Diabetes is a chronic disease whereby the body either cannot produce enough insulin, or it can’t use the insulin that is produced. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that helps your body use the glucose you eat for energy. Diabetes causes the blood sugar level to rise too high. Diabetes is a terrible disease; it greatly reduces a person’s quality of life and shortens it substantially. It will age you more quickly and make it very difficult for you to lose weight.
There are more than 422 million people in the world who have diabetes. The majority have type 2 diabetes. Nearly one-third are unaware that they have the disease. In 2016, an estimated 1.6 million deaths were caused by diabetes.
Types of diabetes
There are three main types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes: This form of the disease occurs in 10 to 15 percent of diabetics. It is an autoimmune disease that destroys the pancreas and renders it unable to produce sufficient insulin. Patients require daily insulin therapy in order to survive. The disease usually develops in childhood, before the age of 18 years, but is becoming increasingly common in adults.
- Type 2 diabetes: This is a much more common form of the disease, and accounts for 85 to 90 percent of all people with diabetes. In this instance the body produces sufficient insulin, but the cells are no longer responding to it. Syndrome X is a major forerunner to type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes was once called adult onset diabetes because it occurred in people over the age of 40 years. However, that name has been dropped because the condition is now commonly occurring in childhood.
- Gestational diabetes: This is a temporary form of diabetes that occurs in 3 to 8 percent of pregnant women who did not previously have diabetes. The disease usually disappears after the baby is born, but women with the condition are at much greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in their life.
Impaired glucose tolerance is also known as Syndrome X and insulin resistance; it is a forerunner to type 2 diabetes. Most people do not realise they have diabetes for some time because the symptoms creep up gradually; feeling tired, more thirsty than usual and having an increased appetite are some of the symptoms. Diabetes causes nerve damage, therefore sore feet are sometimes one of the early symptoms too.
Diabetes in children
The frightening fact is that more and more young children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, when this used to be a disease of middle age. The main reason for this is the escalating rate of overweight and obesity in children. Weight gain around the abdominal area makes children more likely to develop high blood sugar, as well as high cholesterol and blood pressure. This is a very disturbing trend because some children being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are below the age of ten years. Researchers speculate that these children will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
Unfortunately the incidence of type 1 diabetes is increasing also; probably because autoimmune disease in general is becoming a lot more common.
Risk factors for diabetes type 2
This type of diabetes is often referred to as a ‘lifestyle disease’, because it is usually blamed on obesity and poor diet. It is true that most type 2 diabetics are overweight and do not exercise; however, there are several other risks factors for developing the disease; these include:
Having Syndrome X
Syndrome X is a forerunner to type 2 diabetes. You are considered to have Syndrome X if you have three or more of the following five criteria:
- Abdominal obesity: Having a waist circumference greater than 35 inches (88 cm) in women and greater than 40 inches (102 cm) in men.
- Elevated blood triglycerides: Greater than 150 mg/dL (1.69mmol/L).
- Low “good” HDL cholesterol: Less than 50 mg/dL (1.29mmol/L) in women and less than 40 mg/dL (1.04mmol/L) in men.
- High blood pressure: Greater than 130/85mm Hg
- Elevated fasting blood sugar: Greater than 99 mg/dL (5.5mmol/L)
The prevalence of Syndrome X is rapidly increasing across all age groups, and many people with Syndrome X go on to develop type 2 diabetes. Research has shown that approximately 50% of men and women over the age of 50 have Syndrome X.
Having a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 27 places you at increased risk of type 2 diabetes. You can work out your BMI by dividing your weight (in kilograms) by your height (in metres) squared. If you have an apple shaped figure you are even more at risk of type 2 diabetes. If you carry excess weight on your trunk this is dangerous because fat creeps into your internal organs, including your liver.
Lack of exercise
Regular exercise helps to keep you in a healthy weight range and it increases motivation to follow a healthy diet. Regular exercise also helps to keep your blood sugar in the normal range and it improves your body’s sensitivity to insulin. Reduced sensitivity of your body’s cells to insulin is an early warning sign of type 2 diabetes.
