Diabetes: What EVERYONE Should Know
Diabetes is a major issue in the US, yet many people don’t know what it really is. That needs to change! Because it touches so many lives, everyone should know the key facts about diabetes.
Very simply put, it’s a group of diseases that now includes prediabetes, gestational, type 1, type 2, and type 3 that result in chronically elevated blood sugar levels.
The type of diabetes, the elevation of the blood sugar, and the length of time the levels have gone unchecked all impact where you are on the spectrum of this disease, from prediabetes at the low end to type 3 at the far end.
How Widespread is Diabetes?
Currently, there are 30.3 million people in the US with diabetes.1 Add in the number of Americans the Centers for Disease Control believes are prediabetic, and the number jumps to more than 100 million people affected in the US alone. 100 million! This is serious.
However, despite the daunting numbers, there is good news. There are steps you and your loved ones can take right now to halt and even reverse diabetes naturally. You can take the first step with this free training.
Let’s take a closer look at what diabetes is, the types, and the warning signs and symptoms of this widespread condition, so you can analyze your risk and take action now.
What is Diabetes?
Each type of diabetes is a chronic condition that develops over time. It has everything to do with how your body manufactures or processes insulin. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas, a small organ behind your stomach. It is the key that helps the glucose in your blood enter cells in your muscles, fat, and liver, where it’s used for energy to power your body.
As soon as you eat, your blood sugar levels, also called blood glucose levels, begin to rise. This stimulates your pancreas to produce insulin so that you can use the glucose. When everything is functioning optimally, insulin, and another hormone called glucagon keep blood glucose levels balanced. They are neither too high (hyperglycemia) nor too low (hypoglycemia).
Higher-than-normal blood sugar levels characterize all forms of diabetes. This can be because your pancreas is damaged and simply can’t make enough insulin to balance the sugar in your blood. It could also be because the insulin receptors in your body are not working properly. Regardless of why it happens, persistent high blood sugar is detrimental to your health.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well to insulin. They can’t easily take glucose from your blood. Excess weight gain, too much belly fat, a lack of exercise, smoking, and too little sleep can all cause your receptors to begin to fail.2
As a result, your pancreas makes more and more insulin to help glucose enter your cells. Over time, these overworked pancreas cells wear out and just can’t keep up with the demand.
What Happens When Diabetes is Not Controlled?
If uncontrolled, diabetes damages blood vessels all over the body and causes complications, including lack of circulation in legs and feet. It doubles the risk of heart attack and stroke and impacts the eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Diabetes causes 1.6 million deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization. The global rate of diabetes has almost doubled since 1980.3
As you can see, it impacts virtually your entire body! It is worth your effort to assess your risk factors, adjust your diet and lifestyle, and avoid diabetes altogether. Let’s take a look at the types of diabetes in more detail and where the symptoms place you on the diabetes spectrum.
What are the Types of Diabetes?
Type 1 Diabetes:
This type, formerly called juvenile or insulin-resistant diabetes, is a condition in which the pancreas produces little to no insulin. It affects 1.25 million people in the US alone. In the middle of the diabetes spectrum, this chronic condition is the result of the immune system attacking the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It is usually diagnosed in childhood or early teen years.4
Type 1 diabetes is not at all associated with being overweight. Rather, this type of diabetes has a hereditary component and can be caused by autoimmunity. Like all autoimmune diseases, diet and environment have a huge impact on the condition. Leaky gut is also a path to autoimmunity.
It’s also worth noting that the damage to the pancreas can even be the result of a type of virus called enteroviruses, such as congenital rubella syndrome.5 Recent research suggests that your body may be able to regain its ability to produce insulin.6
Type 2 Diabetes:
If you have type 2 diabetes, your body resists insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin to maintain normal glucose levels. There are 24 million cases of people with type 2 diabetes in the US.
Historically, type 2 diabetes has not been considered an autoimmune condition. Yet, new research points to autoimmunity impacting this condition. It tends to develop after age thirty, so it is often called “adult-onset” diabetes. However, more and more young people have it due to the increase in childhood obesity.
