In this final article in our discussion of type 2 Diabetes, we will examine the effects of diet and nutrition as major contributors to this preventable disease.

In both the development and the treatment of type 2 Diabetes, nutrition is the key.  Poor nutrition is the great contributor to type 2 Diabetes, and proper nutrition begins to rectify type 2 Diabetes and bring the body back into balance, or homeostasis.  The body is awesome and phenomenal in that if a disharmony is not too far-gone, it will heal itself!

So let’s look at the nutritional aspect – what went wrong – and how to repair some of the damage in order to turn this type 2 Diabetes epidemic around.

Empty Harvest

Agri-BusinessIt all began with the Industrial Revolution.  The Industrial Revolution, which started toward the end of the 18th century in the United Kingdom, Western Europe and North America, is a period of history where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions, and continues to this day.  The Industrial Revolution is directly or indirectly responsible for some wonderful modern amenities, especially in the realm of engines, machinery, and computer/internet technologies.

Where agriculture and manufacturing are concerned, however, the quality of nutrition has changed dramatically in the following ways:

  • Farming has shifted from families and communities to huge agribusiness conglomerates
  • Agribusiness capitalism introduced the use of more pesticides, herbicides and fungicides to increase yield
  • Overuse of soil and non-rotation of crops created depletion of soil nutrients, therefore depletion of food nutrients
  • Deforestation, overuse of soil and use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides caused topsoil to be depleted – literally blown away with the wind
  • Capitalism in manufacturing food products stripped foods of nutrients in order to extend shelf life
  • Synthetic additives and chemicals were added to boxed and packaged foods to extend shelf life
  • Synthetic vitamins were added to boxed and packaged foods to prevent diseases caused by nutrient depletion

These and other repercussions of the Industrial Revolution are a direct result of what we’re experiencing today with the type 2 Diabetes epidemic.  In our society, we are programmed to be driven by convenience and taste.  We live in a society where good nutrition takes a back seat to our comfort and taste buds.  And our taste buds find lots of comfort in sweet and savory carbohydrates.

Foods That Contribute to Type 2 Diabetes

Let’s now take a closer look at what foods are contributing to this epidemic:

Carbohydrates – especially refined carbs is a main culprit.  Some examples include macaroni & cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, pasteurized and bottled fruit juice, desserts, sodas, alcoholic beverages, bagels, etc.  The list is very long!  Suffice it to say that sugar, white flour, processed juices and sugary drinks and all other refined carbohydrates are great contributors.  Essentially, these foods turn into sugar and fat, throwing the digestive and endocrine systems out of balance to contribute to the development of type 2 Diabetes.

Fats – not so much naturally occurring fats for the most part, but those man-made, invented fats that the human digestion and metabolism simply don’t handle well.  These include margarine, shortening, hydrogenated oils and vegetable oils.  This last one, vegetable oils, requires a little further explanation.

Once oil is produced from a vegetable (for example, corn), that oil is very unstable and goes rancid very quickly.  In order to extend its shelf life, the oil is heated to very high temperatures and undergoes a chemical process in order to allow for an extended shelf life and “stability” of the oil.  But this and other unnatural oils will eventually be rejected by the body, and/or create a digestive/endocrine disharmony leading to type 2 Diabetes (or some other chronic illness).

Fake Sugars and Excitotoxins – these include high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, saccharin, splenda, MSG and texturized soy protein to name just a few of the more common ones.  These are essentially chemicals added to foods that replace real ingredients to extend shelf life and enhance flavor.  In addition, these create addictions to foods and can ultimately damage the body’s digestive, endocrine and nervous systems and seriously deplete the adrenals.

What To Eat

If you are diabetic, it all depends on what stage of the illness you are in.  Remember, everyone has a slightly different situation, so before embarking on changing your diet, please be sure to consult with myself or another qualified, licensed practitioner to find out what would be best for you.

That said, the following are some general recommendations:

Carbohydrates – Eat all the vegetables you want!  Focus on leafy greens, green vegetables and other colorful veggies that grow above ground.  Limit other starches like potatoes, bread and grains to no more than 2 small servings per day, or less than 60 grams per day.  Veggies should make up at least 50% of your daily food intake.  Fruit should be limited to one serving per day, eaten with some sort of fat in order to slow down the process of fruit sugar entering the bloodstream (see below).

Proteins – In moderation, but more than starchy carbs.  If you are vegetarian/vegan and diabetic (yes, there are many vegetarians/vegans who are diabetic, due to the high starchy carb intake), easy-to-digest nuts, seeds, fermented soy (tempeh, miso, natto), high quality organic cheese and small amounts of beans work well.  For omnivores, fish, eggs and fowl may be consumed.  Two to three servings of protein per day for all diabetics are generally advised.

