Type 2 Diabetes: Warning Signs and Recommendations
Diabetes is a metabolic disease affecting the way the body converts food into energy. It is characterized by elevated blood glucose 24 hours after fasting. Type 2 diabetes also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes (NIDDM) generally begins in adulthood when the body becomes resistant to insulin produced by the pancreas, however this condition is now frequently seen in children and teens.
Are due to the secondary effects of free radicals and include:
- Nephropathy: kidney damage
- Neuropathy: nerve damage
- Retinopathy: retinal/eye damage
- Cardiovascular disease: high blood pressure and elevated blood cholesterol
Warning Signs and symptoms include:
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) manifesting as shakiness, irritability, sweating, weakness, anxiety, confusion or spaciness.
Hyperinsulinemia: an elevation in insulin production by the pancreas.
Metabolic syndrome presenting as elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, abdominal weight gain, fatty liver.
Additional symptoms include polyuria (frequent urination), polydypsia (frequent thirst), fatigue, nausea, and frequent infections.
The risk of developing NIDDM is strongly associated with advancing age, a sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, high stress, and being overweight/obese. Naturopathic medicine can assist in managing and reversing the signs and symptoms of diabetes through lifestyle changes and safe natural therapies.
Nutritional counselling is the first line of therapy for the treatment of diabetes and plays a significant role in the prevention of the disease. A poor diet contributes to diabetes and makes the symptoms more difficult to manage. Since 90% of individuals with NIDDM are classified as being overweight, weight reduction strategies combining proper nutrition and exercise is of paramount importance. A poor diet can contribute to diabetes or make the symptoms more difficult to manage.
- GI Diet: Follow a low glycemic index diet as foods with a high glycemic index value will raise blood sugar and insulin levels quickly.
- Consume protein and fiber with each meal, aiming for 40 grams of fiber daily.
- Avoid the use of sucrose, glucose, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, honey.
- Eat nutrient rich foods and avoid the consumption of simple sugars, simple carbohydrates, refined grains, deep fried foods, margarine, commercial snacks and artificial sweeteners. Increase the intake of non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fish and chicken.
- Eliminate food allergies/sensitivities (most common ones are dairy, wheat, soy, corn, citrus). Addressing food allergies has been shown to increase energy levels, aid in weight management, improve immune function and assist blood sugar control.
- Stop Smoking: Smoking reduces insulin sensitivity and increases free radical production that leads to the secondary complications of the disease.
- Exercise: Aids weight loss, increases insulin sensitivity and reduces cardiovascular disease risk.
- Stress Managment: Chronic stress (physical, mental, emotional) plays a major role development and management of NIDDM. Stress increases the output of cortisol from the adrenal glands leading to hyperglycemia, insulin resistance, abdominal fat deposition, and abnormal blood lipids. Some suggestions include yoga, meditation, biofeedback or journaling.
Numerous herbs have been demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of Diabetes. Herbs help to helps to support blood sugar balance by supporting the organs that regulate blood sugar, slowing glucose release and improving insulin sensitivity. Plants are high in anti-oxidants which help to reduce the oxidative damage that leads to the secondary complications of diabetes such as retinopathy, nephropathy, and neuropathy. Some herbs to consider are Milk thistle, Gymnemma, Jambul, and Globe Artichoke.
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine:
Acupuncture along with Chinese herbal medicine has been demonstrated to decrease serum glucose and assist in alleviating the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
Along with dietary and lifestyle changes, diabetics also need to supplement their diets with micronutrients in order to control their blood sugar. Nutritional supplementation can include, but is not limited to the following:
- Chromium and Vanadium: trace elements that help to promote insulin sensitivity and control blood sugar.
- Anti-Oxidants (including Alpha Lipoic Acid, Vitamins A, C, E, grape seed, pycnogenol), to reduce free radical damage and help improve the risk of CVD and nephropathy.
- Omega 3 fatty acids: help to reduce insulin resistance, lower triglycerides, help normalize blood pressure. Supplementing with a good quality fish oil or cod liver oil will ensure adequate amounts of these essential fats. Also include monosaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids found in olive oil, avocado, almonds, fish, walnuts and brazil nuts.
- Vitamin D: deficiency is associated with insulin resistance.
- B vitamins including B1 and B12 to aid in the metabolism of fatty acids and reduce the risk of neuropathy, retinal and kidney damage.
- Magnesium: deficiency is associated with insulin resistance, hypertension, glucose intolerance, and increased cardiovascular disease risk.