Type 2 diabetes is associated with being overweight, having large amounts of belly fat, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. New research indicates that the insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes is the result of B cells (the cells that work by producing antibodies to fight antigens or “invaders”) and other immune cells attacking your body’s own tissue.7 This is also considered in the middle of the diabetes spectrum, with the ability to progress if symptoms are not controlled.
Type 3 Diabetes: Alzheimer’s
It has long been known that being overweight and having type 2 diabetes can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. In fact, if you have type 2 diabetes, you have quadrupled your risk for Alzheimer’s. Globally, this disease that negatively affects the neurons in the brain impacts 40 million people.
Furthermore, two out of three cases of Alzheimer’s, a type of dementia, are women. It primarily occurs in those over 65. Early-onset is very rare yet can occur between the mid-30s and early 60s.
Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that affects memory and thinking skills. It is the result of nerve cells getting tangled, called neurofibrillary tangles. Another factor is protein deposits called beta-amyloid plaques, which build up in the brain.
The disease originates in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory, yet as neurons die and the disease progresses, the brain tissue significantly shrinks. In advanced stages, brain function continues to decline dramatically.8 This is the far end of the diabetes spectrum.
Recent research shows that Alzheimer’s occurs when neurons in the brain become unable to respond to insulin, which is essential for basic tasks, including memory and learning. This is due to a process called glycation, which is caused by elevated blood sugar that is not metabolized by insulin. I’ll circle back to this process further. For now, suffice it to say that high blood sugar “breaks down” all of your body, including your brain.9
Prediabetes is high blood sugar that is not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes.
If your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, yet have not crossed the threshold to warrant a diabetes diagnosis, you are considered prediabetic. 84 million American adults — more than one out of three — have prediabetes. Of those with prediabetes, 90% don’t even know they have it.
And although you may not know it, the long-term damage to your kidneys, blood vessels, and heart may already be starting. Prediabetes, considered the beginning of the diabetes spectrum, is a warning sign that you need to act now to preserve your health. Without appropriate diet and lifestyle changes, people with prediabetes tend to progress to type 2 diabetes within five years.10
As its name suggests, this form of diabetes occurs only during gestation or pregnancy. Women with gestational diabetes not only urinate frequently (that’s pretty typical during pregnancy!), they may also pass greater quantities of urine at those times.11
It is usually diagnosed between weeks 24 and 28 by an OB/GYN. Roughly 10% of women have gestational diabetes. In this condition, hormones from the placenta block insulin receptors, preventing a pregnant woman from balancing the high blood sugars common in pregnancy. It is usually controlled with diet, but in severe cases, insulin injections are necessary.
This condition is dangerous for the baby. Pregnant women with unmanaged gestational diabetes, or any other forms of diabetes, may have a baby that’s too large. This makes delivery more difficult and a C-section more likely. They are also at risk for preeclampsia — a dangerous condition marked by high blood pressure — and stillbirth.
Gestational diabetes generally corrects itself naturally after your baby is born. However, women who have had this condition are at greater risk, 5% – 10% to be exact, of developing type 2 diabetes later in life,12 so it is also considered to be at the low end of the spectrum.
Warning Signs and Symptoms of Types 1, 2, and 3 Diabetes
Let me be very clear: prediabetes and gestational themselves are warning signs! These conditions place you on the low end of the spectrum. If you currently have either of them or have had them in the past, you need to take action now. They are your body’s alarm system, which, if ignored, could push you farther down the diabetes spectrum.
Common signs and symptoms of all forms of diabetes:
- Hunger and fatigue
- Thirst and increased urination frequency
- Dry mouth and itchy skin
- Blurred vision
- Yeast infections
- Slow-healing cuts
- Pain/numbness in feet and in legs
If you have type 2 diabetes, you may also experience tingling, pain, or numbness in your hands and feet. Those with type 1 diabetes can experience weight loss even when they are eating more than normal.13 Symptoms of type 1 diabetes appear quickly and are often the reason for checking blood sugar levels.