Fats – These are also in moderation, but are vital, especially when consuming fewer starchy carbohydrates.  Fats are important for many reasons, the most important being that they are catalysts for balanced hormone production, and help reduce inflammation in all chronic illnesses.  Foods like avocado, butter/ghee, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds and their butters, and high quality fish oils will provide the best fat that the body needs to help with the healing process.  No need to worry about gaining lots of weight when consuming these types of fats in moderation – the body will metabolize and burn these calories first when the diet is low in carbohydrates.

Beverages – Water is the beverage of choice, though unsweetened herbal or green tea may also be consumed.

Other Considerations

  1. Find out if you have any food sensitivities or food allergies.  If so, you will want to eliminate those foods from your diet (at least for a while).  If you’ve been eating foods to which you are sensitive, these may have created the problem and may be key in addressing the disease, or even reversing the damage.
  2. Nutritional supplementation and/or herbal medicine are often necessary to help heal the digestive/pancreatic/endocrine systems.
  3. Cleansing the liver and other organs and pathways of elimination are vital to achieving and maintaining balance in the body.  Similar to the oil change that we do for our cars, cleansing the liver can be revitalizing, giving the body more energy, enhancing sleep, and allowing the body to more efficiently absorb nutrients.

Turn The Type 2 Diabetes Epidemic Around For Future Generations

There are several things that we each can do to turn this epidemic around and eradicate type 2 Diabetes.  Our future generations will thank us for it!

  • Eat organic!  Whether fruit, vegetables, dairy, eggs or other animal products, this gives a message to those who produce the food that a) we insist on healthy foods that are non-GMO, free of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides; and that b) there is proper attention and respect being paid to the soil and to the earth.
  • Eat locally grown foods.  Shop at your local farmer’s market and support the smaller farms.
  • Start composting and growing some of your own food.  You can do this even if you live in an apartment!  Alternatively, join one of the many community co-ops that are sprouting up where you can rent a small plot of land that will allow you to grow food.
  • Stop eating boxed and refined foods.  Prepare your own meals as much as possible, preferably from scratch – even if it’s just once a week!
  • Eat to live, rather than live to eat.

Laughter is the best medicineThe holidays often bring a time of great family time, tasty treats, and heartfelt giving.  This can also be a time of high stress – more so than any other time of the year.  The suicide and crime rates tend to increase, and individuals and families may seem to experience more feelings of loss during this time of year.  With so many expectations placed on us, stressors can bring joy from being with family and friends, as well as difficulty in coping with life.

Stress may manifest in our lives and society in many ways.  Whether we live in an urban or rural environment, stressors are many:

  • Making ends meet
  • Raising children
  • Meeting deadlines, imposed by work, society, nature or self
  • Being social with family friends, colleagues, etc.
  • Sitting in traffic
  • Over-booking/over-committing
  • Over-working
  • Setting proper boundaries with others
  • Worrying about loved ones who are ill or who have chosen damaging paths for themselves
  • Trauma, past or present

How can too much stress impact your health?

It has a great influence in several ways.

Being stressed out tells your body to release more of the hormones adrenaline (aka epinephrine) and cortisol.  Adrenaline is the fight-flight hormone housed in the adrenal cortex.  Designed to protect you against life-threatening attackers like bears, tigers or oncoming vehicles, adrenaline is used in very minute amounts rather infrequently as a source of pure energy.  This energy is to be used in emergency situations to keep a person alive, as opposed to the day-to-day energy that is needed to thrive.

Today, high stress can engender a constant low-grade flow of adrenaline in the body, setting it up for adrenal fatigue and inflammatory illness.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is normally released every morning to wake us up, give us energy, and allow us to move through our day with ease and grace.  Toward the evening, cortisol levels in the body drop, allowing us to naturally move into a restful, sleep state.  It is during this sleep state that the body’s immune and endocrine systems repair and balance the body.

When there is high stress, cortisol works in concert with adrenaline, continuing to release high levels of the steroid.  The problems resulting from this combination are many:

  • Insomnia
  • Palpitations
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Achy joints
  • Hormone imbalances for both women and men
  • Weight gain
  • Chronic inflammation processes, like arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes
  • Auto-Immune diseases, like Crohn’s, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

So, how do you deal with the stressors of life?

