by Linda Sechrist
More health practitioners today are recognizing both the mind-body connection and energetic and metaphysical insights into preventing and reversing illnesses. As a result, those facing diabetes and other health challenges are accessing contemporary resources such as Louise L. Hay’s explanation of the emotional roots of disease in You Can Heal Your Life, and the medical science and natural methods explained by health researcher and author Gary Null, Ph.D., in No More Diabetes: A Complete Guide to Preventing, Treating, and Overcoming Diabetes.
Applying a “both” rather than an “either” approach illuminates the importance of recognizing the ways that our thoughts, emotions and lifestyle choices can impact chronic illness and long-term health.
Two PerspectivesHay suggests that this metabolic disorder may be rooted in an individual’s feeling of being deprived of life’s sweetness and longing for what might have been, accompanied by a great need to control deep sorrow. Such dis-ease can show up as Type 1, or insulin-dependent diabetes; Type 2, or non-insulin dependent diabetes; latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA), a slowly progressing variation of Type 1; or gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy.
Eavesdropping on our repetitive inner mind chatter and observing its impact on outer experiences can reveal faulty thinking that disrupts the mind-body connection. Hay, a firm believer in the power of affirmations to send a message to the subconscious mind, recommends these to aid healing. For diabetes, she suggests, “This moment is filled with joy. I now choose to experience the sweetness of today.”
Null cites medical evidence that explains how the physical causes of diabetes are related to the pancreas’ production of the insulin hormone and the body’s use of it, together with rollercoaster blood sugar levels determined by food selections, stress, sleeplessness, insufficient rest and lack of exercise. His approach for preventing, reversing or managing this debilitating condition is to raise awareness of the physical, behavioral and mental causes that lead to its emergence, and making healthy lifestyle choices that regulate blood sugar levels.
Naturally Control Blood SugarGlucose, the human body’s key source of energy, is a simple sugar produced when the liver processes carbohydrates, protein and fat, and is stored there. Glucose also supplies energy for the brain. Normal blood glucose levels vary throughout the day. For healthy individuals, a fasting blood sugar level upon awakening is less than 100 milligrams (mg) per deciliter (dl) of blood. Before meals, normal levels are 70 to 99 mg/dl; otherwise, 100 to 125. Consistent readings above 126 indicate that lifestyle changes are needed to avoid eventual progression into full Type 2 diabetes.
When there’s an inability to efficiently incorporate glucose from the blood into cells, glucose stays in the blood and cells don’t receive the energy they need to function properly. “Rollercoaster sugar levels irritate nerves and weaken the lining of blood vessels. Fluctuations cause insulin levels to spike, stress the pancreas and cause sugar crashes, called hypoglycemia, which can lead individuals to make impulsive, poor food choices,” advises Marcy Kirshenbaum, a board-certified clinical nutritionist and owner of Enhance Nutrition, in Northbrook, Illinois.
She notes, “Fluctuating sugar levels also raise triglycerides, a fat that circulates in the blood, and cholesterol. Both triglycerides and cholesterol are an important measures of heart health. An excess of more than 150 mg/dl in fasting blood can heighten risk of a stroke or heart attack.”
Early Heads-UpAccording to the American Diabetes Association, 8.1 million of the 29.1 million individuals diagnosed with diabetes were previously unaware of any early symptoms such as dry mouth, excessive thirst, frequent urination, constant hunger (even after meals), unusual weight gain or loss and lack of energy. “Many individuals only learn of their condition from a doctor-ordered routine blood test such as the A1C glycated hemoglobin procedure, which reads blood sugar levels over a three-month period,” advises Dr. Nancy Iankowitz, a board-certified family nurse practitioner and founding director of Holistic and Integrative Healing, in Holmes, New York.
Individuals that consume large amounts of simple carbohydrates and sugars, are overweight or are exceedingly sedentary and eat unhealthy processed foods, have higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.
Iankowitz’s effective, patient-centered practice follows a practical, four-month healing plan that includes tracking foods, moods, blood pressure, sleeping habits and exercise, all necessary to manage or reverse Type 2 diabetes.
Effective Diet ChoicesMaking the highest-impact food choices is critical in the earliest stages of diabetes. That’s why nutritionist and holistic integrative health practitioner Saskia Kleinert, an independent practitioner who also serves as director of the Emeryville Health & Wellness Center, in California, helps patients integrate dietary changes into everyday life.
“Patient education includes the necessity of eating low-glycemic index foods and reducing blood glucose levels, while increasing healthy fats such as nuts, avocado and olive oil,” advises Kleinert. She notes that antioxidant-rich plant foods are another key component of an effective dietary plan for all age groups.
The role of exercise is also vital for those needing to reverse pre-diabetes or managing diabetes aided by insulin. “Exercise increases the muscle cell’s demand for glucose, moving it out of the blood, and so lowering insulin levels,” explains Jamie Coughlan, a naturopathic doctor who practices in Pleasanton and Pleasant Hill, California.
Dr. Angelo Baccellieri, owner of Westchester Wellness Medicine, with locations in Harrison and Mount Vernon, New York, introduces patients to intermittent fasting, an eating pattern that helps preempt insulin resistance and control blood sugar. “The concept depends on going 14 to 16 hours without food, replicating how our long-ago ancestors ate. They feasted when food was available and fasted during famines, sometimes going several days without eating,” advises Baccellieri, who notes that intermittent fasting can be done once a week.
“Our biochemistry actually does very well with this approach, which isn’t hard to do when your last meal is at 7 p.m. and you skip breakfast and delay lunch the next day until 1 p.m. You can drink water with lemon, teas and black coffee throughout. By 1 p.m., the body has been 18 hours without protein and carbohydrates. Insulin levels haven’t gone up and the body is burning fat for fuel,” explains Baccellieri.
Herbs such as turmeric reduce inflammation. Berberine can help cells use glucose efficiently. Supplements such as vitamin C, B-complex, resveratrol and pycnogenol (pine bark extract) can raise antioxidant levels, in which most pre-diabetic and diabetic individuals are deficient. Cautious health professionals tailor supplement recommendations to each patient.
Helpful Weight LossIn The Diabetes Breakthrough, based on a scientifically tested way to reverse diabetes through weight loss, Dr. Osama Hamdy and Sheri R. Colberg, Ph.D., explain a home-based version of the 12-week Why WAIT (Weight Achievement and Intensive Treatment) program. It claims a track record of 82 percent of participants reaching all their weight and blood glucose goals, along with improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, liver and kidney function.
The program incorporates the Joslin Nutrition Guidelines, initially developed by Hamdy and his team and offered onsite through the Joslin Diabetes Center, affiliated with Harvard Medical School, in Boston. The program’s success is due to doable increases in exercising that puts greater emphasis on strengthening muscles; effective ways to change bad habits; the key to portion control; healthy alternatives to favorite foods; carbohydrate counting; and meals composed of the right balance of complex carbohydrates and antioxidant-rich plant foods, protein and fat, all to achieve optimum body weight and diabetes control.
No Quick FixRestoration of health begins with the most important lifestyle changes. They include:
- Replace processed and sugary foods in meals and snacks with nutrient-dense, whole foods.
- Determine possible food sensitivities with an elimination diet.
- Eat some protein with every meal.
- Eliminate environmental toxins.
- Perform some form of cardiovascular exercise and resistance training at least three to five times a week.
- Add stress-relieving practices such as yoga, tai chi or qigong.
All provide good reasons to live responsibly every day, cherishing long-term goals of laying claim to the best possible health.
Linda Sechrist is a senior staff writer for Natural Awakenings. Connect at ItsAllAboutWe.com.