Let’s get the depressing part over with…then we’ll get to the hopeful stuff! When it comes to diabetes, we know the stats; they aren’t great. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 34.2 million people in the United States have diabetes, and one in five don’t know they have it. Over 88 million people (that’s one in three) have pre-diabetes.
The numbers are overwhelming, but they’re not personal. What about you, your father, or your wife? What more can you do for your health?
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes, chances are, you are already going to your regularly scheduled doctor’s visits, taking your medication and doing your follow-up labs. There has to be more; there’s got to be hope for those searching for a more effective way to reverse their diabetes or prevent it altogether.
Functional medicine physicians focus on the “why” of disease, not so much the “what.” We ask questions like, why is your blood sugar high, and what are the barriers toward halting the progression of diabetes and eventually reversing it? How can we change the landscape of your body and cells so they may process sugar more efficiently?
First, the obvious, we all know that lowering the amount of sugar in the diet is crucial. This is important for all of us, diabetic or not! Sugar (think pasta, cookies, chips, processed carbs, bread, etc.) creates inflammation and inflammation is the main cause of disease, including diabetes, stroke, heart attack and dementia. After lowering glucose levels (sugar) in your body, the next important step is to refuel the body with potent nutrients, vitamins and anti-inflammatories. This refueling process is crucial and can’t be skipped if we are going to repair the damage that has been done.
Let’s look at some specifics:
B vitamins. B vitamins are needed to fuel your mitochondria (the body’s powerhouse) and improve metabolism. Your body needs plenty to combat the years of poorly treating your system. Dark leafy green vegetables, beans and fruits are loaded with B vitamins. They can also be supplemented.
Cinnamon and green tea. These two ancient healers help control blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity. Be sure to use Ceylon cinnamon (vs. Cassia). Derived from the cinnamomum verum tree, it is considered “true cinnamon” and shown to contain more antioxidants.
Fiber. Fiber slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, helps us feel full, and reduces cholesterol. Plants, vegetables, nuts, seeds and beans are rich in fiber.
Chromium. This essential mineral is important for sugar metabolism and insulin sensitivity. It can be found in mussels, brazil nuts, oysters and dates and can also be supplemented.
Vitamin D. D reduces inflammation, boosts your immune system and influences the genes that help prevent diabetes (speak with your doctor about dosing).
Fish oil. This superstar of supplements decreases cholesterol, blood sugar and inflammation, and also improves insulin sensitivity. Try to eat two servings of seafood high in omega-3 fatty acids per week. These include salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring and mussels. Fish oil can also be supplemented.
Magnesium. Magnesium helps sugar enter the cells and turns those calories into energy for the body. Magnesium can be supplemented and also is found in greens leafy veggies, nuts and seeds.
Lastly, don’t forget that stress plays a huge role in blood sugar balance. Learning to control stress will help decrease cortisol levels and yield amazing results regarding blood sugar, weight and blood pressure. Daily meditation, exercise and rest are ways to start working on this category.
These are only a few examples of how you can affect your blood sugar naturally. There are also many things your physician can help you address regarding diabetes such as hormone imbalances, food sensitivities, metal toxicities, chronic underlying infection, allergens and poor gut health. Pills don’t fix these problems, but researching your particular vulnerabilities and addressing your unique issues certainly will.
Halting and reversing diabetes involves attacking the problem from many directions. This approach is not a ‘one pill fits all’ situation. With a good medical team on board, you can aggressively change your state of health. However, there are a lot of things you can start to do now. It’s as simple as changing your food and moving every day. Making these small daily changes adds up to big results. The quality and type of food you eat inform your genes and your body how to behave. As always, you should speak with your doctor before changing your current health plan and regarding safely adding supplements.
Above all else, remember that you have more power than you think you do to change your health, longevity and happiness.
Dr. Stone is a family and functional medicine physician and founder of Stone Functional Medicine in Palm Desert. She is a Wahls Protocol Certified Practitioner and can be reached at (760) 350.6988 or www.stonefuncmed.com.