Type 2 diabetes comes on gradually, so make sure you get screened for diabetes if the items below apply to you.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
- BMI higher than 25 with additional risk factors
- Over 45
- Had gestational diabetes
- Have one or more of the symptoms listed above
People with Type 2 diabetes are 50–65% more likely to develop type 3 diabetes than people with normal blood sugars. People at risk for type 3 or in the early stages of it will likely have one of the warning signs below.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Type 3 Diabetes:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Difficulty planning and/or problem-solving
- Confusion about dates, names, and/or places
- Visual problems, often first apparent while driving
- Forgetting common words or losing the train of thought in the middle of a sentence
- Misplacing objects
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Mood or personality changes14
While any of these changes can come with normal aging or other health problems, including drug or alcohol abuse, a blood screening is in order if these symptoms persist.
Why Testing for Diabetes is Important
Diabetes could easily be called an epidemic; it is rampant around the globe. The World Health Organization recently reported that the number of people with diabetes has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014.15 To sound the alarm even louder, the Center for Disease Control reports that one in four people who have diabetes don’t even know it.16 That’s one of the reasons testing is so critical.
Testing for diabetes doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You can discover more about the process and why you should get tested right here.
LetsGetChecked’s home diabetes testing is a great way to test hemoglobin A1c levels. They also offer at-home diabetes and heart test, which also tests triglycerides, cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL, cholesterol, and HDL% of total cholesterol. You can also get a basic at-home lipid panel test. The results are available online so you can share them with your functional medicine doctor.
How Does the Elevated Blood Sugar of Diabetes Cause Heart Problems?
Diabetes contributes to a process called “glycation.” Glycation is the result of insulin not properly metabolizing sugars, which are high if you have diabetes. This excess sugar, which should be metabolized and used for energy,17 remains in your bloodstream. It attaches to proteins and lipids (fats) and then forms harmful advanced glycation end products (literally AGE!)
These AGE molecules do just that: age your body. These damaging little molecules are destructive to the collagen in your body, including the arteries and blood vessels in your heart. They become brittle as a result, and plaque forms in your arteries and blood vessels. This vascular damage can lead to heart attacks and strokes.18
Advanced glycation end products are considered the major cause of most diabetic complications due to increased blood sugar levels. AGEs have been linked to Alzheimer’s (type 3 diabetes), neuropathy (nerve damage causing numbness), retinal (eye) disease, and kidney failure.19
How Can You Address Diabetes?
The good news is that diabetes, for the most part, can be controlled and even reversed through diet and lifestyle. The first step is assessing your risk factors, so I recommend everyone take a blood test. If you have type 1 diabetes, it is a good idea to test for Hashimoto’s and Celiac disease.
Likewise, if you have type 2 diabetes and are over age 60, it is a good idea to have your healthcare professional evaluate you for if you have early signs of dementia, which can progress into Alzheimer’s.
What Are the Diabetes Tests and Levels?
Most of the tests for diabetes measure blood glucose or insulin levels but do so in a variety of different ways. The top range listed is “ideal – normal” rather than just “normal” because optimal health is the goal — not just “normal” health. The most common tests include:
Glycated Hemoglobin or A1C Test:
This is the most common blood sugar test. It measures how many of your red blood cells are glycated, or coated with sugar. It provides your average blood glucose for 2 to 3 months without fasting or using a sweet substance.
Random Blood Sugar Test:
With this test, a blood sample will be taken at a random time. Regardless of when you last ate, a random blood sugar level test is taken.
- Ideal – Normal: below 125 mg/dL (6.9 mmol/L)
- Prediabetes: 126 mg/dl or higher
- Diabetes: 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) — 11.1 millimoles per liter (mmol/L)mg/dl or higher
Fasting Insulin Test:
For this test, you can’t eat or drink anything for 8 hours before the test is administered.
- Ideal – Normal: below 8uIU/ml (ideally, below 3)
- Mild Insulin Resistance: 5 mg/dL (5.3 mmol/L) mg/dl
- Moderate Insulin Resistance: 10 uIU/mL (>60 pmol/L) mg/dl or higher
- Severe Insulin Resistance: greater than 12 uIU/mL (>72 pmol/L)
Insulin Tolerance Test:
In an insulin tolerance test, insulin is injected into a patient’s vein, after which blood glucose is measured at regular intervals.
Ideal – Normal:
- Fasting glucose is between 75–95 mg/dL (4.2–5.3 mmol/L).
