For over a decade, Cummings and others have tried to reframe the very concept of bariatric surgery (they prefer “metabolic surgery”). Their work has shown these procedures just don’t change how much food the stomach can fit; they trigger a cascade of metabolic and bodily changes, many of which help people with type 2 diabetes naturally get their blood sugar under control. Some changes even start happening before a patient loses weight, such as higher levels of peptide production in the gut that seem to restore a patient’s sensitivity to insulin.
James Collip refined Banting and Best’s insulin extraction and purification method. The new substance was tested in the first human in 1922. 14-year old Leonard Thompson was in a critical condition. He was given an insulin injection in his buttocks. This had a negative affect on him and he grew sicker. Collip worked to improve the insulin’s quality and Thompson received another injection soon after. This time, it lowered his blood sugar and saved his life.
Diabetes is classically divided into three types: upper, middle, and lower Xiao-ke. Each has characteristic symptoms. The upper type is characterized by excessive thirst, the middle by excessive hunger, and the lower by excessive urination. These types are closely associated with the lungs, stomach, and kidneys, respectively, and all three are associated with Yin deficiency. At some point during the course of their illness, most people with diabetes manifest symptoms of all three types.
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.
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The study, published in Diabetes Care, measured C-peptide, which is produced at the same time and in the same quantities as the insulin that regulates our blood sugar. By measuring C-peptide levels in blood or in urine, scientists can tell how much insulin a person is producing themselves, even if they are taking insulin injections as treatment. The team studied 1,549 people with Type 1 diabetes from Exeter, England and Tayside, Scotland in the UNITED study.
Called ALA for short, this vitamin-like substance neutralizes many types of free radicals. A build-up of free radicals, caused in part by high blood sugar, can lead to nerve damage and other problems. ALA may also help muscle cells take up blood sugar. In a German study, a team of scientists had 40 adults take either an ALA supplement or a placebo. At the end of the four-week study, the ALA group had improved their insulin sensitivity 27 percent. The placebo group showed no improvement. Other studies have shown a decrease in nerve pain, numbness, and burning.
One of the lesser known herbs that lower blood sugar, Marjoram, is high in polyphenols, which aids in stabilizing blood glucose levels. A 2012 study in the Journal of Evidence Based Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that Marjoram reduced formation of Advanced Glycation End (AGE) products. AGE is the smoking gun that researchers today say is responsible for a lot of the complications that diabetics face, like damage to arteries and eyes. Try sprinkling marjoram on your dinner every night to help add variety in flavor. It can often be used as a substitute for oregano in cooking and brings in a distinct flavor to dishes.
Dr. Fung says he decided to experiment with intermittent fasting because he was frustrated seeing so many diabetic patients with kidney failure. “It occurred to me that fasting was an underutilized therapeutic option for losing weight,” he recalls. “I started doing this five years ago, and a lot of people got incredibly good results – it reversed their diabetes.”
There are many promising studies suggesting chromium supplementation may be effective, but they are far from conclusive. For example, a small study published in the journal Diabetes Care compared the diabetes medication sulfonylurea taken with 1,000 mcg of chromium to sulfonylurea taken with a placebo. After 6 months, people who did not take chromium had a significant increase in body weight, body fat, and abdominal fat, whereas people taking the chromium had significant improvements in insulin sensitivity.
The most commonly prescribed oral medication for type 2 diabetes is metformin. “Usually it’s the first line of treatment for all people with type 2 diabetes if their kidney function is normal,” Dr. Gupta says. In fact, a survey published in November 2015 in the journal JAMA found that metformin was one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States.
Aside from the financial costs of diabetes, the more frightening findings are the complications and co-existing conditions. In 2014, 7.2 million hospital discharges were reported with diabetes as a listed diagnosis. Patients with diabetes were treated for major cardiovascular diseases, ischemic heart disease, stroke, lower-extremity amputation and diabetic ketoacidosis.
People with diabetes are unable to control the level of sugar in their blood, usually due to a breakdown in how their bodies use the hormone insulin. It’s not completely clear how obesity can contribute to diabetes, but it is known that excess weight is associated with chronic inflammation and a dysfunctional metabolism. And these factors in turn make it easier for someone to stop responding to the presence of insulin as easily as they once did. So by using surgery to help very obese people with diabetes lose weight, the logic goes, you can indirectly treat or prevent the condition. But doctors such as David Cummings, a senior investigator at the University of Washington’s Diabetes & Obesity Center of Excellence, are pushing back against this way of thinking.
First, the health of your gut is critical to your overall health. This is because your gut is home of trillions of microbes called the gut microbiome. These microbes work in symbiotic and antagonistic relationships within your body. A 2017 study using multiple therapies to manipulate the gut microbiome composition, found they could impact the individual’s health more rapidly. This study also found manipulating the gut microbiome as an effective way to avoid insulin resistance and therefore prevent diabetes.