Preventing, Reversing and Managing Diabetes Naturally
More health practitioners today are recognizing both the mind-body connection and energetic and metaphysical insights into preventing and reversing illnesses. As a result, those facing diabetes and other health challenges are accessing contemporary resources such as Louise L. Hay’s explanation of the emotional roots of disease in You Can Heal Your Life, and the medical science and natural methods explained by health researcher and author Gary Null, Ph.D., in No More Diabetes: A Complete Guide to Preventing, Treating, and Overcoming Diabetes.
Applying a “both” rather than an “either” approach illuminates the importance of recognizing the ways that our thoughts, emotions and lifestyle choices can impact chronic illness and long-term health.
Hay suggests that this metabolic disorder may be rooted in an individual’s feeling of being deprived of life’s sweetness and longing for what might have been, accompanied by a great need to control deep sorrow. Such dis-ease can show up as Type 1, or insulin-dependent diabetes; Type 2, or non-insulin dependent diabetes; latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA), a slowly progressing variation of Type 1; or gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy.
Eavesdropping on our repetitive inner mind chatter and observing its impact on outer experiences can reveal faulty thinking that disrupts the mind-body connection. Hay, a firm believer in the power of affirmations to send a message to the subconscious mind, recommends these to aid healing. For diabetes, she suggests, “This moment is filled with joy. I now choose to experience the sweetness of today.”
Null cites medical evidence that explains how the physical causes of diabetes are related to the pancreas’ production of the insulin hormone and the body’s use of it, together with rollercoaster blood sugar levels determined by food selections, stress, sleeplessness, insufficient rest and lack of exercise. His approach for preventing, reversing or managing this debilitating condition is to raise awareness of the physical, behavioral and mental causes that lead to its emergence, and making healthy lifestyle choices that regulate blood sugar levels.
Naturally Control Blood Sugar
Glucose, the human body’s key source of cellular energy, is the result of the digestive system breaking down carbohydrates, proteins and fats for absorption in the intestines. From there it passes into the bloodstream. Glucose also supplies energy for the brain. Normal blood glucose levels vary throughout the day. For healthy individuals, a fasting blood sugar level upon awakening is less than 100 milligrams (mg) per deciliter (dl) of blood. Before meals, normal levels are 70 to 99 mg/dl; otherwise, 100 to 125. Consistent readings above 126 indicate that lifestyle changes are needed to avoid eventual progression into full Type 2 diabetes.
When there’s an inability to efficiently transport glucose from the blood into cells, cells don’t receive the energy they need to function properly. “When I educate patients, whose blood work reveals that they are prediabetic or diabetic, regarding the serious problems being created by their elevated glucose and insulin levels, it scares them and they want to know if there is anything that I can do to turn things around. They generally find it comforting to learn from me that blood vessel damage, high blood pressure and inflammation, among other health issues, can be reversed by lifestyle changes that they make and adhere to,” says Steve Alukonis, a chiropractic orthopedist and owner of Space Coast Advanced Health in Cocoa Beach.
Alukonis, who specializes in functional medicine, uses an extensive 240-question metabolic assessment form as well as various functional range blood tests to determine the root causes of why an individual’s body is out of balance. “We are using functional medicine to reverse type 2 diabetes, which can’t be totally blamed on a genetic predisposition. The major causes are poor lifestyle choices, the Standard American Diet, lack of exercise, toxins, and chronic stress, as well as microbes and allergens,” advises Alukonis
According to the American Diabetes Association, 8.1 million of the 29.1 million individuals diagnosed with diabetes were previously unaware of any early symptoms such as dry mouth, excessive thirst, frequent urination, constant hunger (even after meals), unusual weight gain or loss and lack of energy. Many individuals only learn of their condition from a doctor-ordered routine blood test such as the A1C glycated hemoglobin procedure, which reads blood sugar levels over a three-month period.
Individuals that consume large amounts of simple carbohydrates and sugars, are overweight or are exceedingly sedentary and eat unhealthy processed foods, have higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.
Alukonis’s effective, patient-centered practice follows a practical, healing plan that includes tracking foods, moods, blood pressure, sleeping habits and exercise, all necessary to manage or reverse Type 2 diabetes.
Effective Diet Choices
Making the highest-impact food choices is critical in the earliest stages of diabetes. This is why Dr. Brian Walsh, owner of CARE Natural Wellness Center, in Melbourne, helps patients wake up to their good and bad food choices by asking them to keep a food journal. “People who are new to keeping a food journal are generally eating heavily processed and packaged foods that they consider real, nutritious food. When we discuss what they ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I point out artificial colors and flavors, genetic modifications, preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, lack of healthy nutrients, unpronounceable ingredients and why they should be eating fresh fruit, vegetables and meats. A food journal is a good starting point for learning how to integrate dietary changes into everyday life because it makes people think about what they are eating,” remarks Walsh.
Walsh’s patient education also includes the necessity of eating low-glycemic index foods and reducing blood glucose levels, while increasing healthy fats such as nuts, avocado and olive oil. He notes that antioxidant-rich plant foods are another key component of an effective dietary plan for all age groups.