People often ask the question “does eating sugar cause diabetes?” The answer is – yes it can. Sugar, as well as high carbohydrate foods like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, breakfast cereals and any food that contains flour are digested into glucose, and they raise your blood sugar and insulin levels when you eat them. If you eat a lot of these foods, and you don’t exercise and you are genetically susceptible, they can cause you to develop Syndrome X and then type 2 diabetes. Eating a lot of junk food and highly processed food, along with not eating fresh vegetables, can also make you overweight and more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Poor diet in general is a risk factor.
Having a family history of type 2 diabetes significantly increases your chance of developing the disease; this is especially so if it is a first degree relative. People are now being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes earlier in life, so if your parent was diagnosed with the disease when they were in their sixties, you could develop the disease in your forties or earlier. Women who had gestational diabetes while pregnant are at greater risk of developing full blown type 2 diabetes.
Some nationalities are far more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than others. People with Aboriginal, Hispanic, African, Pacific Island or Asian ancestry are between two and six times more prone to the disease than Caucasians.
Risk factors for diabetes type 1
There is a strong genetic link in this type of diabetes. Research has shown that consumption of cow’s milk and gluten in childhood may increase the risk of type 1 diabetes in children. Vitamin D deficiency in infancy and childhood also increases the risk of type 1 diabetes.
Symptoms of diabetes
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can produce the same symptoms, but symptoms will be a lot more obvious in type 1 diabetes. A significant number of people with type 2 diabetes are not aware they have the condition. The symptoms can be very mild and some people get no symptoms at all until their diabetes is at an advanced stage. The following are all possible symptoms of diabetes:
- increased hunger
- increased thirst
- increased urination, particularly at night
- sores that do not heal
- blurred vision
- sore feet
- erectile dysfunction
Often people with type 1 diabetes are of normal weight or underweight, and people with type 2 diabetes are usually overweight.
Testing for diabetes
If you are over the age of 45 and overweight, you should ask your doctor for a diabetes blood test. If you are younger than 45 but have three or more of the risk factors mentioned above, you should also be tested.
You are considered to have type 2 diabetes if you meet one of the criteria below:
- Fasting blood sugar higher than 126 mg/dL (7mmol/L)
- A random blood glucose (non-fasting) level greater than 198 mg/dL (11mmol/L)
- A glucose tolerance test showing a two hour blood glucose level greater than 198 mg/dL (11mmol/L)
Fasting blood glucose
This test should be performed after you have fasted for 12 hours, so early in the morning before breakfast is usually most convenient. A healthy blood sugar is between 64.8 and 98 mg/dL (3.6 and 5.4mmol/L).
- Glucose tolerance test: This measures your blood sugar level after you ingest a test dose of glucose. It is done on people whose blood sugar is high but not high enough to be considered diabetic. It is also done to diagnose gestational diabetes. Your blood sugar is tested before you consume the glucose and then two hours after. Ideally, this test goes for longer than two hours. It is best if your insulin levels are also tested along with glucose. The normal values for a glucose tolerance test are below:
|Impaired glucose tolerance
|glucose 65-98 mg/dL
|glucose 99-124 mg/dL
|glucose >126 mg/dL
|Insulin below 10mU/L
|insulin above 10mU/L
|glucose less than 128 mg/dL
|glucose 130-198 mg/dL
|glucose above 198 mg/dL
|insulin above 50mU/L
- Glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c): This test determines the average amount of glucose that has been present in your bloodstream for the previous three months. Specifically, this test measures the amount of glucose that has been bound to the haemoglobin in your red blood cells; your red blood cells live for three months. An ideal HbA1c level is 3.5-6.0%. All diabetics should have this blood test done every six months.
It is also important to test your blood sugar level at home on a regular basis, preferably daily.
Other important tests for diabetics
- Eye exam: Diabetics should have their eyes checked by an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) each year for retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts.
- Kidney test: An annual urine test that checks for protein (albumin) and a blood test for creatinine monitors kidney function.
- Blood pressure: This should be tested every six months. Diabetics are more susceptible to cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes).
