Fortunately, diabetes can be prevented, which also helps avert diseases that diabetes also brings along. One of the guiding principles of naturopathic medicine is prevention, and we’re experts at helping you get your blood sugar under control!
Diabetes is improper blood sugar control. When you eat, food breaks down to a fine degree and it ends up in your blood. Depending on the food, it may cause your blood sugar levels to rise. Insulin is then released into your bloodstream so that the sugar can be transported into your cells and your metabolism can function. Over time, when your blood sugar levels are chronically high, the insulin in your body becomes less and less effective. The cells in your pancreas that create the insulin have to work harder. Cells are just like us, if they work too hard they end up losing all efficiency and burn out. As your ability to control blood sugar levels worsens, you end up with diabetes.
In some people, diabetes happens suddenly. This is called type I diabetes, and it’s an autoimmune condition where your pancreas can no longer make the insulin required and must take insulin to manage the condition.
Most people’s diabetes comes about much more slowly. Over time, as a result of unhealthy diet choices, your body stops being able to make and respond to insulin. This is called type II diabetes and is the much more common form.
Both type I and type II diabetes have genetic factors associated with them, and in fact type II diabetes has a stronger genetic component than type I diabetes. This means that if you have a family history of diabetes, your chances of developing it are higher and you have to be more careful about how you eat.
There are deadly risks associated with diabetes: heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and death all increase in people who have diabetes.
As we said, insulin is required to bring blood sugar inside cells so your metabolism can function. Some cells, however, aren’t gated by insulin, and when your blood sugar levels are high, these cells get directly damaged through oxidative processes. Your peripheral nerves (especially in your fingers and toes), certain cells in your kidneys, and cells in your retina at the back of your eyes are all at risk for damage by high blood sugar levels. Some of the first symptoms of diabetes might include changes in vision and increased urination as these cells begin to get damaged.
Hypoglycemia means low blood sugar, and it happens when people with diabetes go for too long without eating, take too much medication, or exercise too hard. It is a serious risk in diabetic patients, it can include dizziness and confusion and can even lead to a coma and death. It’s important to manage your blood sugar in a way that prevents both low and high blood sugar episodes.
The risks associated with diabetes can be greatly reduced with proper blood sugar control. You can effectively control your blood sugar by changes in your diet alone! Foods with a low glycemic index (whole, natural foods with balanced amounts of healthy fats, proteins, and carbohydrates) don’t cause the same spikes in blood sugar as refined and processed foods high in sugar.
Obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for diabetes. Losing weight, in addition to healthy diet choices, is one of the best things you can do. Naturopathic doctors are educated in clinical nutrition and can help you with diet and lifestyle coaching to help you have a balanced diet.
There are also many herbs and supplements that can help control blood sugar and prevent complications associated with diabetes. We can help you choose the ones that are right for you, and in the right doses so you can minimize the medications you have to take and reduce your risk of heart and kidney disease.