Everything You Need To Know About Diabetes
There is an epidemic of Diabetes worldwide, but particularly in the western world. This is MAINLY due to our inactive lifestyles, stress and high sugar, carbohydrate-based diets. Read more below.
What is Diabetes?
The more well known type of Diabetes is Type 2. Type 2 Diabetes happens because we develop a resistance to insulin in our bodies. Insulin therefore does not work very well any more, meaning the body is unable to push sugar from the bloodstream into the cells.
Type 1 Diabetes, on the other hand, is an autoimmune condition where the body has developed antibodies to the beta cells in the pancreas that supply insulin. This type of Diabetes often comes on very acutely. This is a significant condition, necessitating the use of insulin on a daily basis. Our role in functional medicine is to optimise diet and all systems of the body in order to try and minimise the effects of this situation.
In the past, it was thought that Type 1 Diabetes mainly occurred in younger people; and Type 2 in older people. However, Type 2 Diabetes is also now occurring more frequently in children. This is due to a number of things, but mainly our Western diets that are carbohydrate rich and nutrient poor.
There is a huge misunderstanding about sugar. People think that this is the sugar you put in your tea or coffee or that you find in a chocolate bar, biscuits, cake or obvious sweets. But less obviously, the carbohydrates in complex foods (such as grains, potato and sweet fruit), convert straight to sugar in the body. Therefore causing as much problems in their own way, especially if not part of a balanced diet.
Why should Diabetes be treated?
Remember that Diabetes has a huge effect on our circulation and in the long run, if left unchecked, can cause blindness, loss of limbs and kidney problems. High sugar levels also predispose to dementia. It is therefore imperative that you receive the best possible help for all body systems when you are looking at Diabetes, whether Type 1 or 2.
The main message of our practice is that Type 2 Diabetes is essentially reversible. The solution is lifestyle based, focusing on: diet, exercise, relaxation, meditation and attention to the processes that set up insulin resistance. We have to remember that diet is not the only factor here. Stress causes havoc in our bodies and exhausts the adrenal glands. These are closely tied in to the metabolism of insulin and so stress itself can sometimes be a precursor to Diabetes.
People who know me have heard me talk about the billions of organisms that inhabit our bodies. Indeed we are in the minority. Our Human Genome is considered to be only 10% of our make up with the other 90% consisting of a vast ecosystem of organisms. In an ideal world the organism ecosystem is synergistic with our bodies, working with us for mutual benefit.
However, it doesn’t take much imagination to realise that on occasions, especially when we have been feeding our ecosystem with too much sugar, the balance goes and then infections can take over, either acutely or with the so-called “stealth” infections.
Why am I talking about this in an article labelled diabetes? The reason is that sugar is our food enemy. When you choose to eat a high carbohydrate diet, you are choosing to feed the 90% organisms. When you choose to eat healthy fatty acids or fats, these feed our human metabolism.
So in part, when you choose to change your diet and either heal or avoid Diabetes, one of the mechanisms is the beneficial effect on the balance of organisms in the body. When you choose healthy fat, you are more likely to feed the human mitochondrial ATP production and give the carnitine shuttle inside our mitochondria, the food that they prefer, which is fatty acids. Then your microbiome in the gut (that is your 90% organism world) is more likely to remain balanced.
What does that matter?
It matters because there is huge control from these organisms across the gut wall, affecting our immune system. It is probably this effect on the immune system that also helps to maintain balance within the body. So when you optimise your diet, you are not just treating potential Diabetes, you are optimising the immune system for the body.
So the answers for Diabetes are mainly managing your diet but in complex cases, we do have to dig deeper with our usual tools of functional medicine. These include: delving into the micro biome and the digestive systems of the gut; checking for autoimmunity; checking for underlying infections; monitoring with biochemical markers; the progress of insulin resistance; sugar levels; long-term blood sugar levels such as the HbA1c; and searching for and correcting deficiencies when we find them.
There are deficiencies that, when corrected, strengthen us. Deficiency states are endless and we have many ways of assessing these, whether they be electrolytes, minerals, amino acids (proteins) vitamins, or fatty acid’s. Some of the common ones that your NHSGP will be aware of are vitamin D and B12, iron, folate and many more.
It is worth mentioning that if you have Type 1 Diabetes, this is an autoimmune condition. You should therefore ask your GP to check you for other types of autoimmunity such as coeliac disease, thyroid disease and many other types of autoimmunity conditions. If you need help with this, please contact us.
Where diabetes is complex and associated with other conditions or multiple metabolic problems within the body, we are able to do an in-depth analysis of other aspects of health such as: mitochondrial function; other hormonal issues such as thyroid problems or hormonal issues either surrounding periods in premenopausal women; or health problems in postmenopausal women. Here we also deal with testosterone deficiency and challenges in men. Bear in mind that hormone assessments are complex and we look at the detoxification issues of hormones and ensure that these are working properly, before advising about any treatments.
Questions to ask yourself about Diabetes
- Do I have type 1 or type 2 diabetes?
- Are all my symptoms being helped with changes in diet?
- Does the problem seem to be more complex? I.e. despite diet changes, do I still feel ill? If so consider the following
- Have a more in depth analysis of: diet, digestive processes, the gut microbiome, potential underlying infection that may have taken hold, detoxification processes within the liver and kidneys, ensure there are no other comorbidities or additional illnesses present, particularly if you been ill for a long time. (This might include heart problems kidney problems and others.)
- Is there nothing else that may be causing the symptoms?
Please note that this article does not replace consultation or help from your GP or qualified doctor or health professional.