According to TCM, the major activity of the blood is to circulate through the body, nourishing and moistening the various organs and tissues. Disharmonies of the blood may manifest as “deficient” blood or “congealed” blood. If deficient blood exists and affects the entire body, the patient may present with dry skin, dizziness, and a dull complexion. Congealed blood may manifest as sharp, stabbing pains accompanied by tumors, cysts, or swelling of the organs (i.e., the liver).4 The key organs associated with blood are the heart, liver, and spleen.
The fact these improvements can happen independently of weight loss should also signify a shift in how we conceptualize both obesity and diabetes, according to Peter Billings, the Seattle bariatric surgeon who operated on Benari. Billings, a nearly 20-year veteran in the field, has started to perform surgery on other lower-BMI patients similar to Benari, though they often pay out of pocket.
You might hear of alternative or complementary treatments, such as herbal remedies and vitamin or mineral supplements. Although research continues into their possible benefits, studies thus far haven't proved their effectiveness. They also could be dangerous for kids and teens with type 1 diabetes, especially if used to replace medically recommended treatments. Talk to the diabetes health care team if you have questions.
Why do people develop prediabetes? Prediabetes develops through a combination of factors that are still being investigated. For sure, lifestyle factors (food, exercise, stress, sleep) play a role, but family history and genetics certainly do as well. It is easy to assume that prediabetes is the result of being overweight, but the relationship is not that simple. While obesity is one underlying cause of insulin resistance, many overweight individuals may never develop prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, and a minority of people with prediabetes have never been overweight. To make matters worse, it can be increasingly difficult to make healthy choices in today’s toxic food environment that steers all of us to make the wrong food choices, and there are many factors that can contribute to weight gain in addition to diet.
Herbal medicine has been an integral part of TCM for more than 2,000 years. Many herbal formulations have been developed and are used in the treatment of diabetes. The Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic), which dates from the Han Dynasty 206 B.C.–220 A.D., listed 13 herbal formulations, 9 of which were patent medicines including pills, powders, plasters, and tinctures.12 The sources of Chinese remedies are varied and include plants, minerals, and animal parts.3
Healthy fats: Medium-chained fatty acids found in coconut and red palm oil can help balance blood sugar levels, and they serve as the preferred fuel source for your body rather than sugar. Using coconut milk, ghee and grass-fed butter can also help balance out your blood sugar levels, so include these foods into your meals and smoothies. Some research actually suggests that a high-fat, low carb diet known as the keto diet may be a novel approach to reverse diabetes naturally, although you don’t technically have to go into ketosis to achieve the benefits of healthy fats in treating diabetes. (12)
Implementing integrative and functional medical nutrition therapy, I helped the patient understand that she could reverse the trajectory she was on by making lifestyle changes—and that’s what she did. We engaged in shared decision making in our ongoing nutrition consultations. Over the course of one year, her physiology and health status changed for the better. Her A1c dropped from 7.2% to 5.6%, and she no longer required medications. She continues to adhere to her new lifestyle program and is confident she’ll remain free of a diabetes diagnosis.
If the rapid changes in metabolism following bariatric surgery are a consequence of the sudden change in calorie balance, the defects in both insulin secretion and hepatic insulin sensitivity of type 2 diabetes should be correctable by change in diet alone. To test this hypothesis, a group of people with type 2 diabetes were studied before and during a 600 kcal/day diet (21). Within 7 days, liver fat decreased by 30%, becoming similar to that of the control group, and hepatic insulin sensitivity normalized (Fig. 2). The close association between liver fat content and hepatic glucose production had previously been established (20,22,23). Plasma glucose normalized by day 7 of the diet.
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But people are curing diabetes every day. It's simple and straightforward, and when you cure diabetes, you greatly reduce your risk of heart disease, obesity and cancer at the same time. The thing is, no one will cure your diabetes for you. Sure, the drug companies want to "treat" you with diabetes drugs, but you have to keep taking those for a lifetime. They don't cure anything. The only real cure can come from YOU -- by changing what you eat and increasing your exercise.
Because TCM defines diabetes as a disease characterized by Yin deficiency and excess internal heat, an example of a dietary prescription would be to consume spinach, which is cooling, “strengthens all the organs, lubricates the intestines, and promotes urination.”7 A recommendation might be to boil tea from spinach and drink 1 cup three times/day. Other foods considered to be cooling and beneficial for diabetes include vegetables and grains, such as celery, pumpkin, soybeans (i.e., tofu, soymilk), string beans, sweet potato/yam, turnips, tomato, wheat bran, and millet. Fruit remedies, which act in specific therapeutic ways, include crab apple, guava, plum, strawberry, and mulberry.7 It is generally recommended that patients eat a wide variety of seasonal foods and avoid or minimize consumption of sweets and fruits. Meals should be smaller, eaten more frequently, and eaten at regular times each day.
One easy way to increase your fat content and quit snacking is to begin your meal by eating an avocado. I and others I know have used this trick to easily quit snacking. Avocados protect you from one of the reasons some dietary research wrongly claims that high-fat diets are bad for you: the danger of gorging yourself on delicious, fatty foods. With plain avocados, there is little danger of gorging. Another danger is clogging your arteries and giving yourself heart disease. But it’s been amply shown that the blame for that falls squarely on trans fats, like margarine. If you see any product with the words “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated” in the list of ingredients, put it back, it’s a trans fat. On the other hand, any fat that comes directly from an animal or plant is not a trans fat and can be safely consumed.