- Foot check: Every diabetic should check their feet daily for redness, calluses, sores or cracks. Any foot problems should be detected as early as possible. Diabetics are prone to nerve disease and damage to blood vessels.
- Dental checkup: This should be performed every six months because diabetics are more likely to suffer tooth and gum problems.
Complications of diabetes
Diabetes is a terrible disease; it can greatly reduce the quality of your life, make you more prone to several serious diseases and cut your life short prematurely. High blood sugar over a sustained period of time has many detrimental health consequences; therefore, the longer a person has diabetes, the worse the health consequences. The complications of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the same.
You are probably well aware that diabetics are very prone to cardiovascular disease; in fact, people with diabetes are three to four times more likely to die of heart disease than non-diabetics, even if they have normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Diabetes is also a very common cause of kidney disease; this can result in the need for dialysis and an eventual kidney transplant. Diabetes causes disease of the large and small blood vessels, which impairs circulation of blood to organs and limbs; this can result in infections and the death of tissue, requiring an amputation.
The high blood glucose levels in diabetics can damage the nerves, resulting in gradual degeneration of the peripheral nerves, called neuropathy. This causes loss of sensation and weakness of the limbs. It can also cause bladder and bowel dysfunction. The better control you have over your blood glucose level, the less likely you are to experience diabetic complications. If you can keep your fasting glucose level at 5mmol/L or close to it, and your HbA1c at 6% or close to it, you will be much less likely to experience complications.
Here are some other health conditions that diabetics are more prone to:
- Alzheimer’s disease: Recent studies have shown that compared to healthy people of the same age and sex, diabetics are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. It is thought that the high blood sugar, combined with blood vessel damage contributes to dementia by impeding blood flow to the brain. In Alzheimer’s patients, amyloid protein builds up in the brain, while the same protein is deposited in the pancreas of type 2 diabetics. Most people with type 2 diabetes have excessive blood levels of insulin; too much insulin causes excessive inflammation in the body, which contributes to brain damage.
- Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of blindness in Australians aged over 60 years. The longer you have been a diabetic and the higher your blood sugar, the more likely you are to experience eye damage. Diabetics are also at significantly increased risk of cataracts and glaucoma.
- Kidney stones: People with diabetes are at greater risk of developing kidney stones, particularly uric acid kidney stones because they have very acidic urine. Obesity and insulin resistance (Syndrome X) are also associated with more acidic urine.
- Sexual problems: One in three males with diabetes experiences low testosterone production, also known as hypogonadism. The symptoms of testosterone deficiency include erectile dysfunction, reduced sex drive, increased abdominal fat, reduced bone density and muscle tone, and depression. Damage to nerves and blood vessels in diabetics can result in reduced libido and ability to orgasm in both men and women. Diabetic women are more prone to chronic vaginal infections and difficulty with lubrication.
- Osteoporosis:Women who have had type 2 diabetes for 12 years or more are three times more likely to experience a hip fracture than non-diabetic women.
- Enlarged prostate: Research has shown that diabetic men are more than twice as likely to experience BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) than non-diabetic men. The risk of BPH increases with obesity and elevated blood sugar.
- Faster rate of ageing: According to medical research published in the medical journal The Lancet, “having diabetes is the clinical equivalent of aging 15 years”. One consequence is that diabetics are at greatly increased risk of fatal strokes and heart attacks much earlier in life. High blood sugar and insulin levels in type 2 diabetics promote inflammation and free radical damage to the body. Free radical damage to proteins such as collagen and elastin make you appear older.
- “I Can’t Lose Weight!…And I Don’t Know Why”
This book contains a low carbohydrate eating plan suitable for people with Syndrome X (pre-diabetes) and also type 2 diabetes.
- “Healing Autoimmune Disease”
This book is helpful for type 1 diabetes, which is autoimmune.
- “Magnesium – The Miracle Mineral”
This book discusses magnesium as being essential for hundreds of chemical reactions that take place in the body every second, with recent findings also indicating that it offers a wide range of important health-promoting benefits.
