Listen to Dr. Anup’s Podcast about Understanding Diabetes
Diabetes is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as one of the most prevalent diseases in the United States. About 29.1 million have been diagnosed with diabetes, but more than 80 million—about one third of Americans—have pre-diabetes.1CDC.gov. “2014 National Diabetes Statistic Report.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pre-diabetes is a condition where individuals have borderline elevated blood sugar, an indication of a dysfunctional or overwhelmed blood sugar management system. Individuals with pre-diabetes have up to 30% risk of developing diabetes within five years.
The true danger of this disease comes from the fact that we often don’t recognize the symptoms until late in the disease process. Often, symptoms might seem unrelated, like increased urination, thirst, headaches, changes to eyesight, nerve pain in hands or feet, or elevated blood pressure. Many of us ignore these signs as a normal part of aging; therefore, many discover diabetes after suffering recurrent hypoglycemic episodes or a diabetic coma.
Most people discover diabetes through their annual check-ups or astute diagnostic work by their physicians. It is so important to catch this disease early because it is not only dangerous, but it can be easily prevented or reversed through natural means.
Before we get to the natural medicines, let us visualize what the problem is. First, imagine your mind as a rough crystal. A sugar molecule is like this crystal, with rough edges like a shard of glass. In the blood stream, sugar flows in the form of millions of these crystals. Now imagine the sharp crystal scraping against the blood vessel walls, causing microscopic cuts. Imagine the effect of these cuts and scrapes over the course of months and years. These effects cause inflammatory damage to blood vessels, an effect that is extensively demonstrated through studies on damage to eyesight.2Lorezi, M and Gerhardinger, C. “Early Cellular and Molecular Changes Induced by Diabetes in the Retina.” Diabetologia (2001) Vol. 44; 791-804. Most consequences of diabetes are related to this nature of sugar.
Another major way that sugar becomes damaging is in the presence of inflammation? Imagine burned sugar and how it becomes black and sticky, much like a over-roasted marshmallow. When sugar crystals are exposed to oxygen in the blood stream, they become “oxidized” and bind to fat, protein, or DNA molecules to produce an end-product called Advanced glycation end-product (AGE).3Uribarri J, et al. “Advanced Glycation End Products in Foods and a Practical Guide to Their Reduction in the Diet.” J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 June; Vol. 110(6), Pg. 911–16. Similar to burnt sugar, AGEs are sticky and unusable. They get stuck in arteries and promote more plaque and narrowing of blood vessels.
So, we know the two ways in which sugar causes damage in the body: First with micro-lacerations in the blood vessels and organs; and second, by producing plaque and narrowing blood vessels. What kind of effect does this damage have?
Micro-lacerations first effect the tiniest blood vessels in the body. These tiny blood vessels are found on the surface of our skin—our feet, hands, inside our eyes and kidneys, penis or female genitalia, and more. Damage to these blood vessels starts congesting blood flow and causes damage to nerves and other tissues that depend on the blood supply. The result is restricted blood flow to the hands, feet, sexual organs, and retinas of the eye. This can cause damage to vision, numbness/tingling of hands and feet, as well as loss of libido and erectile dysfunction.
Blood vessel narrowing starts putting pressure on the heart, which causes a rise in blood pressure that results in extra work for the heart muscles. Like any other muscle in the body, the heart tries to grow bigger to deal with the extra pressure. But, the heart is not designed like any other muscle in the body; it doesn’t have much room to grow. So, the heart becomes very congested and dysfunctional over time.
In addition, narrowing blood vessels also raise the risk of heart attacks. Heart disease4Heart.org. “Cardiovascular Disease & Diabetes.” American Heart Association, August 2015. and kidney disease5Kidney.org. “Diabetes—A Major Risk Factor for Kidney Disease.” National Kidney Foundation, 2015. are the most prevalent and severe side effects of diabetes. As many as 68% of diabetics over the age 65 die from some form of heart disease. Diabetes is also the number one cause of amputations of lower extremities.6Diabetes.org. “Foot Complication.” American Diabetes Association, February, 5 2016.
The Good News
Looking at the overwhelming numbers of people with diabetes and understanding the insidious nature of the disease process paints a grim picture for health. But the good news is that diabetes is quite reversible and controllable. Individuals who achieve this goal are able to enjoy a full life and prevent heart disease and kidney disease related to diabetes. An individualized strategy must be used to address the specific value and lifestyle choices of the individual. Some important principles of treatment and the ways in which they can be applied include:
- Reduce simple sugar and carbohydrate intake in diet.
- Improve insulin production from the pancreas.
- Improve insulin-sensitivity in muscles and other tissues.
- Promote overall metabolic activity of the body to consume or store sugar safely.
- Balance blood sugar through adjustment of daily routines and meal schedules.
In Part 2 of our series on Diabetes, we will discuss how we can achieve these targets in the process of reversing and controlling diabetes.
References [ + ]
|1.||↩||CDC.gov. “2014 National Diabetes Statistic Report.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|2.||↩||Lorezi, M and Gerhardinger, C. “Early Cellular and Molecular Changes Induced by Diabetes in the Retina.” Diabetologia (2001) Vol. 44; 791-804.|
|3.||↩||Uribarri J, et al. “Advanced Glycation End Products in Foods and a Practical Guide to Their Reduction in the Diet.” J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 June; Vol. 110(6), Pg. 911–16.|
|4.||↩||Heart.org. “Cardiovascular Disease & Diabetes.” American Heart Association, August 2015.|
|5.||↩||Kidney.org. “Diabetes—A Major Risk Factor for Kidney Disease.” National Kidney Foundation, 2015.|
|6.||↩||Diabetes.org. “Foot Complication.” American Diabetes Association, February, 5 2016.|