- Fasting insulin is between 3–8 uIU/mL (18–48 pmol/L).
Mild Insulin Resistance:
- Fasting glucose is greater than 95 mg/dL (5.3 mmol/L).
- Fasting insulin is greater than 8 uIU/mL (>48 pmol/L).
Moderate Insulin Resistance:
- Fasting glucose is greater than 100 mg/dL (>5.6 mmol/L).
- Fasting insulin is greater than 10 uIU/mL (>60 pmol/L).
Severe Insulin Resistance:
- Fasting glucose is greater than 110 mg/dL (>6.1 mmol/L). Greater than 125 mg/dL (>7.0 mmol/L) is diabetes.
- Fasting insulin is greater than 12 uIU/mL (>72 pmol/L).22
Fasting Blood Sugar Test:
In this test, a blood sample will be taken after an overnight fast.
- Ideal – Normal: less than 95mg/dl or less per deciliter
- Prediabetes: 100 to 125 mg/dL (5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L)
- Diabetes: 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L) mg/dl or higher on two separate tests
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test:
For this test, you will fast overnight, and the fasting blood sugar level is measured. Then you drink a sugary liquid, and blood sugar levels are tested periodically for the next two hours.
- Normal: 140 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L) less
- Prediabetes: 140 and 199 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L and 11.0 mmol/L)
- Diabetes: more than 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L) after two hours
Fasting Plasma Glucose (FBC):
This test is usually done in the morning to check your fasting blood glucose levels. Fasting means not having anything to eat or drink (except water) for at least 8 hours before the test.
- Normal: <100 mg/dl
- Prediabetes: 100–125 mg/dl
- Diabetes: <125 mg/dl or higher
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT):
The OGTT is a test that checks your blood glucose levels before and 2 hours after you drink a sweet drink designed for the test.
- Normal: <140 mg/dl
- Prediabetes: 140–190 mg/dl
- Diabetes: 200 mg/dl or higher
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) for Gestational Diabetes:
A modification of the standard OGTT is commonly used to check for gestational diabetes between weeks 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. After eating normally in the days prior to the test, you will fast for 8 hours, then drink a glucose solution. After one hour, your blood will be tested.
- Normal: <140 mg/dl
- Diabetes: >190 mg/dL
If your range falls between 140 mg/dl and >190 mg/d after the one-hour test, your healthcare provider will likely perform a three-hour test. For the three-hour test, your blood will be checked several times after fasting for eight hours and then drinking the solution to see how your body manages glucose over time.
- Normal fasting: <95 mg/dL
- One hour after drinking the glucose solution, normal: <180 mg/dL
- Two hours after drinking the glucose solution, normal: <155 mg/dL
- Three hours after drinking the glucose solution, normal: <140 mg/dL
If one of the results is higher than normal, your healthcare professional may schedule another test in four weeks. If a second test has higher-than-normal results, you will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.23
Type 1 Diabetes Test:
For type 1 diabetes, urine will be tested to look for the presence of ketones, which are a byproduct produced when muscle and fat tissue are used for energy because the body doesn’t have enough insulin to use the available glucose.
A healthcare professional may also test for destructive immune system cells called autoantibodies, a marker for autoimmunity. Four particular autoantibodies are markers of autoimmunity in type 1 diabetes:
- Islet Cell Antibodies (ICA) – Present in 69%-90% and 54%-75% of type 1 patients.
- Glutamic Acid Decarboxylase Antibodies (GAD-65) – Present in 80% of type1 patients.
- Insulin Autoantibodies (IAA) – Present in about 70% of children at time of type 1 diagnosis.
- Tyrosine Phosphatase Antibodies(IA-2A)24
Alzheimer’s or Type 3 Diabetes Test:
While there is not one particular all-inclusive test for dementia, Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia are carefully diagnosed by a healthcare professional based on many factors, including:
- Medical history
- A physical exam
- Lab tests
- Characteristic changes in thinking (MMSE Exam, see below)
- Day-to-day function and behavior25
To screen if you have early stages of dementia or late-stage dementia (Alzheimer’s), your doctor can administer a few different exams to gauge mental acuity. One such test is called the Mini Mental State Examination or MMSE. The MMSE measures concentration, memory, and language. The results determine the extent of dementia that is present and the speed of its progression.
