According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report from 2017, 30.3 million people have diabetes in the US, or 9.4% of the population. It is estimated that 84.1% of Americans have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing it. Although diabetes is listed by the CDC as the seventh leading cause of death in the US, diabetes contributes to many other devastating diseases such as heart disease and kidney disease and is rarely listed as the cause of death.
The above-mentioned report listed the cost of diabetes as $327 billion per year in direct medical costs and lost productivity. The frustrating thing about this is that type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90-95% of all diabetes, is preventable with healthy lifestyle choices, and even reversible with natural therapies, dietary changes and exercise. So why is type 2 diabetes so prevalent today? This is a complicated question. It seems there is much confusion about what constitutes a healthy diet.
We do know which foods cause increased insulin in the blood and lead to insulin resistance or pre-diabetes – processed foods, fast foods, refined carbohydrates, refined sugars – whatever you want to call them. All these labels refer to foods that have been altered, either by adding sugar and chemicals, and/or by taking out fiber, nutrients and other parts of the whole food. These altered, processed foods will cause inflammation from the added toxic chemicals and excess glucose (sugar) in the blood. Insulin is released from the pancreas to help get the overload of sugar out of the blood and into the cells.
The toxin-induced inflammation causes the release of cortisol (our anti-inflammatory hormone) which in turn causes the release of more glucose into the blood … and the release of more insulin. Insulin is the glucose storage hormone. As with all hormones in the body, if there is an overabundance of it, the cells become resistant to it. We call this “insulin resistance”, but it is the precursor to type 2 diabetes.
To my surprise I found videos online featuring well-credentialed medical doctors, who regularly treat diabetics, extolling the virtues of eating a high carbohydrate diet to control diabetes. One doctor boldly announced that he didn’t mind if his patients had a blood sugar of 250 mg/dL or more. (The accepted level of fasting blood sugar is 100 mg/dL or less.) Other expert doctors specializing in diabetes will tell you that you don’t need any carbohydrates and should be eating all protein and fat. They also claim great successes. With such drastically different recommendations, it is easy to understand the confusion.
It turns out both views may have some merit. We know that protein and fat both stabilize blood sugar and slow the metabolism of carbohydrates to help reduce the spikes and troughs of blood sugar management. But we also must take into account the health of the gut lining and the role of the gut bacteria in metabolizing food properly. If we look at the research, epidemiological data and new discoveries emerging from the human biome project, the picture starts to become clearer.
Scientists are discovering that people with unique and particular diets also develop a unique microbial environment in their gut which allows them to metabolize certain foods better than others who may have a far different diet. The good news is that microbes produce new generations every thirty minutes and react much faster to food than we do, so you may be able to develop the necessary enzymes and bacteria to digest new whole foods after a period of time. The key is to eat real, whole foods and not their fake, processed versions!
We are discovering that what entails a healthy diet is much more individual than we once thought. One thing is very clear for diabetes and all lifestyle-mediated diseases today: processed and refined foods are bad for everyone, no matter your ethnic heritage or the quality of your gut flora. As to whether you should eat more carbs, more protein or more fat, it depends on a number of factors: the nutrient density of your food, exposure to pesticides and hormones, chemical additives and preservatives, and, we now know, the variety of your gut microbes and digestive enzymes.
It’s not as simple as it may sound though. My job is to help people find the correct solution for their unique physiological make-up, lifestyle and commitments. I help people to find a working plan of healthy nutrition, exercise and stress management that will not only allow them to achieve the health results they desire, but also to sustain their new dietary and lifestyle habits. We strategize and tweak their individualized plan until we find the right combination that works for them, allows them to enjoy their life and achieve lasting health benefits.