The role of diet and nutrition in diabetes is not rocket science. But before you say “I already know about nutrition and diabetes,” you might want to be aware of some considerations that are commonly overlooked.
Yes, sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits can affect but there other lesser-known causes. As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who’s fully grounded in Western medical science, what I want to emphasize is not just the science of blood sugar control – I’d also like to focus on how these knowledge gets translated to the average patient.
Most professionals only pay lip service to nutrition. Nowadays, medical practices related to diabetes gets over simplified. When the common methods don’t work, you tend to despair since you think you’re doing everything you can nutritionally. In reality, you simply need to open yourself to a wider understanding of how nutrition affects your glycemic control.
This is the fourth discussion on my holistic diabetes care series. You can read the other articles HERE in case you missed them. We have visited the spiritual, emotional, and life force ways to support blood sugar control. Today, it’s about nutrition.
Let’s start with the myth that diabetes is only about lack of insulin (in Type I Diabetes) or about insulin resistance (in Type 2 Diabetes). While these definitions help a bit, they tend to take a tiny piece of our physiology and say that’s the malfunctioning part. That kind of thinking may work for repairing a car, but doesn’t fit the intricacy of the human body. Type I Diabetes is NOT just an insulin deficiency. Yes, the insulin deficiency is there. Yes, people used to die before insulin was developed, and no, it is not the whole picture. With all due respect to insulin pumps and continuous blood sugar monitoring, any diabetic who has been emotionally stressed, physically stressed, or adrenally exhausted will tell you it’s not just about insulin.
Insulin is clearly not the whole answer to Type 1.5 Diabetes—where your own immune system is attacking your pancreas. Giving someone with autoimmune-induced diabetes insulin without addressing why the body is attacking its own pancreas is a set up for great glycemic control while the illness marches on. An auto-immune disease should be treated like an immune problem, not a blood sugar (only) problem.
I used to work as a Diabetic Dietitian in a hospital and I must say that the standard recommendations given at hospitals haven’t changed much. When I counsel a diabetic patient, I combine what I have learned from Chinese Medicine with the newer science about digestion’s role in blood sugar. Here are some highlights:
LEAKY GUT. This is huge for every Type 1.5 and Type 2 Diabetic. If your Type I Diabetes is caused by autoimmunity (some are and some are not), you want to keep it from moving to other organs. When your food leaks into your bloodstream without being fully broken down, it creates an inflammatory response that can then go on to create insulin resistance. For example, pretend that you ate an egg, and instead of being broken down into tiny proteins before entering your blood stream, it got into your blood semi intact. What is your body to do? It uses its inflammatory system to “digest” your food inside your blood. This would be well and good, except what if your body gets over-enthusiastic and thinks that other tissues (maybe your pancreas) look very similar to egg, so the pancreas gets attacked too? If you just replace the insulin that your beseiged pancreas doesn’t make, without stopping the auto-immune attack, your pancreas will eventually completely fail, the inflammatory response will proceed to devour other organs. Not a pretty picture! Completely avoidable with a dietary approach that centers on healing a leaky gut AND blood sugar control. It’s not always your pancreas that is being attacked with auto-immunity. For example, in poly-cystic ovarian syndrome, the ovaries are attacked, and women become heavily insulin-resistant and/or reactively hypoglycemic. This is better treated by curing your leaky gut than by only focusing on your blood sugar.
When I first heard these explanations of leaky gut and auto-immunity, I thought they were exaggerations. As I learned more about them, I saw a one-to-one correspondence with many of the food suggestions given in ancient Chinese medicine. I’ve learned to perk up and take notice when two completely different cultural streams with completely different histories and methodologies tell us the same thing.
VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY. Maybe you don’t need more insulin or exercise… You just need to get outside more!
THYROID HORMONE DEFICIENCY. This causes insulin resistance. If you lack thyroid hormone, you may or may not need it replaced. You may need help understanding why your thyroid hormone is low and removing the cause. Healing a leaky gut can make a big difference with Hashimoto’s disease.
ADRENAL ALARM, RESISTANCE, & EXHAUSTION. All of these mess with your cortisol, which then causes inflammation and insulin resistance. There are many nutritional and herbal and lifestyle strategies I can steer you towards that will treat wherever you are in the cycle. Whether you are pushing yourself so much that you don’t sleep, or your body has rebelled and can’t do anything but sleep, nutrition can help! Blood sugar control is only one component of the nutritional support you body needs. As your adrenal health improves so will your blood sugar.
ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS. These are the building blocks of many of your hormones. If your thyroid or estrogen or progesterone levels are off, rather than dieting more diligently, or adjusting your insulin, just take some fish oil. I don’t recommend flax seed oil if you have insulin resistance as your body may not convert it to the usable EPA and DHA.
FIBER. Regular bowel movements create better blood sugar control.
REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH. Chinese medicine has always known that improving sexual health is part of treating diabetes. Western medicine is starting to catch up.
Can I help?
Yes, I can help you with your diet and your diabetes. I offer nutrition consulting programs, and we can work together with just your diet. If you feel you want something more, we can combine nutrition support with herbs, acupuncture, sound healing and other methods that synergistically activate your wonderful nutrition and lifestyle self-care.
Interested, but not sure if this is for you? Just schedule a complementary “get acquainted” call and we will sort out what is right for you.