- Normal: Score of 27 or higher
- Moderate Dementia: Score between 10 – 20
- Severe Dementia: Score less than 10
Note: A lower score on the MMSE does not always mean the patient has dementia, as other conditions may be present, which a doctor can diagnose upon further testing.
What are the Autoimmune Tests and Levels Associated with Diabetes?
All of the tests I have outlined are for diabetes and will equip you with the knowledge of where you are on the diabetic spectrum. However, I also recommend anyone with diabetes have other tests conducted for autoimmune conditions that commonly accompany diabetes. These tests will give you a picture of where you fall on the autoimmune spectrum, so you can address all your health conditions and take back your health completely!
Celiac Disease Test:
Celiac disease commonly accompanies type 1 diabetes, so it is a good idea to have a celiac test administered by your healthcare professional if you have type 1 diabetes because often people with this condition don’t even realize they have it. There are two diagnostic blood tests:
- Serology testing: This test detects the presence of antibodies in your blood. Elevated levels of certain antibody proteins indicate an immune reaction to gluten.
- Genetic testing: This test measures human leukocyte antigens (HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8), which can be used to rule out celiac disease.
If you are going to have your blood tested for celiac, do not eliminate gluten from your diet, as it might make the results of blood tests appear normal. Gluten must be present in your blood to test if antibodies to it are present. If the tests’ results indicate celiac disease, your doctor will probably order an endoscopy as well. This is the use of a tiny camera to measure damage to the villi in the small intestine.26
You can find more details about testing for gluten intolerance and celiac disease here.
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Test:
It is also a good idea to have a test conducted for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or hypothyroidism, which can be diagnosed when a doctor determines the presence of particular symptoms, including:
- A goiter, an enlarged thyroid gland, upon physical exam.
- Laboratory tests showing hypothyroidism- elevated thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). A normal range for TSH is 0.4 mU/L. If TSH is higher than 4.0 mU/L on repeated tests, it indicates hypothyroidism.27
- Low thyroid hormone (Free thyroxine or Free T4) levels.
- TPO antibody is elevated.
C-reactive Protein (CRP) test for inflammation:
A common risk factor for cardiovascular disease is diabetes, so I recommend a CRP test if you have any form of diabetes. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the following guidelines for assessment of cardiovascular disease risk:
- Normal or Low Risk: CRP levels of 1 mg per liter or lower
- Moderate Risk: CRP levels of 1-3 mg per liter
- High Risk: CRP levels greater than 3 mg per liter
- Heart Attack: CRP levels greater than 10 mg per liter28
Antinuclear Antibody (ANA):
This test is used to detect certain autoimmune diseases, including Sjogren’s syndrome and lupus, among others. Your immune system produces antinuclear antibodies (ANA) when it doesn’t distinguish between your own cells and invaders.
When this happens, you produce something called autoantibodies. They’re termed “antinuclear” because they target substances within the nucleus of a cell. ANA causes inflammation, fatigue, and pain, particularly in joints and muscles.
The Two Types of ANA Tests
There are two types of ANA test. The first is the indirect fluorescent antibody, in which blood cells are mixed with a reagent and examined under a slide. The second is the immunoassay, an automated test that looks for certain proteins produced in an immune response and compares them against a standard determined by the particular lab.
Indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA)
The results of this test are reported as a titer, or ratio. The lower the dilution ratio at which ANA is detected, the greater the amount of autoantibody present. Low levels of ANA are in the range of 1:40 to 1:60. A titer in the range of 1:160 will likely mean your healthcare provider will order additional tests for autoantibodies that are specific to a certain illness.29
The results of this are usually reported as a number with an arbitrary unit of measure (abbreviated as a “U” on the report, for example). A positive result from this method will be a number of units that is above that particular lab’s reference number for the lowest value that is considered positive.30
Increased levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in your blood that you make from methionine, another amino acid found in meat and fish, is often associated with heart disease. However, homocysteine is also linked to autoimmune disease, particularly rheumatoid arthritis, and IBD.31 Homocysteine levels in the blood are measured as micromoles/liter (µmol/L). A micromole is a measurement scientists use to quantify extremely small quantities.
