According to TCM, diet plays an important role in maintaining health and treating disease. In the TCM paradigm, foods are valued and prescribed for their energetic and therapeutic properties rather than solely for their chemical makeup. Attention is paid to the quantity, quality, method of preparation, and time of food intake, as well as to the patient’s body type, age, vitality; geographic location; and seasonal influences.
Type 2 diabetes results when the body is unable to produce the amount of insulin it needs to convert food into energy or when it is unable to use insulin appropriately. Sometimes the body is actually producing more insulin than is needed by a person to keep blood glucose in a normal range. Yet blood glucose remains high, because the body's cells are resistant to the effects of insulin. Physicians and scientists believe that type 2 diabetes is caused by many factors, including insufficient insulin and insulin resistance. They increasingly believe that the relative contribution each factor makes toward causing diabetes varies from person to person.
In 1991, the National Institutes of Health issued a consensus statement, cautiously recommending surgery as a treatment for people living with morbid obesity, meaning they have a body mass index, or BMI, over 40. For people who have health complications connected to obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, the limit goes down to a BMI of 35. Relying on these guidelines, insurance companies and public payers like Medicaid and Medicare typically only cover surgery for people living with diabetes who fall into that category.
A: Fasting plasma glucose and weight change 2 years after randomization either to gastric banding or to intensive medical therapy for weight loss and glucose control. Data plotted with permission from Dixon et al. (13). B: Early changes in fasting plasma glucose level following pancreatoduodenal bypass surgery. A decrease into the normal range was seen within 7 days. Reproduced with permission from Taylor (98).
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Conventional: A dietary pattern that includes carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and low-fat milk is encouraged for good health. Carbohydrate intake should be monitored using carbohydrate counting or experienced-based estimation. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for digestible carbohydrates is 130 g/day, which will provide a sufficient amount of glucose needed to fuel the central nervous system without reliance on glucose production from protein or fat. Using foods with a low glycemic index that are rich in fiber and other important nutrients is encouraged.
Patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes may discover that if they are overweight at diagnosis and then lose weight and begin regular physical activity, their blood glucose returns to normal. Does this mean diabetes has disappeared? No. The development of type 2 diabetes is a gradual process, too, in which the body becomes unable to produce enough insulin for its needs and/or the body's cells become resistant to insulin's effects. Gradually the patient goes from having "impaired glucose tolerance" — a decreased but still adequate ability to convert food into energy — to having "diabetes."
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.
“The cell is the original smart machine,” notes Crystal Nyitray, PhD, on the website of Encellin, the biotech start-up she founded in 2016. “All drugs, devices, and even digital health approaches are trying to restore or copy these functions. At Encellin, we believe in the human cell and creating a safe and reliable solution for patients. We are creating a technology to promote cell function and protection.”
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.
2. Biguanides Metformin is the only form of biguanide currently available. While it may promote modest weight loss and a slight decline in LDL, or "bad," cholesterol, side effects may include nausea, diarrhea, and (when other risk factors are present) the harmful buildup of lactic acid. Glucophage, Glumteza, and Riomet are some brand-name types of metformin available for use.
The reason the body stops producing insulin is that it kills off the pancreas’ beta cells, which produce insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes must get their insulin from injections or ingestion, a cumbersome and often imprecise task. Too little insulin and blood sugar levels stay high for extended periods, potentially damaging the body; too much and blood sugar levels crash, possibly causing a person with diabetes to faint or experience an even worse problems, such as a stroke.
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.
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.
Another factor to consider when determining when to take your diabetes medicines is how well you can follow the regimen your doctor recommends. For any drugs to be effective, you have to take them. Ideally, your medication schedule should be incorporated into your daily routine; only having to remember to take your diabetes pills once a day may make things easier for you. Not much evidence is available that taking saxagliptin and glipizide at different times will provide a better blood-glucose-lowering effect. The most important thing is to take them regularly and without missing any doses. In addition to taking the diabetes medicines you’ve been prescribed, other ways to help improve your blood glucose levels are to engage in healthy lifestyle habits, such as regular physical activity and a healthy diet.
The ripe fruit of this cactus has been shown in some small studies to lower blood sugar levels. You may be able to find the fruit in your grocery store, but if not, look for it as a juice or powder at health food stores. Researchers speculate that the fruit may possibly lower blood sugar because it contains components that work similarly to insulin. The fruit is also high in fiber. Try these foods for the best diabetic diet.
“I am extremely pleased to see that technology developed in Tejal Desai’s group is getting to the point that we can explore this for therapeutic purposes,” Matthias Hebrok, PhD, the director of the Diabetes Center at UCSF and a member of Encellin’s scientific advisory board, noted on the UCSF website. “Encapsulation and protection of islet cells remain a critical hurdle that needs to be overcome before cell therapy becomes a reality in type 1 diabetes.”
If I could only prescribe one supplement for a diabetes patient, I would prescribe R-alpha-lipoic acid. Alpha-lipoic acid has numerous benefits to the diabetic patient. It is a water- and fat-soluble antioxidant and has been shown to protect patients with fatty liver from liver disease progression. It can help reduce insulin resistance and has been shown to protect people with diabetes from developing complications in their nerves, eyes, and kidneys. R-ALA can prevent glycosylation of proteins, which reduces the A1C level. It is safe, although very rarely it can cause stomach upset. Alpha-lipoic acid is listed either as ALA or R-ALA. When listed as ALA, this means it contains two forms—the S isomer form and the R isomer form, in a 50:50 ratio. The key is to find a product that says it contains “R-ALA” instead of just “ALA.” A good daily working dose of R-ALA is 300 to 1,200 mg a day, which is the equivalent of 600 to 2,400 mg a day of regular ALA, if you buy a regular ALA listed product.
