Diabetes is one of the most common problems in the United States today. The standard American diet continues to promote blood sugar disorders and will for decades to come. Diabetes is on the rise and is the leading cause of blindness, amputations, kidney failure, and neuropathy in the US. Over 26 million Americans are affected by diabetes, at an annual cost of over $218 billion per year. Diabetes is a growing problem primarily due to a lack of lifestyle education and physical activity, as well as the consumption of high calorie, low nutrient, processed foods.
Diabetes is classified as either type 1 or type 2, and both result in high blood sugar. In type 1 diabetes a person has lost the ability to make insulin because their pancreas is being destroyed by either their own immune system or a virus. A type 2 diabetic eventually loses the ability to make insulin due to poor lifestyle choices, specifically the diet.
How does one develop diabetes?
Before a person becomes a diabetic, they go through a stage called insulin resistance. This means their cells require more insulin than normal to get the sugar into the cells. This problem is promoted by lifestyle factors such as physical inactivity, overeating, high sugar and high starch meals, and a lack of fiber. People in the insulin resistance stage usually complain of getting tired after meals, crave sweets, and have trouble losing weight. Over time, this leads to diabetes.
When the insulin receptor becomes over-saturated (due to inflammation or insulin resistance), sugar cannot get into the cells. This excess sugar is converted into circulating fats called triglycerides. This process demands a lot of energy, resulting in fatigue after a meal. High triglycerides on a blood test are one of the first signs of insulin resistance and seen before diabetes is full-blown.
Insulin resistance always comes before diabetes is officially diagnosed. A person may be severely insulin resistant and still present with normal blood sugar. This high demand of insulin results in pancreatic burn-out, ultimately resulting in insulin dependence (medication). This is why diabetes is so much more than a blood sugar issue.
Two important hormones when considering Diabetes:
A hormone is an important chemical messenger that is made in one part of the body and communicates with another part of the body. At the root of virtually every illness are two hormones : insulin and cortisol.
Insulin is a hormone made by the Beta cells of the pancreas. Insulin’s duty is to drive sugar into every cell of the body to be converted into energy. All foods, such as proteins, fats, and carbohydrates will eventually be converted into glucose (sugar) so that the body can use it as fuel. Once a person becomes insulin resistant, they are unable to lower blood sugar effectively, thus leading to diabetes.
- Insulin tells your liver to make more cholesterol.
- Cholesterol is the precursor to many of your hormones, including cortisol (stress hormone) and your sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, & testosterone). Your body makes more cholesterol in response to demands placed on it
- Insulin raises your blood pressure by increasing sodium retention
- Many diabetics also have high blood pressure as a result of insulin issues
- Insulin keeps your liver from being able to detoxify properly
- Your liver is like your bodys oil filter. Your liver takes the trash and sludge out of your blood, but it cant do as good of a job when insulin and blood sugar are constantly elevated.
- Insulin promotes inflammation, the very thing that causes insulin resistance
- Inflammation promotes joint pain, cardiovascular disease, fluid retention, and weight gain to name a few.
- High insulin levels in women cause them to make more testosterone.
- Symptoms include: polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), hair thinning, unwanted facial hair. Insulin can also affect the distribution of weight causing weight gain in the mid section.
- Men end up with higher levels of estrogen when they have higher levels of insulin
- This can contribute to prostate issues with men, along with other things like erectile dysfunction and loss of motivation.
- High levels of insulin are directly related to higher risk for colon and breast cancer
- Insulin promotes cell division and therefore also accelerates inflammation and cancer cell division. Cancer is more common in those with diabetes.
- High levels of insulin promote weight-gain because it is a fat storage hormone
- When insulin can no longer drive sugar into cells to make energy, its job is then to store that sugar as fat for a later time.
Cortisol is a hormone that is made by your adrenal glands (stress glands). One of its main roles is to increase blood sugar in response to any stress. It does this by releasing a stored sugar (glycogen) from the liver and muscle tissue. Cortisol will also reduce the sensitivity of the insulin receptors on the cell. This forces the pancreas to make more insulin to lower blood sugar; and a vicious cycle begins, leading to diabetes.
