DIABETES is on the RISE

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Diabetes is now at epidemic levels in America. Hypoglycemia and adult onset diabetes are two of what I call "civilization" diseases and are directly related to the typical Western diet, which is overloaded with refined sugars and carbohydrates. Because these are diseases of imbalance, natural therapies are ideal. I have seen dramatic health improvements and positive changes for people with diabetes who have embraced natural therapies.

Juvenile diabetes (Type I) and adult-onset diabetes (Type II) are common today and serious--Type I is more serious than Type II--and almost always requires insulin injections to sustain life. Preliminary studies suggest Type I diabetes is often linked to cow's milk consumption in infants.

Research in 1994, from the journal Diabetes Care, shows that infants who are fed cow's milk in the first three months of life have a much higher risk of developing Type I diabetes.

Type II diabetes, responsible for about 90 percent of diagnosed adult cases, is a "civilization" disease clearly linked to our common Western diet--long-term overload of refined carbohydrates (white bread and pastries), too many sugar-laced foods and low fiber. In Type II diabetes the pancreas produces little or no insulin (the hormone that metabolizes the body's sugar). So diabetic blood sugar levels fluctuate dramatically between too low and too high, leading to extreme fatigue and serious health complications. The rate of Type II diabetes is even rising among young adults and is a result of their diet overload (that also leads to obesity, another growing problem). Lack of exercise, a family history of diabetes and being African-American also increase the risk for Type II diabetes.

Syndrome X, marked by insulin resistance, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, high blood pressure and being overweight, is another diabetes risk factor gaining media attention. Experts estimate one in three Americans suffers from insulin resistance linked to Syndrome X and Type II diabetes.

Sixteen million Americans have Type II diabetes today. (One-third of these don't know it.) Complications from diabetes are the third leading cause of death in America. Heart disease rates are high; diabetics are 250 times more likely to suffer a stroke. Women with diabetes run a much greater risk of heart attack than either diabetic men or nondiabetic women. High blood pressure, retinopathy (loss of vision), nerve damage, obesity, kidney malfunction, accelerated aging (from arteriosderosis), food allergies and circulatory problems all attack diabetics with much more ferocity than non-diabetics.

Do you think you might have diabetes? Here are the body signs to watch out for:

too-frequent urination
always thirsty
unexplained blurry vision
unexplained fatigue
unexplained weight loss
too-frequent infections
excessively slow healing of bruises and cuts
unusual tingling/numbness in the hands and feet.

If you have these symptoms for two or more weeks unrelated to an explained health condition, ask your physician whether you may be at risk for diabetes. Making lifestyle changes and receiving appropriate treatment early in the disease can help prevent serious complications later.

Natural Therapies Target Complications of Diabetes and Rebalance Body Systems
Start with diet improvements. Do not skip meals. Most diabetics do better eating six mini-meals a day, especially if they're on insulin therapy. Ask your doctor.

Avoid highly-processed foods permanently (they're usually laden with hidden sugars). Avoid all sweeteners until your blood sugar normalizes.

Focus on a largely plant-based, fresh food diet with high complex carbohydrates that don't require much insulin for metabolism.

Make sure you are getting enough high-quality protein from fish and green superfoods like barley grass, spirulina and chlorella.

Boost your fiber intake from vegetables and whole grains like oats and brown rice to stabilize blood sugar swings.
Keep fat intake low, no more than 15 percent of total calories, to support better heart and weight management. Boost essential fatty acids (EFAs) from seafood (especially salmon), sea greens and evening primrose oil. EFAs promote healthy metabolism and high energy and improve circulation. Studies especially show that diabetic patients with nerve damage improve with evening primrose supplements. Have two tablespoons of sea greens daily, eat salmon twice a week, or take evening primrose oil, 1000 mg daily, to ensure you're getting enough EFAs.

Morning aloe vera helps balance those blood sugar swings too. One tablespoon in water daily also enhances liver health, critical for diabetes.

Diabetics need more chromium, an essential trace mineral needed for glucose tolerance and sugar regulation. Add more chromium-rich foods to your diet, like nutritional yeast, onions and garlic and wheat germ. Supplement chromium (500 to 1000 mcg. daily) if you like, to enhance benefits.

A study in the British Medical Journal in 1998 finds that diabetic patients who control their blood pressure cut their risk for heart disease by up to one-half. Eat more potassium-rich foods like bananas, broccoli and sea vegetables to help keep blood pressure under control and keep plaque from sticking to artery walls.

Focus on your glandular health with herbs and nutrients to target symptoms.

To normalize insulin production, take care of your pancreas. Herbs like dandelion, Jerusalem artichoke and gymnema sylvestre help undo pancreatic damage and build this vital organ's health. Consider dandelion tea, one cup in the morning and the evening for four to six weeks, or gymnema sylvestre extract drops before meals.

Defend your eyesight. Bilberry increases circulation to the eyes and has documented blood sugar stabilizing effects. I have used Bilberry extract, 10-15 drops, three times daily with success.