A wide scatter of absolute levels of pancreas triacylglycerol has been reported, with a tendency for higher levels in people with diabetes (57). This large population study showed overlap between diabetic and weight-matched control groups. These findings were also observed in a more recent smaller study that used a more precise method (21). Why would one person have normal β-cell function with a pancreas fat level of, for example, 8%, whereas another has type 2 diabetes with a pancreas fat level of 5%? There must be varying degrees of liposusceptibility of the metabolic organs, and this has been demonstrated in relation to ethnic differences (72). If the fat is simply not available to the body, then the susceptibility of the pancreas will not be tested, whereas if the individual acquires excess fat stores, then β-cell failure may or may not develop depending on degree of liposusceptibility. In any group of people with type 2 diabetes, simple inspection reveals that diabetes develops in some with a body mass index (BMI) in the normal or overweight range, whereas others have a very high BMI. The pathophysiologic changes in insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity are not different in obese and normal weight people (73), and the upswing in population rates of type 2 diabetes relates to a right shift in the whole BMI distribution. Hence, the person with a BMI of 24 and type 2 diabetes would in a previous era have had a BMI of 21 and no diabetes. It is clear that individual susceptibility factors determine the onset of the condition, and both genetic and epigenetic factors may contribute. Given that diabetes cannot occur without loss of acute insulin response to food, it can be postulated that this failure of acute insulin secretion could relate to both accumulation of fat and susceptibility to the adverse effect of excess fat in the pancreas.
The book instructs readers on how to use the five essentials of health to achieve a diabetes-free life. Through easy, quick exercises (how does 5 minutes a day sound?); tasty, anti-inflammatory recipes; and many other innovative tips, Dr. Fleckenstein lays out a clear, manageable plan to leave diabetes behind. And ending the struggle with blood sugar is just the start, as this 5-step plan also teaches readers how to shed 5, 10, or even 50 pounds along the way.
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)
How to prevent type 2 diabetes: Six useful steps What are the risks factors for developing type 2 diabetes, and how can we prevent it? Some factors such as blood sugar levels, body weight, fiber intake, and stress can be controlled to some extent, but others, such as age and family history cannot. Find out more about reducing the risk of developing this condition. Read now
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These findings present a hopeful option not just for improved management of the condition, but a potential cure. One that doesn’t rely on expensive medications or invasive surgery, but instead, on improved diet and lifestyle — which could also be beneficial in managing and preventing a number of other chronic conditions which are affected by weight. As Taylor told The Guardian, “The weight loss goals provided by this programme [sic] are achievable for many people. The big challenge is long-term avoidance of weight re-gain.”
O-3 oils, with both EPA and DHA, can help patients by lowering lipid panels (reduce triglycerides and cholesterol); reducing insulin resistance; reducing pain and inflammation so exercise and sleep are easier; reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure; reducing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease; preventing and treating anxiety and depression; and promoting antioxidant actions in the body and brain to help reduce developing diabetic complications.
A newer class of diabetes medication, SGLT2 includes three medicines: canagliflozin, dapagliflozin, and empagliflozin. These drugs remove extra sugar from your body by blocking it from the kidneys. It also causes your body to be more sensitive to insulin. The most common side effects caused by SGLT2 are vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections.
Currently, people with diabetes who receive a transplanted pancreas (typically not possible unless you are also having a kidney transplant) or who receive islet-cell transplants as part of a research study in the US must take these drugs so that their own body won’t attack the new cells. The drugs work, but raise risk for bacterial and viral infections as well as for mouth sores, nausea, diarrhea, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, fatigue and even some cancers.
Another popular ingredient in the Indian spice rack, curry leaves help to stabilize blood glucose levels and impact carbohydrate metabolism. An Indian study published in International Journal of Development Research studied in detail the effects curry leaves have on diabetes type 2. According to the research data, curry leaves contain a phytochemical that can help control blood sugar level in patients with Diabetes type 2 by reducing fasting and postprandial blood sugar level. Diabetic rats given a dose of about 12gm /day for a month revealed that curry leaves may treat diabetes by influencing carbohydrate metabolism and improving liver and kidney function. Also, the amazing antioxidant properties of curry leaves can boost pancreatic cell production, thereby improving insulin function.
Magnesium is a mineral found naturally in foods such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains and in nutritional supplements. Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions. It helps regulate blood sugar levels and is needed for normal muscle and nerve function, heart rhythm, immune function, blood pressure, and for bone health.
If the patient were to gain weight back or scale back on their physical activity program, high blood glucose would return. If they were to overeat at a meal, their blood glucose probably would continue to go higher than someone without diabetes. Also, the decreased insulin production and/or increased insulin resistance that led to the initial diabetes diagnosis will gradually intensify over the years and during periods of stress. In time, the patient who could maintain normal blood glucose with diet and exercise alone may discover that he or she needs to add oral diabetes medications — or perhaps even insulin injections — to keep blood glucose in a healthy range.
One benefit of these foods is that they generally promote weight loss, which is a major factor in reversing diabetes. A study following 306 diabetic individuals found that losing weight under a structured program (with the supervision of a primary care physician) resulted in almost half of the participants going into total diabetes remission. This means they were able to stay off their medications permanently (assuming they stayed on a healthy diet). Quality of life also improved by over seven points on average for the patients on the dietary regimen, while it decreased by about three points for the control group. (13)