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Ask the Nutritionist: Is there anything natural for Diabetes?

In her weekly column, Bradford West Gwillimbury licensed nutritionist Nonie De Long explains a holistic approach to diabetes
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Dear Nutritionist,
I read your column and liked reading about the substitutes for sugar. Half of them I hadn’t heard of before so that was very helpful. I’m diagnosed with type II diabetes and wonder if there is anything natural that can be done for that. Thank you! 
Mike

Dear Mike,
Your question will definitely apply to a lot of people, so thank you!

Actually, yes, there is a lot that can be done naturally for type II diabetes. In fact, it’s a totally preventable, and often reversible, disease state. I have not yet had a client with this diagnosis that did not greatly reduce their blood sugar and need for medication through working together, if not reverse the disease altogether. This is because type II diabetes is a dietary/ lifestyle illness. 

I know people are going to start screaming genetics at this point but genetics do not determine as much as it was once thought that they do. You see, everyone has genetic predispositions to different disease states. Call them biological fault lines, if you will. We each have fault lines from each side of our family inside our genetic coding at birth. But those genes need to be switched on to become active and that doesn’t happen unless the environment is right for it. This is called epigenetics.  

So, what’s the right environment for type II diabetes? Carbs (often sweetened) and washed down by juice or sweetened drinks for breakfast, carbs for lunch, followed by an afternoon hip-whip sweetened something reminiscent of coffee, followed by more carbs for supper, followed by sugary dessert and maybe some alcohol or soda, all exacerbated by staying up late so the body is exhausted the next day and needs extra sugar to overcome the temporary fatigue. 

This is a perfect storm for diabetes. It doesn’t happen overnight, but over years and years of this type of lifestyle and dietary pattern. Usually over time there are signs - the eyesight becomes weaker, there are signs of chronic inflammation in the body - joint pain, seasonal allergies, headaches, digestive issues, acid reflux, menstrual troubles, back deterioration, dental problems, skin troubles, premature balding, anxiety, mood swings, and weight gain around the middle, as well as many other deficiency states. All of these are dismissed as ‘normal aging,” but they are not normal to many cultures around the world who live a more active life in the absence of processed foods. 

Conventional medicine does not seem to understand that diabetes is not a problem with fat metabolism, but a problem with sugar metabolism due to compromised liver function. It doesn’t even understand that diabetes is a simple, reversible disorder. Conventional dietary advice advocates a low fat diet for diabetics, albeit low sugar, but rife with complex carbohydrates. And carbohydrates are all converted to sugar in the body. All of them - whole grain or not. The body breaks them down to various glucose molecules, all the same. 

That whole wheat bagel? Glucose. The gluten free pizza crust? Glucose. The sweet potato fries you think are healthier? Glucose. The low fat yogurt? Loaded with sugar and lactose - both forms of glucose! The rice you like to eat each night? Glucose. The quinoa and bean salad you eat for lunch to be healthy? Yes, quinoa and beans are still high in carbs and carbs are broken down into glucose! Hummus? Lots of glucose. Rice crackers? Glucose! And this isn’t even mentioning all the recommended processed foods that contain artificial sweeteners that have been found to be no safer for diabetics than actual sugar. For someone who has become insulin intolerant (what happens in type II diabetes), these are all going to add to the problem. 

What works for type II diabetics is a low carbohydrate diet, Vegetarian or Omnivorous, with a wide range of whole, unprocessed proteins and plant foods, but limiting fruit (at least until insulin is under control), because it is also broken down into glucose. This diet should include healthy fats and probiotic foods, and regular periods of fasting. The research on the role of probiotics in diabetes is still in its infancy. But it’s just part of the health recommendations I make to clients seeking transformative changes because the data is piling up on the advantages of adding them to your diet. 

(Shameless plug for upcoming kombucha making classes at the Newmarket Library to learn how to make this healthy and diabetic friendly, fermented beverage to kick start transforming your gut biome!) 

Eating fewer carbs will not only normalize blood sugar and insulin levels permanently - it also helps diabetics lose excess weight and stop feeling so moody with such low energy - both serious issues with diabetes. In addition, vision often improves, and dental health surely will. Joint and muscle pain will improve, and skin issues often clear up completely. The weight that goes first is in the upper body - especially around the waistline - which is a welcome change to everyone I’ve ever worked with.

All of this is the benefit of using a holistic program of treatment for type II diabetes. 