Balance your blood sugar. Herbs like cedar berry, fenugreek and wild yam can lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance, a condition in which body insulin is unable to control high blood sugar.
Ginseng therapy shows promise. In a study of 36 non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) patients, ginseng significantly improved mood, physical performance and blood sugar control as compared to placebo. A new study published in Archives of Internal Medicine reveals taking American ginseng before meals helps reduce the blood sugar spikes that occur in diabetics after eating. Dose: 3 grams 40 minutes before meals.
Don't smoke. Smoking puts a diabetic on the fast track to poor health. Smoking slows healing time and severely stresses blood circulation, very dangerous for a diabetic. Nicotine also increases sugar cravings.
For more information: www.healthyhealing.com.

Resources:

Healthy Healing--A Guide To Self Healing For Everyone, by Linda Page, N.D. Ph.D. see page 338 for a complete diet for hypoglycemia control.

"Dunk Diabetes," Men's Health Sept. 2000.

"U.S. Diabetes Rates Reach Epidemic Levels," Medscape, Inc. 2001.

"The Good News: Ah, Sweet Ginseng," Time April 24, 2000.

Challem, Jack, "Syndrome X: Is Insulin Resistance Killing You?" Let's Live May 1997.

Reduce Blood Sugar Swings With Natural Therapies

Avoid refined carbohydrates like pastas and white flour foods and sugary foods that cause blood sugar to rise rapidly. Your pancreas will over-produce insulin to clean up the excess blood glucose, which then may cause your blood sugar levels to drop, prompting a hypoglycemic reaction.

A low glycemic diet is a good answer for dealing with hypoglycemia. (See resources.)
Hypoglycemics get a double whammy if they have food allergies because the pancreas over-secretes insulin in response to an allergen food; that's in addition to its sugar response. Avoid "trigger" foods like alcohol, cheese, vinegar, condiments like ketchup and mayonnaise and salad dressing. Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach is especially dangerous.

I recommend keeping a sugar-free, high protein green drink on hand for acute reactions, for immediate relief and returned well-being. Look for brands with barley grass, alfalfa, spirulina and chlorella for the best results.
Boost brain power. Eat plenty of foods like soy lecithin, wheat germ and nutritional yeast to increase neurotransmitter activity and improve memory.

Supercharge your adrenals for long-term recovery. When blood glucose is low, the adrenals compensate by secreting extra adrenaline that brings sugar levels back up. Over time these glands become exhausted by repeated attempts to normalize your blood sugar. Consider vitamin C with bioflavonoids (1-3000mg daily) to revitalize the adrenal glands. A ginseng/licorice root elixir extract also provides adrenal support and helps stabilize blood sugar levels.
Take plant enzymes with meals to enhance sugar absorption. High potency digestive plant enzyme formulas are widely available in natural food stores.

Hypothyroidism is regularly involved with hypoglycemia. Iodine and potassium rich sea vegetables like dulse, wakame and sea palm can reactivate the thyroid and increase body energy.

Gentle whole herbs like kava kava, passion flowers and skullcap can fight stress reactions linked to hypoglycemia.
Normalize blood sugar swings with herbs and nutrients. A formula with herbs like cedar berry, dandelion and licorice root can help balance blood sugar levels and encourage a feeling of well-being. A devil's claw formula is another good choice.

If you're hooked on refined sugar, get serious about reducing your intake. Be careful with chemical sweeteners like aspartame. Extreme dizziness, headaches, throat swelling, allergic reactions and retina deterioration are just a few of aspartame's documented side effects. Try safe, natural sweeteners like stevia.
Hot tubbing is a new treatment for diabetes. In a recent study, regular hot tubbing resulted in a 35 percent reduction in disease complications for diabetic patients. One patient was even able to reduce his insulin intake by 18 percent. In my own experience from working at European spas, I find that taking dry saunas can be a key to blood sugar stabilization for many people. Ask your physician.

Natural therapies for hypoglycemia are much the same as those for diabetes. The conditions are so closely related and their underlying causes are similar. Like diabetes, hypoglycemia responds quickly to natural therapies.

Balancing your blood sugar can change your whole outlook on life. Energy levels rise and so does creativity. You become a totally different person because sugar imbalances affect health on all levels--mental, emotional, physical and spiritual.

Do you have the blood sugar blues?
There are many body signs to watch for. Taking your blood sugar when you get up in the morning can give you some helpful clues.

For a non-diabetic, blood sugar should be below 150 in the morning before eating and below 150 two hours after a meal.

For a diabetic, blood sugar should be between 80-120 in the morning before a meal and less than 180 two hours after a meal. If your blood sugar gets higher than 230 or lower than 70, consult your physician about treatment for possible diabetes or hypoglycemia. Regular hypoglycemic blood sugar swings may be a sign that you're at risk for adult onset diabetes.

Home blood glucose monitoring kits are available from most pharmacies. Ask your pharmacist for a recommendation if you're unsure.

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By Linda Page, N.D., Ph.D.

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