There are six ways, from this writer’s vantage point:

  • Meditation
  • Good Nutrition
  • Supplementation
  • Exercise/Movement/Deep Breathing
  • Natural treatment modalities like acupuncture
  • Laughter

Meditation – or being still – helps us to re-connect with our Source, our Higher Self on a regular basis.  This not only gives us better focus, but is also a reminder that many of today’s stresses can be controlled simply by being patient and loving with ourselves and others.

Good Nutrition gives your body natural energy, allowing it to be fully functional.  Eating high-quality food at regular intervals keeps blood sugar even.  This makes it possible to more easily handle certain stressors that might normally seem daunting.

Supplementation is vital, as many of us are missing those very nutrients in our diet that will balance the hormone and immune systems and relieve inflammatory processes caused by chronic imbalance.

Exercise, movement and deep breathing do a few things.  They:

  • Tone the body
  • Help to burn calories
  • Assist with weight loss
  • Increase oxygen levels in the body
  • Increase blood circulation
  • Release dopamine and endorphins that help stop pain and elevate the mood

Treatment with acupuncture and several other modalities of traditional Chinese medicine can do the following to jumpstart your body to heal:

  • Balance all hormones, including adrenaline & cortisol
  • Aid with sleep and relaxation
  • Reduce/manage pain
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Reduce cravings for certain substances/foods that are detrimental to health
  • Reduce weight
  • Elevate mood
  • Regulate the immune system
  • Relieve and reduce inflammation
  • Balance blood circulation

Laughter is a must.  Whether you like to watch funny movies, your favorite comedy show, or engage in an activity that engenders healthy laughter, this contributes greatly in reducing stress by making life a little bit lighter.

We will often have stressors showing up in life.  But stress is manageable and doesn’t have to impact our health.  When taking proper precautions and utilizing treatment methods outlined above, we can unplug from the matrix and manage that stress – like water off a duck’s back!

HAVE A HAPPY, HEALTHY, FUN, SAFE, STRESS-FREE HOLIDAY SEASON!

Health MatrixI consider myself an intelligent person.  Logic and rationalization of what makes sense in life have always been important to me.  I suspect you had similar experiences as well.  As a result, life has been a journey of adventures, discoveries, and yes, some hard-learned lessons.

Nutrition, especially as it relates to the U.S. food industry, is an area with which I have found myself preoccupied over the past several years.  I have attempted to use logic and rationalization in order to fully understand what it is truly all about.

There have been many “eureka” moments on the subject of nutrition.  But what I have recently become aware of is that even those “eureka” moments were fueled – partly by my own ignorance – and partly by external forces like the media, the various food industries, the FDA and the AMA, to name a few.

While one’s awareness is constantly changing and updating, a major shift in my awareness started about two years ago when I began coursework, did research and wrote a thesis on type 2 diabetes.

What I found did a few things:

  • Outlined the sheer worldwide epidemic of type 2 diabetes, not just isolated to certain groups of people in the U.S.
  • Virtually everyone is affected by these trends, whether they develop Diabetes or not.
  • A proverbial monster has been created in that the eradication of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases is virtually impossible without grassroots education and restructuring of nutrition and lifestyle.

My very own beliefs about health and nutrition have been turned upside-down as result.  I realized I have been “plugged into the matrix,” unconscious and unaware of many myths about nutrition that affect our health in negative ways.  I suspect the same may be true for you as well.

Some of these myths include:

  • A low-fat diet is the healthiest diet
  • A low-fat diet is best when wanting to lose weight
  • Coconut oil and butter are ‘bad’ for you
  • Multivitamins with megadoses of synthetic isolates are good for your body

On the other hand, there are certain facts that do remain true:

  • Despite decades of low-fat eating, cardiovascular disease remains the #1 cause of death in the U.S.
  • Cancer is the 2nd cause of death in the U.S.
  • Despite public health education on healthy eating, type 2 diabetes has exploded exponentially and worldwide in the past 50 years, with no sign of letting up
  • Auto-immune disease and other chronic illnesses are also increasing at a very high rate, with 1/11 Americans contracting these illnesses
  • Among industrialized nations, U.S. citizens spend the most money on pharmaceuticals, yet rank #45 in the world in terms of good health practices, with several non-industrialized nations faring better than the U.S.
  • For the first time in recorded history, it is estimated that the average lifespan of our children’s generation will actually decrease!

Please join me these next few months in a series of presentations and discussions that will explore the truth about nutrition and how it affects your health.  Unplug yourself from the matrix and begin to truly think outside the box!  Allow right-thinking to emerge for the sake of yourself and your family, your community – indeed your planet.

Doris-Owanda Johnson, Ph.D., L.Ac.