Type 2 diabetes is epidemic, both in the United States and around the world. Although common in the obese population, we are seeing a new and troublesome trend of diabetes and pre-diabetes in normal weight people, and they share the same risk of complications that obese diabetics have.
Why the epidemic in diabetes? Genetics plays a small role: folks who tend to gain weight around their middles (shaped as apples rather than pears) are at greater risk. Clearly, though, for all kinds of diabetes, some behavioral and environmental factors contribute to the epidemic. Once called “adult-onset diabetes,” this serious metabolic disturbance is no longer confined to people over the age of 40. Although it was formerly considered a rare disorder, type 2 diabetes has doubled in the past decade and is now being diagnosed in children and adolescents as well as adults.
More serious than the numbers (approximately 100 million Americans) are the complications associated with both diabetes and pre-diabetes. Diabetics have greater risks of cardiovascular, renal and other inflammatory diseases. They contract cancer at high rates, and their lives are shorter than others by about six years.
Ironically, the low-fat, high-carbohydrate way of eating that has been widely promoted as the ideal diet for weight loss and disease prevention is largely responsible for fueling this epidemic. It's true that excess weight is a risk factor for diabetes, and the rising incidence of diabetes closely parallels the expanding waistlines of Americans. But contrary to conventional thinking, increased girth and excess pounds appear to be a direct result of consuming a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.
The key to preventing diabetes - and managing the condition, if you've already been diagnosed - is to eat the kinds of foods that help keep your blood glucose stable and to implement the lifestyle changes that will support the intricate balance of hormones involved in energy metabolism. For the vast majority of people, type 2 diabetes can be prevented, and the course of the disease can be reversed. Even if you've suffered from diabetes for years, by following the healing program outlined here, you can help prevent the degenerative damage that all too often accompanies diabetes.
Glucose is the primary source of energy for the body in the standard American diet, also referred to by its acronym as "SAD", which it truly is. The digestion process breaks food down into glucose, which then travels via the bloodstream throughout the body. As blood glucose (a.k.a. blood sugar) rises, the pancreas releases insulin, a hormone that enables cells to use glucose.
In type 2 diabetes - unlike with type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disorder in which there is a deficiency of the insulin hormone - your body is able to produce insulin, but it has trouble recognizing or using it properly.
Insulin acts as a key, triggering the cell wall to allow the entry of glucose. If your cells no longer recognize insulin, the cell door remains locked. When the insulin key can't unlock the cell door, more insulin arrives and bangs on the door, but your cell tunes out the knock and becomes resistant to insulin's efforts. Both glucose and insulin accumulate, elevating your blood levels and eventually causing a variety of health problems.
Symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst, extreme hunger, weight gain or loss, fatigue, irritability, blurred vision, frequent infections (skin, urinary, vaginal), slow healing of wounds, and numbness or tingling in your hands or feet. Untreated diabetes is an underlying cause of most chronic disease, including heart disease, stroke, dementia, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage, and sexual dysfunction. The longer you have diabetes, the higher the risk of complications. Most of the problems associated with diabetes are the result of high blood sugar, which injures the walls of blood vessels.
The current medical approach of prescribing pills and insulin for diabetes 2 is "after the fact", because it focuses on treating the symptoms or risk factors of the disease rather than the underlying causes. Elevated blood sugar is merely a warning symptom that arises when poor diet, lifestyle problems, and environmental toxins interact with genetic susceptibilities. Diabetes treatments that focus merely on artificially lowering blood sugar can actually worsen the problem because they tend to increase insulin resistance.
Ironically, our body actually prefers to use fats and protein for fuel, and glucose containing carbohydrates are completely unnecessary. That's right, there is no dietary requirement for carbohydrates of any kind. The scope of this discussion will range into many more articles, but for now, let's stick to diabetes.
DrDeborahMD believes the most useful approach to preventing and reversing diabetes is a comprehensive health program centered on a low-carbohydrate diet rich in healthful fats and proteins. Because all carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels, carbohydrate intake of any sort must be curtailed. Eating moderate protein and plenty of fats - including healthful saturated fats - will keep you satisfied and put an end to the vicious cycle of sugar and carb cravings. For those who are able to exercise, establishing a regular program of moderate exercise also helps you keep blood glucose balanced and improves your cells' ability to recognize insulin. For those unable to exercise, the dietary changes are by far the more important aspect of diabetic management. Learning ways to manage stress, getting plenty of sleep, and taking time to enjoy life all contribute to your body's capacity to successfully manage your blood glucose, and therefore, your life energy.
Although there's no quick fix for diabetes, there is no argument that it can absolutely be managed and many times reversed with a commitment to a healthy diet and lifestyle. Start today and add years of health to your life.