Consequences of Diabetes on the body:
Insulin resistance and diabetes affect all aspects of physiology, whether symptomatic or not. When sugar can’t get into a cell, it oxidizes and turns into glycosylated end products (GEP). When something oxidizes, think of it like rust on a car. GEP’s combined with high levels of insulin are inflammatory and cause destruction to tissues such as retinas, nerves, kidneys, and blood vessels. This is why diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, neuropathy, and amputation.
Here are a few of the Specialized testing we offer and how it pertains to Diabetes:
Food sensitivity test
First lets discuss the difference between a food allergy and a food sensitivity. A food allergy is when someone eats a peanut and they break out in hives and their throat swells shut. When a person eats a food they are sensitive to, it will cause an immune and inflammatory response which causes insulin resistance. Most people are eating food they are sensitive to every day, but don’t realize it.
Adrenal Testing (Stress hormone test)
Stress comes in 3 forms: physical, chemical, and emotional. But your body reacts in exactly the same way to each form. Stress has a massive impact on insulin and other systems in the body.
- Stress decreases insulin receptor sensitivity
- Your body has to make more insulin to have the same response on blood sugar when the receptors are not working properly.
- Stress elevates cortisol levels
- High cortisol levels result in weight gain in the mid-section, poor sleep, lowered immunity, and slower muscle growth to name a few.
- Stress creates cravings
- During periods of stress you may crave sugary, salty and fatty foods, therefore affecting insulin and weight gain.
- Stress causes your liver to raise your blood sugar
- This is your body’s way of increasing energy to handle a stressful situation.
Toxicity Testing (through Doctors Data & Genova)
We come into contact with 84,000 chemicals a year, and only 1% of those have been tested for safety. Of those tested, only 5 chemicals have been banned in the last 34 years. Not only are we in danger from man-made chemicals, but our food supply is so toxic that it is contributing to pollution of our bodies. Toxins are found in lotions, creams, plastics, make-up, toothpastes, etc. Things we come in contact with daily and don’t even think about.
- Toxins increase liver stress and reduce toxin breakdown + elimination
- If you have trouble reading words on a food label, so does your body. Your liver doesn’t know what to do with all these toxic food additives and it gets overworked. This means you cannot effectively regulate blood sugar or get rid of excess hormones and toxins. Many times, the liver requires nutritional support to clear these toxins from your body.
- Toxins cause inflammation and increase insulin resistance
- All these foreign substances increase inflammation in the body, which shuts down insulin receptor sites, which in turn requires your body to make more insulin
There are certain substances that everyone needs for their body to function normally. In diabetics, required nutrients are often missing. Over 50% of Americans take a nutritional supplement, but the majority of people don’t know why they are taking them. Our Functional Medicine Physicians can help determine your nutrient needs through the appropriate work-up. Here are some of the main nutrients that we see in clinical practice with patients that have blood sugar issues:
- Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
- ALA is one of the main nutrients responsible for turning sugar into energy in your cells. It is also an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant so it can assist with reducing insulin resistance and slow down aging. It is often low in those with diabetes.
- Diabetics have a tendency to utilize magnesium faster than a non-diabetic. This mineral is responsible for making energy and helps muscles and nerves fire. Low amounts of magnesium can contribute to constipation, depression and high blood pressure, to name a few. Magnesium is responsible for over 300 biochemical processes in your body. It is estimated that 50% of the US population is deficient in magnesium according to the American Medical Association.
- Excess inflammatoion causes a person to use more zinc than they normally would. Since diabetes is a disease rooted in inflammation, a lot of diabetics are low in zinc. Zinc is also an important nutrient to the pancreas and required for normal function. Zinc plays a role in almost 300 reactions in the body.
- B vitamins
- All of the B vitamins combined play a role in almost every process that occurs in your cells, including carbohydrate metabolism. These vitamins can also become depleted by taking diabetic medication.
- Chromium helps make the insulin receptor sites more sensitive to insulin. This is critical for a person with diabetes because it helps to lower blood sugar levels safely.
Meet with our Functional Medicine Team Today
Not eating regularly and eating larger meals causes blood sugar and insulin spikes. Meet with our Functional Medicine and Clinical Nutrition team and they will help formulate a treatment plan customized to your specific goals and your lifestyle. Fill out the form below to schedule an appointment.
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