November is world diabetes month, so what better time to educate yourself on this prevalent disease than right now?
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a serious disease that causes your blood glucose level to be too high. We get glucose from the foods we eat—it’s what gives us energy. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas, and its job is to get glucose from food into the cells so that it can be used as energy.
People with diabetes either aren’t able to effectively use insulin, don’t produce enough insulin, or don’t produce any insulin at all. This causes a dangerous overload of glucose in the blood. There are a few different types of diabetes.
- Type 1 Diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes are not able to produce insulin at all. The disease usually appears in children and young adults, although it can be diagnosed at any age. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day.
- Type 2 Diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes are either not able to produce enough insulin or are not able to use insulin effectively. Type 2 diabetes usually develops in middle-aged or older adults, and it is the most common type of diabetes, accounting for 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases.
- Gestational Diabetes. This is a type of diabetes that can develop in pregnant women. It usually disappears after pregnancy, although it does increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on in life.
Other less common types of diabetes include monogenic diabetes and cystic fibrosis-related diabetes.
Diabetes can lead to serious complications over time, including heart disease, damage to internal organs such as the kidneys, and damage to the nerves, eyes, feet, and skin. If diabetes goes undetected, it can be fatal.
Symptoms of Diabetes
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes may be a lot milder than those of type 1 diabetes. If you notice the following symptoms in a child, it’s possible he or she may have type 1 diabetes.
Common signs and symptoms include:
- Urinating often
- Feeling very thirsty
- Feeling very hungry
- Extreme fatigue
- Weight loss (type 1)
- Weight gain
- Blurred vision
- Genital itching or thrush
- Cuts and wounds take longer to heal
- Tingling, pain, or numbness in hands and feet (type 2)
Symptoms may come on quickly in those with type 1 diabetes. If they are not addressed, it can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, which can lead to a fatal coma. Symptoms in type 2 diabetics may be harder to spot, but left untreated, they can lead to serious organ damage long term.
Who is Likely to Develop Diabetes?
There is evidence that diabetes has a genetic factor, although other things may contribute to a diabetes diagnosis.
The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown, although the risk is higher for someone who has a parent or sibling who has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is much more influenced by lifestyle. It develops when the body has become resistant to insulin or when the pancreas stops producing it. You have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes if:
- You are overweight or obese
- You carry excess fat in your abdomen
- You are inactive
- You have a family history of diabetes
- You are over the age of 45
- You are black, Hispanic, American Indian, or Asian-American
- You had gestational diabetes
- You have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- You have been classified as prediabetic
Living with Diabetes
People who have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes need to manage their condition with a combination of medication, exercise, and healthy eating. Since their bodies are not able to make insulin at all, they require daily monitoring and injections with insulin.
Type 2 diabetes, however, can be controlled and even reversed with lifestyle changes. By instilling healthy habits, taking supplements, and avoiding triggers, you can turn things around for yourself and make your diagnosis a lot easier to live with.
Type 2 Diabetes Natural Remedies
It may surprise you how simple it can be to reverse a diabetes diagnosis. The following natural remedies have blood-sugar-lowering properties that can be literal lifesavers of those at risk for or diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Studies show that both American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) are effective in the management of diabetes. (1)(2)(3)(4)
Across the studies, supplementation with ginseng significantly improved blood glucose levels and insulin regulation.
Turns out there are many common herbs and spices that you probably have sitting around in your pantry with antidiabetic properties.
In one study, 60 people with type 2 diabetes were given either cinnamon or a placebo for 40 days. After the 40 days, the cinnamon groups had reduced fasting glucose levels, triglyceride counts, and LDL cholesterol levels. No changes were noted in the placebo group. (5)
Studies show that fenugreek improves glycemic control and decreases insulin resistance in type 2 diabetics. (6)
The reason is that fenugreek seeds are especially high in soluble fiber, so it slows down digestion—which helps to lower blood sugar levels.
4. Indian Gooseberry (Amla)
Amla isrich in vitamin C and antioxidants, which means that it helps to reduce oxidative stress in the body—a risk factor that can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes. High levels of oxidative stress trigger inflammation, which can be enough of a push for someone who is prediabetic to become diabetic.
