What’s to Blame for the Explosion of Diabetes in America?

An explosion of diabetes. Hmmm… sounds a little dramatic, doesn’t it? We wish we could tell you this statement is a simple exaggeration designed to attract your attention. But unfortunately it’s not. The number of people who have diabetes has truly skyrocketed over the last 50 years.

Some researchers estimate a 700% increase during this time. It’s now believed that over 26.5% of Americans either have diabetes or are teetering on the brink of it (pre-diabetes). Of those patients who have full-blown diabetes, a startling 50% are unaware they have the disease.

Why is that so important? Diabetes can have catastrophe consequences to your health. It can damage your kidneys, your eyesight and your nerves.

So back to the question in the headline, what’s to blame? Sure, that old culprit sugar is plays a large role. People in the US on average eat more than 152 pounds of sugar per year. But the complete answer is a little more complex that you might think.

Cultural changes bring new challenges

Our society has changed greatly in the past 50 years. Many families hectic schedules don’t allow them to enjoy sit down dinners at home. Many grocery stores are open around the clock, restaurants have later hours than ever before and fast food…. Well fast food has become a way of life. In this century we have an abundance of food that humans have never seen before. If we have a food craving, there’s a way to fill it.

We’ve also lost sight of normal serving sizes. Our value driven society has spawned oversized restaurant portions. What should be dinner for two, now is piled high on a single plate. Many national restaurant chains entice us by offer amazingly low prices on 3 course dinners which are invariably topped off by luscious (and calorie laden) desserts.

We are also more sedentary than ever before. Desk jobs, long commutes, busy schedules all add up to long days without any substantial exercise.All these factors leave us at risk for developing diabetes.

What is diabetes?

First let’s differentiate between the two primary forms of diabetes, type 1 and type 2.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes, sometimes called juvenile diabetes, generally appears before age 20 and affects about 1 in 250 people. It is an autoimmune disease which attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas rendering them ineffective. People with this disease are dependent upon insulin and must receive it through injection or an insulin infusion pump. At this time there is no know cure.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is now quite common and accounts for about 90% of the patients with the disease. With Type 2 diabetes, your body does produce some insulin, however your body has a tough time recognizing it. Because it can’t use insulin properly, sugar builds up in the blood stream, resulting in health problems. This form of diabetes often responds very well to nutritional medicine and alternative therapies.

Are you at risk for diabetes?

You’re at risk for diabetes if you don’t get enough exercise, are overweight, have a family history of Type 2 diabetes, or if you had gestational diabetes during a pregnancy. Another good indicator of your risk is how you carry your weight. If you are prone to belly fat, you may have Metabolic Syndrome. Metabolic Syndrome is a group of symptoms which includes high triglycerides, excess body fat, and insulin resistance. Surprisingly, even thin people can have metabolic syndrome. A simple series of blood tests can determine if you have the condition.

Symptoms of diabetes:

Since it’s estimated that 50% of the people who have diabetes don’t know it, it’s obvious that the symptoms can be subtle or may mimic other conditions. Here is what to watch for:

  • Extreme Thirst
  • Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
  • Crankiness
  • Blurred Vision
  • Fatigue
  • Recurrent or frequent infections of the urinary tract, skin or vagina
  • Nausea
  • Tingling or numbness in your hands or feet
  • Slow wound healing

Alternative medicine and diabetes

One thing that is most important when looking for alternative therapies for diabetes, is to address the cause of the condition. In most cases, when an MD prescribes a medication, they are treating the high blood sugar levels that are a result of the underlying problem.

In nutritional medicine, we take a different approach. Our goal is to help the body’s cells communicate more effectively. To encourage proper insulin signaling we must adjust the diet. Although this method of diabetes care involves more active participation on the patient’s part, it is a safer, and in the long term, a more effective way to treat the disease.

A good nutrition plan for diabetes starts by restricting carbohydrates. In particular this means reducing or eliminating candy and sodas, potatoes rice, (white or brown), cereals, breads, pastas. In most cases it is best to eliminate grains altogether.

Okay, I can almost hear you groan. Give up bread and French fries! Never! But before you decide that this dietary modification is absolutely impossible, let me first explain that as your insulin levels begin to stabilize, so will your cravings. I speak from experience. About four or five days into a low carb diet and that overwhelming desire for a Snickers bar or a Dr. Pepper will start to diminish. Hang in there a couple more days and you’ll find a piece a fruit tastes sweeter than it used to and in many cases will satisfy your dessert craving.

Also begin to work in a little exercise. Don’t dig out a credit card and head to the nearest gym, just begin by taking a half hour walk around your neighborhood. Maybe throw in a short workout with a few hand weights if you’re really motivated. If after a few weeks you’re so pleased with your new found energy and weight loss that you want to show off your new workout gear, then by all means head down to the nearest fitness club. Over time, try to bump up your workout schedule to an hour long session 3 days or more a week.

Best supplements for diabetes

There are a number of vitamin and mineral supplements that studies have shown provide excellent nutritional support for diabetes and that may help to lower blood sugar levels. Among them are chromium picolinate, magnesium, and the herb gymnema. There are also a few great supplements that use a combination of these nutrients to create a synergistic effect, such as the one offered here.

Some studies show that a daily dose of apple cider vinegar helps lower blood sugar spikes after a meal, but we’ll talk about that more in a future article.

Action plan

So what do you do if you suspect you’re at risk for diabetes?

There are a few inexpensive blood tests that can tell you if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes. You can contact you doctor and ask them to run these tests. Alternately, if you wish to find out how nutritional medicine and Science Based Nutrition™ programs can help you take charge of your condition, please contact us for more information. Our programs are customized to your unique requirements, based upon the results of your blood test.

To learn more ways nutritional medicine can help you feel your best, return to our home page.