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Naturopathic Treatment of Diabetes

by Chrysanthi Kazantzis

More than 30 million Americans—9.4 percent of the population—has diabetes, costing $245 billion per year. With more than 84 million adults diagnosed with prediabetes, the Centers for Disease Control state that if changes are not made, one of every three born today will become diabetic and half of all Americans will be diabetic by 2050.

The most common type of diabetes is type 2, which is characterized by insulin resistance in which the pancreas is producing insulin, but the cells have a decreased sensitivity to insulin causing blood sugar levels to stay elevated. The other two types are gestational (when a woman becomes diabetic during pregnancy), and type 1 which is an auto immune disease in which the cells in the pancreas are destroyed and can occur in both children and adults.

Consequences of uncontrolled diabetes are severe and can lead to blindness, kidney failure, increased risk of heart disease and painful nerve damage. Naturopathic medicine can help balance blood sugar levels and prevent diabetic damage. Diet and lifestyle play a major role in acquiring, treating and preventing diabetes. Many supplements and lifestyle changes are important for blood sugar control. Be sure to consult your doctor before starting any new supplements.

Alpha-lipoic Acid

This is a powerful antioxidant which prevents and treats diabetes by reducing fat accumulation. It is also important in helping with diabetic neuropathy.

Chromium

This is an important trace mineral that plays a significant role in sugar metabolism. Supplementing with chromium can control blood sugar levels and improve metabolism of carbohydrates and fats.

Cinnamon

Research has shown that cinnamon helps activate the cell membrane’s insulin receptors which increases the uptake of sugar and decreases blood sugar levels.

Here are some recommendations:

Blueberries

These are extremely high in antioxidants, specifically anthocyanins. Blueberries block carbohydrate metabolism in the intestines and have been shown to lower blood sugar levels. Eating one cup of blueberries per day may help regulate the blood sugar.

Eliminate all white foods

White grains and sugar cause rapid increases in blood sugar and insulin which can lead to weight gain and insulin resistance. Eliminate white bread, white rice, white pasta, white potatoes and white sugar. Aim to eat whole, unprocessed foods.

Increase fiber

Eating a diet rich in high fiber foods prevents and reduces the impact of elevated blood sugar. Foods high in fiber will slow the release of glucose from foods and slow down the release of glucose in the blood stream. Studies have shown that a high fiber diet reduces blood sugar levels by 10 percent. Aim for 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day.

Avoid added sugars

Start reading the labels of packaged food and avoid any food that has added sugar. Beverages such as soda, juice or energy drinks can have up to 80 grams of added sugar. The best option is to eliminate packaged foods and aim to eat a whole foods diet rich in vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds.

Dr. Chrysanthi Kazantzis is a naturopathic doctor and also holds her master’s in nutrition. She is the vice-president of the Rhode Island Association of Naturopathic Physicians, and practices at Avena Integrative Medical Center, in Putnam, CT. See ad, page ??.