Traditionally, amla juice is mixed with bitter gourd juice to stimulate the pancreas and enable insulin secretion. (7)
If you’re looking for an alternative treatment for diabetes, you may want to consider CBD oil. Studies show that cannabidiol lowers fasting insulin levels and improves insulin resistance. It may be the perfect treatment for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. (8)
There are many other foods, including herbs and spices, that have been proven to reduce blood glucose levels and improve insulin resistance. If you want to lower your risk of diabetes, include the following foods in your diet:
- Aloe vera
- Basil leaves
- Bilberry extract
- Bitter gourd (karela)
- Flax seeds
Type 2 Diabetes Triggers: What to Avoid
Certain foods and environmental toxins can significantly increase your risk of developing a chronic disease like type 2 diabetes.
Avoid the following foods to ensure that your risk stays low:
- Sugar. This includes candy, sugary beverages, pastries, and other sugary processed foods and desserts.
- Refined grains. Stay away from white bread, white pasta, white rice, and other processed foods that contain little fiber. These foods essentially just turn into sugar once consumed.
- Trans fats. Trans fats are linked to inflammation, high cholesterol levels, insulin resistance, and belly fat—all risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes.
- Fried foods. Anything fried, including potato chips, french fries, doughnuts, and the like, are incredibly starchy. These foods contain advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which promote diabetes complications.
- Processed meats. Processed meats increase oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, which leads to chronic diseases, including diabetes.
- Other forms of sugar. Processed sugar isn’t the only type of sugar that can lead to diabetes. Foods like fruit, dried fruit, honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup can cause your blood sugar levels to spike as well. Eat these things in moderation.
An unhealthy diet is certainly a cause for elevated risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but it’s not the only factor. There are other triggers—not food-related—that can wreak major havoc on your body and lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.
The following environmental toxins and heavy metals should be avoided:
- BPA. Bisphenol A is a synthetic compound used in some plastics, canned goods, toys, and even medical devices. Toxic levels of BPA can have some serious long-term health effects. Look for a “BPA free” label when buying plastic products.
- Arsenic, Mercury, Cadmium, and Nickel. These heavy metals can be found in many different places, including unfiltered water, cigarettes, seafood, fluorescent light bulbs, and more. Exposure to these heavy metals is directly linked with higher diabetes risk.
- PCBs. Polychlorinated biphenyls are manmade chemicals that were widely used in many products until they were banned in the U.S. in 1979. Unfortunately, they’re pretty hard to get rid of and are still found in small organisms and fish—including some of the fish we eat.
- Phthalates. These chemicals are used in plastic products to increase their durability. An Australian study found a link between high phthalate concentrations in urine and type 2 diabetes. This hints to the fact that phthalate exposure may directly cause type 2 diabetes. To avoid them, use natural cleaning products and only buy “phthalate-free” products.
- PAHs. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are produced when coal, gas, oil, tobacco, and other things are burned. These chemicals contaminate the air when any of these things are burned. High levels of PAHs are associated with type 2 diabetes and with oxidative stress and inflammation, which increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. To reduce PAH levels, limit your exposure to cigarette smoke and try to avoid inhaling smoke from grilling or charring meat.
- Pesticides. Pesticides are chemicals that are sprayed on our crops to prevent insects, fungus, and other unwanted creatures from destroying them. The problem is that they’re extremely toxic to humans as well, and they contaminate our food, water, and air. Toxic overload leads to oxidative stress and inflammation. You can reduce your exposure by choosing organic products and distancing yourself from industrial farms.
Diabetes affects millions of people worldwide, and the vast majority of cases can be prevented or managed with lifestyle changes.
To reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, eat a nutrient-dense diet rich in whole foods and low in carbohydrates, such as the keto diet. Maintain a healthy weight with regular exercise, as being overweight is a major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. You can further reduce your risk by supplementing with natural foods and products mentioned above that are proven to reduce blood glucose levels. In addition, it’s important to know the trigger foods and products to avoid.
With the knowledge and the right attitude in place, you can find a way to live a happy, healthy life with or without a diabetes diagnosis.