Ever since the mid-90s, drug therapies to treat Type 2 diabetes have skyrocketed. Continuing to take the onus away from people to manage their own health, this approach is enabling Americans to make poor health decisions without considering the long-term consequences. The bottom line is that pharmacological treatments are overly utilized, extremely detrimental, and are not sustainable. Ergo, it has become abundantly clear that a paradigm shift needs to be effectuated before our nation goes off the deep-end and completely forsakes common sense health and wellness principles.
Nevertheless, we must not confuse common sense with “blind faith.” Research has repeatedly shown that, if proper diet and exercise are implemented in people’s lives, then Type 2 diabetes can not only be prevented, but also even reversed! Consequently, it is critical that we recognize the forest from the trees in this situation and take our health and help take the health of our loved ones back being dependent on harmful chemicals.
THE GLOBAL SIGNIFICANCE OF TYPE 2 DIABETES
Historically, Type 2 diabetes has been a disease that develops later in life. Unlike Type 1 diabetes, in which people are born with or develop the inability to produce insulin, it is well established that Type 2 diabetes is caused by poor lifestyle decisions that harm the body’s ability to utilize insulin properly. This fundamental difference is important to our discussion because up until relatively recently, drugs and insulin were reserved only for people with Type 1.
Ultimately, Pharma has capitalized on the global fear that has set in because of the widespread effects diabetes has on society. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), diabetes is now a global epidemic. Some data the WHO reports about diabetes include:
- Age = typically adults, but now children are affected in staggering numbers
- Co-Morbidity = Cardiovascular disease, heart disease and stroke (50%)
- Complications = Limb amputation and neuropathy (nerve damage)
- Global Blindness = 1% caused by diabetes
- Kidney Failure = Diabetes is one of the leading causes
- Prevention = Healthy/balanced diet, regular physical activity, and avoiding tobacco use
- Overall Risk of Death = 200% compared to people without diabetes
- Worldwide Prevalence = 347 million people
- 2030 Prediction = 7th leading cause of death
Ultimately, the impact of these issues related to Type 2 diabetes has caused such a frenzy that doctors and patients are desperately looking to the pharmaceutical industry for an answer. However, being a disorder based heavily on diet and exercise, the use of drugs is highly debatable.
THE MEDICAL PARADIGM
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Treatment for Type 2 diabetes requires a lifelong commitment to: blood sugar monitoring, healthy eating, and regular exercise.” They suggest that, “Some people who have Type 2 diabetes can manage their blood sugar with diet and exercise alone, but many need diabetes medications or insulin therapy” to prevent further progression.
Once unheard of, some common pharmacological approaches to Type 2 diabetes management include:
- Metformin (Glucophage and Glumetza) – Geared for people who are newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, these drugs enhance sensitivity to insulin and lower glucose production by the liver.
- Glipizide (Glucotrol), Glyburide (Diabeta, Glynase) and Glimepiride (Amaryl) – Designed for severe or unresponsive cases, these medications stimulate the pancreas to produce and release more insulin.
- Acarbose (Precose) – This therapy is engineered to inhibit the action of enzymes that break down carbohydrates in the intestine.
As the typical case increases in severity and becomes more advanced, increasingly Type 2 diabetes patients are also given insulin therapy. Historically reserved for Type 1 diabetics, this trend is quite telling of the grave state our health care system is operating under. Additionally, we see a similar growing incidence with diabetics undergoing bariatric surgery only to regain their lost weight that has been shown to contribute to metabolic syndrome.
It should be noted that diabetes medications do not come without a significant cost. Some of the most common side effects include:
- Back pain
- Digestive issues like diarrhea, nausea and an upset stomach
- Low blood glucose levels
- Skin rash
- Sore throat
- Weight gain
Additionally, diabetes medications have been found to cause potentially fatal conditions such as anemia, congestive heart failure, and lactic acidosis.
Ultimately, these interventions veritably only mask the symptoms, never addressing the cause. Subsequently, until diabetics take their health into their own hands and implement solid diet and exercise habits, all the drugs and surgeries in the world will never be able to control this growing epidemic.
THE NATURAL HEALTH CARE PARADIGM
Diametrically opposed to the medial paradigm, natural health care providers recommend a plethora of Type 2 diabetes treatments and prevention strategies. In essence, anything that keeps you staying active and helps you eat a well-balanced diet low in processed foods and rich in fresh fruits/veggies is key. Below are just a few suggestions that are well established in the research literature.