- Optimal: Between 10 to 12
- High: >15
- Low: <1032
6 Natural Ways to Reverse Diabetes Symptoms
Whether you are on the low end of the spectrum with prediabetes or higher up the scale with early type 3 diabetes, also known as Alzheimer’s disease, you can take back control of your health. There are natural steps you can take to reverse the symptoms of this group of chronic conditions.
1. Heal Your Gut
Nearly 80% of your entire immune system is located in your gut, and your gut wall is only one cell layer thick, connected by a tight junction. Your gut is the foundation of your health! Your gut is naturally semi-permeable, which means these tight junctions open a tiny bit to allow micronutrients in — this is how you absorb nutrients from food.
But when we bombard our gut with inflammatory foods (especially gluten), infections, toxins, and stress, these tight junctions open up, and large molecules that were never meant to get into your bloodstream get in. Gluten is one of the main foods which can not only cause these tight junctions to open but also cause them to stay open. Your immune system then “attacks” the gluten. However, the gluten molecule looks very similar to
some of our tissues, and in a case of mistaken identity, your immune system can wind up attacking your own body, causing autoimmune diseases like diabetes.
The Role of Dairy in Diabetes
Most everyone is aware that people with diabetes should avoid toxic foods such as highly processed, high-sugar foods, and alcohol. I also advocate ditching dairy. In fact, I believe everyone — not just those with diabetes — should avoid these foods. However, recent research has shown a very strong correlation between increased milk consumption and rising rates of type 1 diabetes.
In China, for example, drinking cow’s milk was once uncommon. However, in a single 14-year period, milk consumption more than tripled. The rates of type 1 diabetes increased by more than 33% during that same time. Scientists believe the A1 β-casein protein in milk is a key trigger in type 1 diabetes.
Furthermore, modern food processing and storage techniques may also play a role. For example, the heat treating foods containing lactose, glucose, fructose, or ascorbic acid can produce glycated (that is, sugar-coated) products that may have diabetogenic (diabetes-causing) effects. Finally, cesarean delivery, low levels of vitamin D,33 little or no breastfeeding, chronic inflammation, and leaky gut all have an impact on the onset of type 1 diabetes.34
An Elimination Diet
Consider avoiding other inflammatory foods, such as eggs, nightshades, and citrus, that may contribute to an autoimmune condition. Remove these foods from your diet for at least 30 days. Reintroduce them only if your gut tolerates it. If you have an autoimmune condition, including type 1 diabetes, or want to uncover any food sensitivities, I recommend my Comprehensive Elimination Diet eCourse.
The 4R Approach
The good news is it’s actually pretty easy to repair your gut! Your gut cells naturally turn over every 24 hours or so, which means my “4R program” can start taking effect very quickly! My 4R approach involves the following:
- Remove the bad, including toxic and inflammatory foods and gut infections such as Candida overgrowth and SIBO.
- Replace what’s missing, including digestive enzymes and stomach acid.
- Reinoculate your gut with high potency probiotics.
Repair your gut with healing foods such as bone broth or supplements like my Leaky Gut Revive®.
Gut Flora and Diabetes
Imbalanced gut flora leads to a compromised immune system, leaving you vulnerable to infections, inflammation, autoimmune disease, and other chronic illnesses. According to new research, the microbes in your gut may play a role in your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. There appears to be a link between the changes in gut flora in recent decades and the increase in both obesity and diabetes. While research is still ongoing, it is important to repair your gut to create a balanced microbiome that promotes health. In The Autoimmune Solution, I explain The Myers Way® approach to repairing your gut and reversing the symptoms of autoimmune disease, including diabetes.
The Role of Candida in Diabetes
Research has also shown that Candida overgrowth can be a precursor of type 2 diabetes because it can impact the way your pancreas produces insulin. In fact, I never saw anyone in my clinic with diabetes who did not also have Candida overgrowth. Since Candida feeds on sugar, if you already have any form of diabetes, the resulting blood sugar spikes create a feeding ground for Candida.