For the greatest health improvement with the fewest steps, do the following:
- Eat liver twice weekly, or for those unwilling to eat liver, supplement with Dr. Ron's Ultra Pure Liver, take 6 daily.
- Follow an ultra-low carb ketogenic diet. Once thought to be extreme, a moderate protein, high fat (!) and ultra-low carb diet induces "ketosis" (not keto-acidosis) which can rapidly reverse many aspects of type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome.
- Avoid sugar However you manage the rest of your diet, all concentrated sweeteners and refined carbohydrates must be eliminated, and all carbohydrates (even healthful choices) must be minimized until your blood sugar stabilizes and you achieve a healthy weight. Stevia is a great alternative sweetener that will not affect your blood sugar. Use the green powder in teas and any other place you want the taste of sweet.
- Cut out grains, root vegetables, legumes and fruit for a month, to make quick progress in your new life, details included in the dietary and lifestyle suggestions outlined below. Investigate my recommendations for creating a healthy lifestyle in the Full Program. You'll experience vastly increased energy and better health, and by supplying your body with the nutrients it needs, you won't miss sugar.
A comprehensive program involves many areas in which action steps can be taken, gradually or all at once. You will be your own most valuable health manager. Some of the suggestions below include flexibility: balance gentleness and honesty with yourself!
Start by following the basic nutrition and healthy lifestyle guidelines, with the following modifications:
Savor Helpful Foods
- Protein: Eat to satiety and always accompany with healthy fat to enhance nutrient absorption. Since diabetics cannot convert the carotenes in plants to true vitamin A, vegetables are not a reliable source of vitamin A. You must instead obtain it from animal proteins. Seafood should be wild-caught; meat should be free-range and grass-fed or wild; and poultry should be free-range or pastured.
- Seafood: Emphasize omega-3-rich varieties such as wild Alaskan salmon and salmon roe (avoid farmed), herring, anchovies, sardines, and cooked or smoked oysters. To enhance nutrient absorption, add butter or cream sauce to fish and sour cream to roe.
- Raw fish: To ensure safety, marinate for 7-24 hours in lemon or lime juice.
- Lamb, beef, and pork: Consume with the fat and avoid overcooking to maintain tenderness.
- Venison, elk, and bison: These meats may require marinating 3-24 hours for tenderness. Enjoy with butter or cream sauce.
- Raw meat: Considered a delicacy in traditional cultures, raw meat should be frozen for 14 days to eliminate parasites.
- Poultry: Enjoy chicken, duck, geese, quail, and Cornish game hens and consume with the skin and fat.
- Eggs: Consume eggs from pastured hens whenever possible. Eat as many eggs as desired.
- Organ meats: Eat twice weekly minimum. Primarily available from cows and chickens, organs such as liver, heart, and kidneys are superlative sources of trace minerals and fat-soluble vitamins. Many people find liver unpalatable, but consider this: If you do not eat liver, you will need to find supplements to provide chromium, biotin, inositol, alpha lipoic acid, and other vital nutrients. Mention “paté,” however, and most people will smile. You can also enjoy organs as liverwurst, chopped finely and added to soups and stews, or mixed with ground meat as meatloaf or meatballs. See our Recipe section.
- Dairy: Eat only full-fat, unpasteurized dairy (milk, cream, yogurt, cheese, and kefir) from grass-fed cows. Limit total amount initially to 1 cup (8 ounces) per day. When weight and metabolism have normalized, increase to 2-3 cups a day. Alternatives to grass-fed raw milk are organic cultured buttermilk, whole milk yogurt, butter, cream, and raw cheeses. Avoid pasteurized milk, which has an adverse effect on blood sugar.
- Fat: Essential for nutrient absorption, adequate fat also provides satiety in a carbohydrate-cautious diet. Restricting fat is hazardous causes fat-soluble vitamins to be lost and protein content to increase to dangerous levels for the kidneys.
- Animal fats: Butter, fatty cuts of meat, poultry skin, and fat reserved from roasting meats provide valuable sources of fuel and fat-soluble vitamins. Use fats only from grass-fed meats.
- Vegetable fats: Choose organic fats to avoid oil-soluble residues of chemicals or hormones. Healthy choices include coconut oil, coconut milk, extra virgin unrefined olive oil, and, for flavor, small amounts of sesame oil or other nut oils. For sautéing, maintain low temperatures and use fats that are solid at room temperature such as coconut oil, butter, ghee, and animal fat.
- Avocado: Half an avocado daily provides a tasty fat and a valuable source of healthful fatty acids and nutrients.
- Olives: Extra virgin olive oil and olives (up to 4 daily) contain important trace minerals. Olive oil should be raw and unheated and never used for cooking.