Practiced for millennium, Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that has been heralded by for its health benefits by countless practitioners who have experienced life-changing transformations in its slow, graceful exercises. According to the Mayo Clinic, some benefits of Tai Chi include:
- Decreased stress and anxiety
- Enhanced quality of sleep
- Enhanced immune system
- Improved joint pain
- Improved symptoms of congestive heart failure
- Improved overall well-being in older adults
- Increased aerobic capacity
- Increased energy and stamina
- Increased flexibility, balance and agility
- Increased muscle strength and definition
- Lowered cholesterol levels and blood pressure
- Reduced risk of falls in older adults
Additionally, the efficacy Tai Chi has in preventing and reversing Type II diabetes has been shown through several research trials. For instance:
- In 2007, a study was published in the journal Diabetes Care that measured fasting blood glucose, HbA1C (three month blood glucose) levels, complete blood counts, and T-lymphocyte subsets in blood before and three days after a 12-week Tai Chi program. It is stated in the article that, “After the 12-week [Tai Chi] exercise, the A1C levels revealed a significant decrease, but were not clinically normalized…Analysis of lymphocyte subpopulations showed that percentages of both CD4 and CD8 lymphocyte subpopulations significantly decreased after the [Tai Chi] exercise.” Researchers concluded that, “The effect of [Tai Chi] exercise on the increase in regulatory T-cells may indirectly be due to better cardiopulmonary fitness after exercise,” yet, “Another possibility is that a regular [Tai Chi] exercise can improve glucose metabolism, resulting in less glycosylated proteins, which benefit immune regulatory function in Type 2 diabetic patients.” Since it is well-established that glycosylated modulation of leukocyte surface receptors and soluble cytokines change immune functions, the authors suggest that, “Studies are needed to explore the glycosylated proteins other than A1C in Type 2 diabetic patients that are involved in the improvement of immune functions after [Tai Chi] exercise. Moreover, an appropriate combination of the [Tai Chi] exercise program with diabetic medications may improve both glucose metabolism and immunity of Type 2 diabetic patients.”
- The British Journal of Sports Medicine published a study in 2009 evaluating the efficacy a similar 12-week Tai Chi program has on Type 2 diabetes patients who take diabetes medication. Evaluating fasting blood glucose and various immune response mediators, the results were quite encouraging and give hope to Type 2 diabetes patients who are taking drugs to manage their disease. It was concluded that, “A 12-week [Tai Chi] exercise program decreases three month blood glucose levels along with an increase in the Th1 reaction,” which ultimately proves that Tai Chi significantly improves both metabolism and immunity in patients with Type 2 diabetes taking medications.
Of course, further research is needed to determine the role that Tai Chi may play in freeing people of diabetes drugs, however, this research is very promising.
Diet High In Medium Chain Fatty Acids
Medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) are easily digestible and smaller than other fats. Additionally, they readily enter into cells and are rapidly used as energy and do not cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Subsequently, insulin is not required to break them down; thus, contributing to balanced insulin and glucose levels in people who consume a diet rich in MCFAs. Subsequently, studies have shown that people who consume MCFA-rich foods like coconut oil literally boost their metabolism, stimulate weight loss, and even regulate insulin levels. In fact, a study from the Journal of Indian Medical Association emphatically states that, cooking fats like ghee, coconut oil and mustard oil would actually reduce the risk of dyslipidemias, AHD [atherosclerotic heart disease] and Type-2 DM.”
- The journal Diabetes published an article in 2009 from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, which evaluated the effects a MCFA diet compared to LCFA (long chain fatty acids found in most vegetable oils, including soybean and canola oil). in mice. It was shown that mice fed a MCFA diet had reduced adiposity and better glucose tolerance than LCFA-fed animals. Interestingly, triglyceride levels were increased by 77% in the LCFA diet, whereas the MCFA group remained at “low-fat diet control levels,” which suggests that people consuming coconut oil rich in MCFA will literally have blood levels that are representative of people that are not eating fat at all. Subsequently, insulin action was literally preserved. Confident by the results, researchers concluded, “MCFAs reduce adiposity and preserve insulin action in muscle and adipose, despite inducing steatosis and insulin resistance in the liver. Dietary supplementation with MCFAs may therefore be beneficial for preventing obesity and peripheral insulin resistance.”
The significance of better glucose tolerance, and subsequent insulin preservation, in this study cannot be overestimated. Insulin is the pancreatic hormone that basically opens the door for the glucose in your blood to enter cells. Providing the energy required for necessary cell function, excess glucose is converted into fat. Ultimately, if excess insulin is produced because of a high calorie/high LCFA diet, people will be unable to maintain a healthy weight. Additionally, as stated by the Mayo Clinic, “Weight gain may also be related to other complex functions of insulin in the body related to how cells use fats and proteins.”
- In addition to being shown to help normalize glucose and insulin levels, researchers have discovered that MCFA can literally protect from diabetes-induced dyslipidemia (high LDL “bad” cholesterol and low HDL “good” cholesterol levels). Rats with Type 2 diabetes were fed diets rich in various oils; MCFA-rich coconut oil, groundnut oil, and palm oil. According to an article published in the Journal of Indian Pharmacology, rats fed with coconut oil exhibited a “significant decrease in total cholesterol and non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol that has been shown to cause heart disease. Additionally, these rats “showed a trend toward improving antioxidant enzymes and glucose tolerance as compared” to rats eating the other oils. It was concluded that, “Lauric acid present in [coconut oil] may protect against diabetes-induced dyslipidemia.”
THE LONG, SATISFYING ROAD AHEAD…
At this point, you should be advised that you have many (many!) alternatives to pharmacological and surgical approaches to treating Type 2 diabetes. Tai Chi and diets high in MCFAs are just two ways people control their insulin and glucose balance. Be willing to work hard to redefine your health and wellness profile and seek out health care professionals that will help you along your path. The road won’t always be easy, but it promises to be well worth it!