- “Diabetes Type 2 – You Can Reverse It Naturally”
In this book you will learn; the importance of protein to blood sugar control and weight loss, nutrients that diabetics need, reducing complications such as nerve damage, kidney disease and blindness. You will also learn specific foods, herbs and essential tests that all diabetics must have regularly to maintain good health.
It is possible to avoid developing type 2 diabetes, or reverse it with a change in diet and lifestyle. Most of the risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes are under your control; if you make different lifestyle choices you can greatly prevent the development of this disease in the first place. In fact, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 90 percent of cases of type 2 diabetes are preventable with lifestyle management.
There are five main ways to prevent or reverse type two diabetes:
- Making improvements to your diet and losing weight if overweight.
- Exercising regularly.
- Ensuring you get enough good quality sleep.
- Making an effort to reduce stress in your life.
- Taking appropriate nutritional supplements.
We will examine these points in detail now.
- Change your diet
Eliminate sugar from your diet and greatly reduce your intake of grains and starches. This will help you to achieve a healthy weight and will reduce your blood sugar and insulin levels. Every time you eat high carbohydrate foods like bread, pasta, breakfast cereals and potatoes, your body digests them into sugar. This will raise your blood sugar level and promote a rise in the hormone insulin. People with type 2 diabetes already have high blood sugar and usually have high levels of insulin in their blood, so these foods will make the diabetes worse and also cause weight gain. In the long run, eating these foods can promote the development of fatty liver disease.
It is also vital that you avoid all trans fatty acids. These are a type of processed vegetable oil usually found in fried food, some margarine and foods containing vegetable oil like biscuits, pastries and crackers. Trans fatty acids reduce your cells’ sensitivity to insulin, meaning your body will need to produce more insulin to compensate for this. Elevated insulin causes Syndrome X, which is a forerunner to type 2 diabetes.
It is essential for you to base your diet on salads and vegetables, along with protein rich foods like fish, eggs, poultry and/or red meat. Ideally these foods would be free range or organic. It is also possible to obtain protein from legumes, raw nuts and seeds and dairy products. You may eat fruit but should avoid dried fruit and fruit juice. It is also important to include plenty of beneficial fats in your diet, as fat helps to make you feel full and it has no effect on blood sugar or insulin levels. Sources of good fats include extra virgin olive oil, avocados, oily fish (e.g. sardines, salmon, mackerel), coconut milk and oil, and raw nuts and seeds. See “I Can’t Lose Weight!…And I Don’t Know Why” book which contains an easy to follow low carbohydrate eating plan.
- Get fit
Exercising regularly is one of the best ways to stay healthy and reduce your risk of several diseases. When it comes to type 2 diabetes, exercise can reverse it through its ability to lower insulin and blood sugar levels. Numerous studies have shown that the more physically active a person is, the lower their risk of becoming a type 2 diabetic.
Having excess fat in your body inhibits insulin from attaching to specific receptors on your cells, thus preventing it from lowering your blood sugar. Therefore, overweight people are usually less sensitive to insulin than leaner people. However, even if you don’t lose weight, exercise will still benefit you. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts in the USA found that overweight women who perform regular vigorous exercise respond to insulin as well as slimmer, fit women. It is not just aerobic type exercise that makes you huff and puff that helps; weight lifting and resistance training is also beneficial. Research conducted at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles assigned 22 overweight teenage boys to either 16 weeks of twice weekly weightlifting, or no exercise. At the end of the study the boys who lifted weights increased the strength of their upper and lower body, plus their insulin sensitivity improved by 45 percent. The boys who did no exercise actually lost insulin sensitivity by one percent! This proves that if you do nothing, your insulin sensitivity, and therefore diabetes will continue to get worse.
- Get adequate sleep
Research has shown that people who get five hours or less of sleep each night are 34 percent more likely to develop diabetes than people who sleep seven or eight hours a night. Apart from making you tired and unmotivated to eat well and exercise, lack of sleep actually causes a hormone imbalance in your body. Getting insufficient sleep reduces blood levels of the hormone leptin, which normally functions to make you feel full and satisfied after a meal. Fatigue typically promotes cravings for sugar and high carbohydrate foods like biscuits, bread and potatoes, which are a quick source of energy when you really need it.