- Nuts: The healthiest choices for diabetics are macadamia nuts and cashews. Almonds, pecans, and walnuts are acceptable in limited amounts. Buy the nuts raw, soak and dehydrate before eating (*see Recipe section: Crispy Nuts). Normal weight diabetics will enjoy benefits to blood sugar and lipid levels from nuts; avoid nuts if you are also on a weight loss plan. (Peanuts are not nuts: they are actually legumes.)
- Vegetables: Vegetables provide necessary minerals and phytonutrients. Eat vegetables lightly steamed with butter, cream, and sea salt; or raw in salads with olive oil and vinegar dressing. If you juice your vegetables, drink them with a meal, not instead of a meal. Butter and oils aid in nutrient absorption. Bitter greens are especially rich in nutrients. Limit root vegetables as described below.
- Fermented foods: Naturally fermented foods enhance digestion and immune function as well as providing valuable vitamin K2. Choose from sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented pickles, cultured vegetables, miso, yogurt, and kefir; eat at the beginning of meals two to three times a day.
- Celtic sea salt: This provides valuable trace minerals, and as insulin levels are lowered, you will excrete increasing levels of salt in your urine. Salt to taste.
Avoid Problematic Foods
- Sugar: No sugar, honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, rice syrup, high-fructose corn sweeteners, agave, fruit juices or sodas. Juice and soda are equally powerful in markedly increasing your risk of diabetes. Avoid non-caloric sweeteners with the exception of stevia powder (the green powder only, not the white extract).
- Grains: All grain products (including whole and sprouted grains) are problematic, including wheat, rye, barley, spelt, corn, rice, kamut, oats, triticale, and beer. Once weight and metabolism normalize, consuming soaked cooked grains and genuine sourdough bread with plenty of butter may be acceptable in limited amounts. Highly processed quick-cooking grains such as instant rice and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals should be permanently avoided.
- Fruit: Do not eat fruit until metabolism normalizes. Fruits with low to moderate fructose content may then be consumed once daily (one piece of fruit or one cup of berries per day). Berries are ideal; other acceptable choices include lemons, limes, cantaloupe, cherries, tangerines, nectarines, and peaches. Eat fruit with meals to avoid blood sugar spikes. Fruit juices, dried fruit, bananas, and apples should be permanently avoided. Unless you have problems with heartburn or reflux, sparkling water with a pinch of salt and squeeze of lemon can be a refreshing alternative.
- Root vegetables: When metabolism normalizes, you may occasionally eat half a red potato or a small serving of sweet potatoes or yams, always with lots of butter. Continued avoidance of root vegetables may be necessary for those who tend to regain lost weight. Cooked carrots, white potatoes and beets behave like sugar if you tend to be diabetic.
- Alcohol: Eliminate alcohol if you are overweight and diabetic. Diabetics who are not overweight may benefit from moderate alcohol consumption (1-2 ounces of distilled liquor, 4-6 ounces of wine daily). Beer is the most problematic alcohol for its grain and carbohydrate content.
- Soy: The only acceptable soy products are fermented tempeh, miso, and tamari. Limit tempeh to one serving per week.
- Vegetable oils and GMO oils: Genetically modified oils include canola, corn, soy, and cottonseed. Also avoid sunflower and safflower oils, margarine, and all trans fats. Avoid flax oil as its value is negated by high insulin.
- Restaurant and processed foods: As metabolic numbers improve, a wise eater may be able to find healthy meals at “slow-food” restaurants. Fast-food options should become a relic of the past. Even foods labeled “low-carb” often include excessive carbs and unhealthy fats.
- Low-fat, nonfat, or pasteurized dairy products: These highly processed foods aggravate a tendency toward diabetes.
- Caffeine: Caffeine disrupts blood sugar control, but coffee itself seems to have some beneficial effects, so you can freely enjoy decaffeinated coffee.
- Dr. Ron's Ultra Pure Liver: For those unwilling to eat liver, supplement with liver pills (6 daily).
- Pure Encapsulations Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA): ALA increases insulin sensitivity. Eat organ meats or take 400 mg (1 capsule) twice daily.
- Integrative Therapeutics Chromium Forte: This supplement combines the ancient herb gymnema, bitter melon, vanadium, chromium, niacin, and more, all useful for type 2 diabetics. Take 1-2 tablets two to three times daily before meals.
- Innate Response Formulas: take as directed, or other food-based multivitamin supplement.
- Probiotics: Bio-Immersion Original Formula is a great choice. Start with 1/8 tsp, increase to 1 tsp daily, between meals.