Once Candida has overgrown, disrupted your gut, and escaped into your bloodstream, it can create inflammation all over your body, putting your immune system into overdrive. This can result in symptoms from digestive distress to toenail fungus and brain fog to skin irritations. If Candida invades the pancreas, it can provoke an elevated level of insulin production, increasing the chances of diabetes.35
2. Get Rid of Gluten, Grains, and Legumes
I recommend that all of my patients remove gluten from their diets because it wreaks havoc on your gut due to proteins that can lead to a leaky gut and inflammation throughout the body.
Regarding diabetes and prediabetes, eliminating gluten-filled grains such as wheat, semolina, spelt, rye, kamut, and barley, generally keeps your blood sugar lower, as the body converts carbohydrates to sugar, which adds stress on your pancreas. With diabetes, the goal is to eat a diet lower in sugar, from sweets, fruits, and carbohydrates.
Pseudograins and Legumes
And these grains are not the only ones to cause problems. Pseudograins such as quinoa and millet, and legumes such as peas and kidney beans, contain proteins that can cross-react with gluten and can themselves be inflammatory. Healing your immune system is the path to healing diabetes as well.
3. Tame the Toxins
Fewer people are aware that environmental toxins may be one of the reasons behind the diabetes epidemic. As far back as 1961, researchers began to label environmental toxins that may increase the risk of diabetes as diabetogens. You probably already know that lead, mercury, and other heavy metals, industrial chemicals, pollutants, and pesticides are dangerous.
However, there are also toxins hiding in commercial cleaning and beauty products, processed and non-organic food, and plastic packaging. They may be in the water you drink and the air you breathe. Even a little exposure to toxins makes you vulnerable.
The easiest environment to control is your own home. Discover how you can tame the toxins in your home and begin living more toxin-free.
Prevent toxic exposure by:
- Eating pesticide-free, non-GMO, organic food.
- Utilizing non-toxic cookware.
- Cleaning the air in your home and office with an air purifier.
- Avoiding plastic water bottles and using a water filter to ensure clean drinking water.
- Buying natural, organic cleaning products or making your own.
- Purchasing clean cosmetics and body products.
Detoxify your body by:
- Pooping. Eat a nutrient-dense diet to support detoxification and remove waste.
- Sweating! Infrared saunas are a powerful detoxification support.
- Peeing. Drink plenty of clean water.
- Taking a glutathione supplement to help move toxins out of your body. Glutathione is the body’s most powerful detoxifier.
4. Heal Your Infections and Relieve Your Stress
In The Autoimmune Solution, I outline specific ways to heal infections that may be caused by bacteria or viruses such as Epstein-Barr. Additionally, there are a number of viruses that have been associated with type 1 diabetes, including rotavirus, mumps, cytomegalovirus, and possibly also rubella.
Coxsackievirus and Diabetes
However, by far, enteroviruses, such as Coxsackievirus (CVB4) are the most common viruses linked to diabetes. Coxsackie can infect your islets (clusters of cells in the pancreas that produce insulin), provoking a strong inflammatory response that attacks the virus and the islets alike, stopping your body’s production of this important hormone.
Research is ongoing on how to trigger mechanisms within the body to condition islets to withstand autoimmune attack,36 thus preserving the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin. There’s some good news here. You may be surprised to learn that even though the insulin-producing islets may be destroyed, the rest of the pancreas continues to function normally, producing digestive enzymes. A recent promising treatment involves transplanting healthy islet cells in an effort to enable the pancreas to once again produce insulin on its own,37 reversing diabetes.
Stress and Diabetes
Stress is also a critical factor in diabetes. While no one can avoid stress completely, learning to manage it is a key component in taking control of your health. Dealing with chronic, daily stressors can cause long-term, high blood sugar levels due to the increased levels of cortisol released in your body when you are under constant stress. Cortisol, the stress hormone, elevates blood sugar, so learning how to lower and relieve stress is important for both managing and preventing diabetes.