The role of exercise is also vital for those needing to reverse pre-diabetes or managing diabetes aided by insulin injections. “Exercise increases the muscle cell’s demand for glucose, moving it out of the blood into muscle cells that use it as fuel, and so lowering insulin levels,” explains Walsh.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that can help to treat insulin resistance and control blood sugar. The concept is predicated on going 14 to 16 hours without food, replicating how our primitive ancestors ate. They feasted when food was available and fasted during famines, sometimes going several days without eating,” advises Dr. Angelo Baccellieri, owner of Westchester Wellness Medicine, with locations in Harrison and Mount Vernon, New York. Baccellieri notes that intermittent fasting can be done once a week.
“Our biochemistry actually does very well with this approach, which isn’t hard to do when your last meal is at 7 p.m. and you skip breakfast and delay lunch the next day until 1 p.m. You can drink water with lemon, teas and black coffee throughout. By 1 p.m., the body has been 18 hours without protein and carbohydrates allowing insulin levels to remain at a low level. Excess insulin, from too much sugar, shifts the body into a storage mode. Having no sugar stores available the body can then switch into a ketogenic state allowing the body to burn fat for fuel,” explains Baccellieri.
Herbs such as turmeric reduce inflammation. Berberine can help cells use glucose efficiently. Supplements such as vitamin C, B-complex, resveratrol and pycnogenol (pine bark extract) can raise antioxidant levels, in which most pre-diabetic and diabetic individuals are deficient, according to a study published in PubMed. Cautious health professionals tailor supplement recommendations to each patient.
Helpful Weight Loss
In The Diabetes Breakthrough, based on a scientifically tested way to reverse diabetes through weight loss, Dr. Osama Hamdy and Sheri R. Colberg, Ph.D., explain a home-based version of the 12-week Why WAIT (Weight Achievement and Intensive Treatment) program offered at the Joslin Diabetes Center, affiliated with Harvard Medical School in Boston. WAIT allowed participants to reach their weight and blood glucose goals, along with improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, liver and kidney function.
The program’s success is due to doable increases in exercising that puts greater emphasis on strengthening muscles; effective ways to change bad habits; the key to portion control; healthy alternatives to favorite foods; carbohydrate counting; and meals composed of the right balance of complex carbohydrates and antioxidant-rich plant foods, protein and fat, all to achieve optimum body weight and diabetes control.
No Quick Fix
Melissa Dean, a doctor of internal medicine and general preventive medicine as well as the founder of Dean Wellness Institute in Vero Beach, notes that to reverse Type 2 diabetes, individuals must be willingly open to making lifestyle changes.
“It’s easy on my part as a doctor explaining what their new lifestyle needs to look like as well as what can and can’t be eaten. Realistically it’s not so easy on the part of the patient especially since we are a society that doesn’t like to be told ‘no, you can’t eat or do that’. In my experience, the majority of individuals would rather take a pill so that they can eat what they want,” says Dean, who practiced nursing before she entered medical school.
“Everyone has power control over diabetes. However, too often people view the disease from a victim mode, feeling as if they have no control because of their habits, fears and stressors that can be challenging to overcome. Fortunately, we’ve seen how the cheerleading efforts and encouragement of our staff has a positive impact on patients. We’ve also taken note of the positive results from educating people to understand the benefits of good nutrition, regular exercise, sleep, and reducing stress. When we do their follow-up blood work in three months, the markers have improved significantly,” advises Dean.
Dean speaks from her firsthand struggle with food, weight, stress, and sleep deprivation throughout her earlier years, wanting patients to understand her compassion for their challenges. “I was a fat child who lived on coco puffs and captain crunch cereals as well as bologna sandwiches. In my teen years and into adulthood I was dragging around more than 200 pounds. As a medical school resident I drank soda, ate from vending machines and dealt with sleep deprivation. I also endured high stress levels, drank coffee with triple shots of espresso and ate junk food to stay awake on night shifts. I finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired and had to learn something that the majority of people find difficult to understand and live—a more balanced lifestyle, which can naturally bring about a restoration of health.”
Restoration of health begins with the most important lifestyle changes. They include:
- Replace processed and sugary foods in meals and snacks with nutrient-dense, whole foods.
- Determine possible food sensitivities with an elimination diet.
- Eat some protein with every meal.
- Eliminate environmental toxins.
- Perform some form of cardiovascular exercise and resistance training at least three to five times a week.
- Add stress-relieving practices such as yoga, tai chi or qigong.
According to Hamdy, “On average, diabetes has the potential to rob you of more than 12 years of life, while dramatically reducing the quality of life for more than 20 years through chronic pain, loss of mobility, blindness, chronic dialysis and heart disease.” Such serious consequences also include stroke, hearing impairment and Alzheimer’s.
All provide good reasons to live responsibly every day, cherishing long-term goals of laying claim to the best possible health.
Linda Sechrist is a senior staff writer for Natural Awakenings. Connect at LindaSechrist.com.
Dr. Steve Alukonis, D.C., DABCO, Space Coast Advanced Health, 299 North Orlando Ave., Cocoa Beach. 321-783-1960, SpaceCoastAdvancedHealth.com
Dr. Brian Walsh, D.C., CARE Natural Wellness Center, 1051 Eber Blvd., Suite 102, Melbourne. 321-728-1387, CareWellnessFL.com
Dr. Melissa Dean, M.D., Dean Wellness Institute, 1345 36th St., Vero Beach. 772-567-1500, DeanWellnessInstitute.com.
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