Ideally you should get between seven and eight hours of sleep a night. If this isn’t happening you may need to make some adjustments to your daily routine. If you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or receive unrefreshing sleep, there are a number of remedies that can correct this. See “Tired Of Not Sleeping” for 68 solutions for insomnia.
- Get a handle on stress
Stress can derail your health in a number of ways. Psychological stress can promote weight gain and it raises blood sugar levels in diabetics. A study published in the journal Diabetes Careasked more than 2 000 adults about stressful events in their life in the past five years. These events included things like death of a spouse, ongoing financial problems or the death of a loved one. People who experienced three or more stressful events in that time were 60 percent more likely to develop diabetes. One possible mechanism behind this is that stress increases release of the hormone cortisol; among its many actions, cortisol promotes the deposition of fat in the abdominal area. This worsens insulin resistance and promotes an increase in blood sugar.
Obviously major stress like in the above study is unavoidable, but ongoing minor stresses can accumulate and have a negative impact on your health. Finding a way to reduce stress in your life is an essential part of your overall health. Exercise has stress-busting properties because it promotes the production of endorphins in your body. Other practices that may work include journal writing, talking to a close friend, meditation and being assertive about your needs.
People with type 1 diabetes must inject insulin several times a day. There are different forms of insulin; they are categorised by how quickly they begin acting, and how long their action lasts. Insulin is also used in type 2 diabetics whose diabetes has progressed to an advanced stage, and in women with gestational diabetes.
People with type 2 diabetes may be either diet controlled, meaning they make improvements to their diet and partake in regular exercise to control their diabetes, or they take tablets. There are several categories of oral diabetes tablets. These drugs may be used alone or in combination:
- Sulfonylureas: Some examples of these drugs include tolazamide, acetohexamide, gliclazide and glipizide. They lower blood sugar by stimulating the pancreas to release more insulin. They only work if there are some functional pancreatic cells left that are capable of producing insulin.
- Biguanides: Metformin falls into this category; some brand names include Diaformin, Diabex and Glucomet. These drugs inhibit the liver from releasing stored glucose. They also improve the ability of insulin to transport sugar into cells, especially muscle cells.
- Thiazolidinedione: Examples of this drug include pioglitazone and rosiglitazone. These drugs reduce the amount of glucose released by the liver and increase the sensitivity of fat cells to insulin.
- Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors: Acarbose is the name of the drug in this category. This drug slows the digestion of carbohydrate in the small intestine, so that sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream more slowly. This drug can cause diarrhea and gas.
- Meglitinides: Repaglinide is the name of the drug in this category. This drug stimulates the pancreas to release a surge of insulin immediately after you eat.
Recommended supplements for diabetes
- Glicemic Balance
A formula containing the herbs Gymnema sylvestre, bitter melon, chromium and other nutrients can help to stabilize blood sugar levels and lower insulin levels. Take 1 to 2 capsules, three times daily with meals.
Take 1 capsule two or three times daily with meals. Berberine helps to improve insulin sensitivity and better blood sugar control.
- Livatone Plus Powder or Livatone Plus Capsules
Diabetics are prone to fatty liver disease. A healthy liver is important for blood sugar control. Take 2 capsules twice daily or 1 teaspoon twice daily. Begin with half this dose for the first week.
- Synd X Protein Powder
A protein powder can be made into a smoothie with fruit and milk, or a milk alternative. This can be used for breakfast and/or as a snack in between meals. High quality whey protein satisfies the appetite and reduces cravings for sugar and carbohydrates.
- Fish Oil
Omega 3 fats help to protect against cardiovascular disease and have anti inflammatory properties. Take 1 to 2 capsules three times daily with meals.
- Magnesium Tablets or Magnesium Powder
Take 4 tablets daily or 1 teaspoon daily. Recent findings indicate that magnesium offers a wide range of important health promoting benefits including helping the body produce and use insulin.
Take 2 capsules half an hour before meals. High blood sugar generates high levels of inflammation in the body and may have harmful effects on the arteries. Serrapeptase has a natural anti-inflammatory effect.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.