Conversely, if you stick with the conventional treatment, you will likely run into a number of downstream health issues, even if the diabetes is “managed” by medications. What this means, in essence, is that you can continue to pack your cells with glucose past the point your body will allow it by taking medication to make the cells take up the sugar. Thus, the sugar does not stay in your blood and the readings are within a better range, but the sugar is then packed into the liver and adipose cells. 

There are a number of health problems associated with this method of treatment. These include heart and vascular diseases, nerve damage, kidney damage, eye damage, problems with the blood flow to legs, hands, and feet, as well as poor wound healing and high risk of amputation, hearing loss, skin infections, mood swings, depression, alzheimer’s, cancers, and early death. So, you’re doing everything right and this is your list of expected outcomes?

I can’t tell you why conventional medicine does not teach the dietary interventions that have been proven clinically to often completely reverse type II diabetes, but you can safely employ the diet at home, as long as you monitor your blood sugar very closely because it will drop drastically and quickly. Clearly, this can be dangerous if you continue taking the previous dose of any diabetes medications. So it’s essential to work closely with your physician while you do this. 

Now I have said that all the clients I have worked with have been able to drastically reduce their blood sugar and medication, and conversely, improve their projected health outcomes exponentially. But not all clients stick with the program long enough to make the changes permanent. 

Why is that? Well, for starters, I think it can be hard to believe that a treatment exists that really can make that kind of difference, even when you see it for yourself. Belief is a tricky thing. If you see it but someone tells you it isn’t possible, you may believe what you are told just to not have to hold the two opposing ideas together. I also think people in our culture learn to substitute meaningful interaction and connection with food and drink, causing over-attachment to foods and beverages. But this is unhealthy at best, and addiction behaviour at the other end of the spectrum. If a client isn’t willing to examine this and delve into it when it exists, it will be very difficult for them to make lasting changes or get lasting gains.

For help with emotional eating you can go here
For help with holistic addiction treatment you can go here
For help with overcoming type II diabetes you can go here

Here are 10 suggestions I have to help you holistically manage your type II diabetes:

1. Quit the sugar and grains and replace them with fat from coconut oil, ghee, and olive oil. Grains actually are usually high glycemic and spike blood sugar, only to bring it crashing down later. All of which is unhealthy for you.
2. Supplement with quality zinc and magnesium supplements. These are important for the regulation of insulin and blood sugar. 
3. Supplement with a liquid B-complex. The B vitamins are essential for energy production and when we are low energy we will crave sweets for the instant energy they bring.
4. Add chromium and vanadium before bed. They work in tandem, but chromium is required for sugar metabolism in the body.
5. Get enough sleep - we often crave sweets when our energy is low as a quick pick me up.
6. Keep healthier substitutes in the house and throw the tempting foods out. If you like crunchy things then keep a homemade granola or salty nuts or crunchy crudites with a great dip, or, if you like creamy make a homemade truvia sweetened pudding or ice cream or peanut butter treat, or, if you like savory make a jerky or keep good salami on hand. Other ideas are cheeses, sour pickles, olives, fruit, homemade yogurt, stevia sweetened sodas, and kale chips. Bacon also works, too. 
7. Start taking some coconut oil every day. Fat, not protein, reduces cravings for sweets.
8. Take a good, broad spectrum probiotic with a minimum of 50 billion guaranteed active organisms. Probiotics help us to absorb more from our food and reduce inflammation, hence increasing energy and reducing fatigue and associated sugar cravings
9. Drink bitter melon tea. Bitter melon is used in Chinese medicine for blood sugar regulation and helps to curb sweet cravings. 
10. Cut the grain consumption. Grains are our primary source of carbs. Carbs are broken down into sugars by the body so it’s the same as eating sugar. It might be hard to believe, but a piece of whole wheat bread spikes blood sugar as high as a Snickers bar!

I know it’s hard to make dietary changes with food as addictive as sugar and carbs, but I promise it is worth it! Some people can’t make this transition without a coach, to keep them steady and focused and to answer questions as they arise. If that’s the case, reach out for help! There is absolutely nothing I recommend more fervently than getting your sugar and carb consumption down for health and longevity - to reduce your diabetes risk - and also to ensure the life you enjoy is as disease free as possible!

Namaste!
Nonie Nutritionista

Nonie De Long is a registered orthomolecular nutritionist with a clinic in Bradford West Gwillimbury, where she offers holistic, integrative health care for physical and mental health issues. Check out her website here.

Do you have a question about health and wellness? Email nonienutritionista@gmail.com




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