10 Great Stress Relievers to Help You Manage Diabetes
No single stress-reduction technique works for everyone, yet there is a technique that can work for you. Here are a few you can try:
- Drinking herbal tea
- Exercising moderately
- Getting a massage or self-massage
- Listening to music
- Meditating/breathing exercises
- Playing with pets
- Sleeping 7-8 hours nightly
- Spending time in nature
5. Manage Your Carbs
Generally speaking, most diabetic diets shoot for no more than 45% of calories from carbs. Some research suggests that an even lower amount may be beneficial for blood sugar control, hence the “low carb” craze!
What is a Keto Diet?
We have all heard of the “ketogenic” diet. A modified ketogenic diet is indeed very beneficial to your health minus the dairy! This diet involves eating healthy fats such as avocados, coconut oil, and olive oil, healthy organic meats, eggs, nuts (if you can tolerate them), and low-sugar vegetables and fruits. Research has shown significant impacts of ketones on the brain in particular.
How Can a Keto Diet Impact Diabetes?
Ketones are chemicals released by your liver to break down fat for fuel, when your insulin is kept at a lower level. This is significant because recent studies have shown one particular ketone (beta-HBA) is a “super fuel” for energy production — it’s even better than glucose. It has also been shown to protect brain cells from toxins associated with Alzheimer’s, which we know is type 3 diabetes.
Coconut oil, which inhibits Candida overgrowth, also increases the production of this ketone. So, while keeping any food sensitivities (to eggs or nuts, for example) in mind, a non-dairy version of a modified ketogenic diet, especially for those with pre-diabetes or diabetes,38 can be very beneficial.
Tips for Creating a Diabetes-Friendly Diet
Talk to your diabetes care team to create an eating plan that’s right for you. Here are some tips to follow:
- Be careful about when and how many carbohydrates you eat.
- Choose a variety of fiber-rich, nutrient-dense greens, and vegetables every day.
- Eat smaller portions, spread out over the day.
- Enjoy good fats, such as avocados, coconut oil, coconut butter, and olive oil.
- Limit your alcohol intake.
- Opt for low-glycemic-index foods, such as berries.
- Select nutrient-rich proteins, such as organic, grass-fed meats or my Paleo Protein powder,
- Use less salt.
I cannot stress enough the importance of physical exercise if you have any blood sugar issues. Our bodies function at their best when we exercise regularly. If you are overweight, which contributes to diabetes in the first place, exercise can help you manage your weight. Movement helps lower blood sugar, reduces your risk for heart disease, reduces stress, and alleviates depression.
What to Watch Out for During Exercise if You Have Diabetes
If you have diabetes, consult with your healthcare professional before starting an exercise routine. Remember to start slow. Your healthcare professional will ask if you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or leg pain when you walk. You may need to discuss how to manage any medication with exercise if you are on diabetic medication that already lowers blood sugar.
Once you begin your exercise regimen, stop immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Sores on your feet
How to Start Exercising if You Have Diabetes
Start with walking, and increase gradually if you have no negative symptoms. Be sure to wear a bracelet that says you have diabetes, and take a snack along to raise your blood sugar quickly if needed.
Check your blood sugar before, during (if you are going for 45 minutes or longer), and after you exercise. Also, drink plenty of water. If you take insulin, ask your doctor what to eat before you exercise and do not inject insulin in any part of your body that you will be exercising, such as your arms or legs.
Your Feet, Exercise, and Diabetes
Take care of your feet too. Ensure you don’t have any sores and that your shoes are well-fitting and comfortable. Diabetes can cause numbness in the extremities, making it difficult to know if your feet are suffering during exercise.
Most importantly, be patient with yourself. It can take time to reap the rewards of exercise.39
You CAN Take Control of Diabetes
I have seen thousands of my patients take back their health, and you can too! Taking natural steps can save you from the expense and discomfort of insulin therapies and allow you to live your optimal life! For more information about how you can take control of your health, check out my free training. It’s an easy first step to reversing the symptoms or preventing them in the first place.
If you’re on the autoimmune spectrum or have been diagnosed with a thyroid condition, check out my interview with Brian Mowll on the diabetes-thyroid connection.
- Grain Brian, 221. David Perlmutter, MD with Kristin Loberg. 2018.
- Grain Brian, 183. David Perlmutter, MD with Kristin Loberg. 2018.
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