- Vitamin D: Obtain vitamin D from the sun with 20 minutes of full-body (not just hands and ankles) exposure to midday sun (May to September in northern latitudes). With direct UV exposure, the body can generate up to 20,000 units or more of vitamin D daily. Test your blood level of vitamin D3: the ideal range for healthy people is 40-65 ng/ml; those with health challenges may benefit from higher levels. If sun exposure is not giving you adequate vitamin D3 levels, take Pure Encapsulations Vitamin D3. Take as needed to normalize blood levels. For most adults that amount is approximately 4000 i.u., daily, or consult your health care professional for individual requirements
- Cinnamon: This spice mimics insulin and in some people may lower the need for insulin; blood sugar should be closely monitored. As little as 1/2 to 1 or more teaspoons daily reduces serum glucose levels 18-24 percent.
- Thorne Research Magnesium Citramate: Take 150-600 mg daily according to bowel tolerance of this or other healthy magnesium supplement. You can also find magnesium in green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish. Your need for magnesium goes up as your insulin levels go down as part of the process of healing.
- Interval training is helpful in managing type 2 diabetes. Short sessions of intense interval work help to normalize weight and metabolism by boosting growth hormone levels.
- For example, perform a 5-minute warmup, then move into 4-8 sets of intervals: each set consists of 20 seconds of high intensity work alternating with 10-90 seconds of rest. Choose any strenuous activy you repeat safely: modified push-ups, sit-ups, Tabata squats or mountain climbers. Conclude with 5 minutes of cool down.
- Perform intervals two to three times a week.
Caution: Start slowly and build up to highest intensity over a matter of months. Injuries can occur if you exert full strength when you are just starting.
- Walking: Discover forms of exercise you love - and do these activities regularly. Brisk walking is sufficient for most people. For even greater benefits, consider adding strength and interval training to a program of daily walking. Use common sense to avoid overly stressful exercise, which can trigger the release of cortisol and thus raise glucose levels. After a workout, eat enough to replenish energy but to maintain the low-carbohydrate directions in the diet plan.
- Strength exercises: Working out with weights or even your own body weight (such as performing push-ups), requires intense muscle effort. This dramatically increases your muscles' ability to use insulin, and therefore lower, blood glucose levels. Engage in strength training two to three times a week.
- Treat stress naturally: Sustained stress can raise internal cortisol levels which can aggravate a tendency to diabetes. Look for relief in exercise, meditation, hobbies, or counseling. If you consider yourself depressed, be cautious: prescription antidepressants are associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Instead, treat depression naturally as you would other forms of emotional stress.
- Avoid endocrine disruptors: Steer clear of BPA and other sources of endocrine disruptors, which may aggravate diabetes. BPA is found in plastic water bottles and the linings of food and beverage cans and take-out containers. Many cosmetics and pesticides and other types of plastic also contain pseudo-estrogen endocrine disruptors.
- Relax and have fun: Both simple laughter and sitting in a hot tub can lower blood sugar.
Diabetes is most effectively managed with the lifestyle interventions described here. Any additional benefit from homeopathic treatment would be with the help of a professional homeopath.
There is no doubt that making changes in diet and lifestyle can prevent and even reverse type 2 diabetes. To balance your blood glucose and prevent the insulin spikes that lead to pre-diabetes, you must eat no more than a small amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Create a balanced, healthful diet rich in proteins, healthful fats (including saturated fats), and low-glycemic vegetables. Integrate moderate portions of low-glycemic fruits, root vegetables, and whole grains after you've reached your desired weight and your blood sugar has stabilized.
Regular exercise is another important factor in preventing and overcoming diabetes. Exercise helps with blood glucose control by making cells more sensitive to insulin. Studies show that even a few days of sedentary living causes the metabolic changes associated with diabetes. Establish the habit of a brisk half-hour daily walk. For even greater benefits, include a moderate program of strength-building exercises and interval training, both of which can dramatically improve your body's ability to use glucose.
From Dr. Deborah's Desk
Bill came to me about his feet, actually, forcing him to walk gingerly even in his open sandals. They weren't diabetic feet, but he had a raging case of red, peeling, itching and burning soles! He had suffered from eczema on his feet for years, but had never mentioned it because it was mild. The story had changed! It was clear from an exam of his feet and his chart (“you've gained quite a bit of weight, I notice…”) and his subsequent blood tests that he had developed type 2 diabetes and now his eczema was superficially infected with yeast (candida) that was causing the torment.
I started gentle topical treatment for his feet, adding homeopathic Sulphur for his constitution, but the work we really sat down to do was to sketch out the cause and likely consequences of his diabetes. He was horrified, having always thought of himself as healthy, eating organic pasta several times a day as a pasta chef, always with good toppings. Maybe a couple of beers a day, but also salads, so he thought it was good. He switched his diet to the one outlined above, dropped 30 lbs. over the next four months, is able to wear his hiking boots again, and his blood sugars have normalized. The parts of the program that he is sticking with are the low carbohydrate eating plan, probiotics, and staying active. He's still a chef, but at a new restaurant.
This information is provided for educational purposes only, and any individual diagnosis or treatment should be determined by you and your doctor. See Additional Information.