As a naturopathic doctor who is regularly involved in holistic and natural health interventions, I often find myself working with patients who have been told by other “health care providers” that they must be on medication forever, that there is no cure, or that there is “nothing else that can be done” for them. The patient is often left discouraged, frustrated and often lacking in hope. Is their body broken? Is there another answer? Is there any point in even trying to make changes?
Personally, I LOVE working with people in these situations. It gives me great joy to see them in my clinic, entering with a heavy burden and leaving with hope, tools and the understanding that their body was made to heal. I especially love the follow-up appointment just a few weeks later when they are already feeling better than they thought possible. This happens with all sorts of conditions, but here we will talk a bit about type 2 diabetes.
Let’s start with a bit of science…
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a condition that is commonly diagnosed when your body isn’t using insulin properly.1 Insulin regulation doesn’t just impact your blood sugar; it can cause or exacerbate memory issues, sleep challenges, sexual dysfunction, digestive troubles, issues with focus, concentration, and so much more. The most common cause of type 2 diabetes is a poor diet. While sugar is a big issue, there’s more to the story…
The role of carbohydrates in type 2 diabetes:
Carbohydrates are the most wonderful, easy-to-use and efficient energy source for the human body. But not just any carbohydrates… There is a big difference between an apple or a sweet potato and a donut or Pop-Tart.
When you consume carbohydrates, the digestion actually begins in the mouth. Your saliva has special enzymes (called amylase) that start breaking down carbs while you chew and continue as the food is carried down the esophagus. Carbohydrates are further digested in the stomach, small intestine, and then are absorbed through the small intestine. This happens because the pancreas secretes more digestive enzymes (more amylase as well as other enzymes) into the stomach and small intestine to continue to the process. The pancreas also releases insulin when you eat carbs so that your blood sugar doesn’t get too high. The liver plays a role here in the breakdown and digestion of carbohydrates by helping to remove sugar from the blood stream and store it for later use (this stored sugar is referred to as glycogen). When you eat a diet with too much sugar, the liver and pancreas have to work really hard to keep up. They get tired and less efficient, much like we do when we work really hard for a long period of time without rest.
With the way the body works, everything is really well connected. This means that, although we often think of diabetes as having to do with the pancreas, it actually impacts nearly all parts of the body. (Not to mention that the pancreas does more than just regulate insulin, so any issue with the pancreas will have an effect on other areas as well, especially digestion.)
Side note: In case you thought that carbs or sugars were the only nutrient that could potentially harm your blood sugar/pancreas, think again! There is also an association between consuming red and processed meats (hot dogs, bacon, salami, etc.) and type 2 diabetes.2
The GOOD news:
The most common cause of diabetes is something that we can control! The body was created to heal itself if it has the right raw material to do so. Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease that can normally be reversed by a lifestyle change.3 I promise, although it takes effort, it’s not difficult to reverse! (I have helped many clients with this issue through my consulting!)
3 simple actions that you can take now!
- Eat more whole natural foods, especially vegetables, beans and whole grains. This will give you more nutrition, be easier for your body to digest/assimilate and will also increase fiber, which helps regulate the blood sugar and also will help to balance the bodyweight.
- Reduce dietary fat by eating fewer animal products, processed foods, roasted nuts/seeds and oils.4
- Exercise! Play sports, lift weights, run around the yard with your puppy, play tag with your kids, whatever you enjoy most. Exercise helps regulate your blood sugar,5 increases energy and helps to balance your weight.
Stay tuned to our holistic health blog for more healthy lifestyle tips that can help you get healthy now!
1. Diabetes Overview. Diabetes Overview – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment. https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes. Accessed April 21, 2020.
2. Neuenschwander M, Ballon A, Weber KS, et al. Role of diet in type 2 diabetes incidence: umbrella review of meta-analyses of prospective observational studies. BMJ. 2019;366:l2368. Published 2019 Jul 3. doi:10.1136/bmj.l2368
3. Pollard K. Plant-Based Diet Helps Native Americans Overcome Diabetes. Center for Nutrition Studies. https://nutritionstudies.org/plant-based-diet-helps-native-americans-overcome-diabetes/. Published January 4, 2019. Accessed April 21, 2020.
4. Merino J, Guasch-Ferré M, Ellervik C, et al. Quality of dietary fat and genetic risk of type 2 diabetes: individual participant data meta-analysis [published correction appears in BMJ. 2019 Oct 9;367:l5612]. BMJ. 2019;366:l4292. Published 2019 Jul 25. doi:10.1136/bmj.l4292
5. Hayes C, Kriska A. Role of Physical Activity in Diabetes Management and Prevention. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2008;108(4). doi:10.1016/j.jada.2008.01.016
Nothing said or implied in this post is intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent any disease. It does not take the place of a qualified health care practitioner and is intended for educational purposes only.