemic index. Rice syrup and granulated rice sweeteners may be used instead alternatives.
Grains such as rice, wheat, and corn tend to have a high glycemic index, but grains such as buckwheat, millet, barley, rye, and bulgur are actually quite low. For successful weight loss and blood sugar control, this group of foods should be used in moderation.
Vegetarians have been reported to have a low risk of Type 2 Diabetes. When people with diabetic nerve damage switch to a vegan diet (no meat, dairy or eggs), improvements have been reported after several days. In one trial, pain completely disappeared in 17 of 21 people.
Exercise - Exercise helps decrease body fat and improves insulin sensitivity. People who exercise are less likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes than those who do not. Exercise can decrease the risk for heart problems in diabetic patients. Regular exercise can improve heart and lung health, make insulin work better, and increase HDL cholesterol while decreasing LDL cholesterol. Exercise also helps to regulate blood sugar. At a minimum, diabetics should get 30 minutes of some form of exercise at least four days a week.
Avoid Alcohol - Alcohol has been reported to worsen glucose tolerance in people with diabetes in some studies. People with diabetes who drink have also been reported to have a high risk for eye and nerve damage
Avoid Smoking - People with diabetes who smoke have a higher risk for kidney damage, heart disease, and other diabetes-linked problems. Smokers are also more likely to develop diabetes.
High Potency Multiple Vitamin and Mineral – A high potency multiple vitamin is defined by a multiple vitamin supplement that is antioxidant enriched, contains a B-50 complex and at least 500 mg of elemental calcium, in addition to standard levels of all vitamins and minerals from vitamin A to zinc. The antioxidant levels should be in the following range: Vitamin C 750-1,000 mg; Vitamin E 200-400 IU, Selenium 100-200 mcg; Beta-carotene 10,000-15,000 IU; Lycopene Powder 5-10 mg. Lutein Powder 5-10 mg; Bioflavonoids 50-75 mg; Vitamin A 2,000-3,000 IU.
In a double-blind study, supplementation of middle-aged and elderly diabetics with a multiple vitamin and mineral preparation for one year reduced the risk of infection by more than 80%, compared with a placebo. Other reasons for diabetic and pre-diabetic patients to take a high potency multiple vitamin and mineral include:
B-Vitamins- Many people with diabetes have low blood levels of vitamin B6. Levels are even lower in people with diabetes who also have nerve damage (neuropathy). Biotin is a B vitamin that is also needed to process glucose.
Blood levels of vitamin B1 (thiamine) have been found to be low in people with Type 1 Diabetes. Administration of both vitamin B1 (25 mg per day) and vitamin B6 (50 mg per day) led to significant improvement of symptoms of diabetic neuropathy after four weeks. A trial found that combining vitamin B1 and vitamin B6 plus vitamin B12 led to improvement in some aspects of diabetic neuropathy in a 12- weeks trial.
Vitamin B12 is needed for normal functioning of nerve cells. Vitamin B12 taken orally, has reduced nerve damage caused by diabetes in most people studied.
There is substantial evidence that Type 2 Diabetes responds most favorably to appropriate dietary and lifestyle modifications as well as the use of targeted nutritional supplements. Too often, these proactive interventions are not addressed adequately in the global management of this condition. As such, Chiropractors and other holistic practitioners should assess the patient’s lifestyle approach to their condition and be in a position to explain evidence-based complementary interventions that can improve Type 2 Diabetes and help prevent and manage the common complications of this disease.
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