Avoiding or controlling diabetes is critically important. You know that healthy diet plans can go a long way here, but is there one that is good for diabetics?
Diabetes is a chronic condition that will require a lifetime of management and, most likely, a slowly progressive need for more and more medications. We can’t cure diabetes. Or can we?
We generally don’t think of a “cure” in medicine today, unless it is cancer we are talking about. And with cancer, it is looked at as more of a goal than an outcome. As a goal, we generate emotions with such words as cancer “cure” and “survival.” Emotions lead to donations (Hey! That’s a pretty good slogan…).
Back to diabetes. For those of you have been diagnosed with diabetes, did your doctor ever really discuss a cure? From what I see in my patients the lifestyle recommendations are usually token recommendations only. Carb counting, supportive nature of artificial sweeteners like Splenda and poor promotion of exercise seem to be the norm.
The medications usually start out with some version of Metformin. We used to use the sulfonylureas like glipizide (Glucotrol), but their use seems to be decreasing. Given that the research strongly suggest that this class of medications destroys the beta cells of the pancreas, it’s probably a good thing doctors are using them less.
Add to the Metformin some blood pressure medications (just hopefully not a beta blocker like Atenolol because these will actually make your diabetes worse and increase your risk of stroke) and probably something to control your cholesterol. Just not statins, because they will probably make your diabetes worse as well.
And then we have the brand new and shiny drugs that affect GLP-1 pathways like Januvia, Byetta and Victoza. These drugs are very expensive, of unsure effectiveness beyond currently available medications and are surrounded by concerns over thyroid cancer and destruction of the pancreas (this last one is my own concern, which I have covered in a prior blog post that can be read here).
And ultimately, all paths lead to insulin.
That’s pretty much the limit of what mainstream medicine has to offer. No wonder we never discuss a “cure.”
Based on my knowledge of physiology and the vast amount of medical literature I read related to diabetes, I can tell you that a cure is very possible, provided you are willing to make some serious changes. You cannot expect an answer within the lifestyle that made you diabetic in the first place.
Diet and exercise obviously play a massive role in the way our body manages sugar handling. The right advice and motivation can go an incredibly long way. While I have covered my views of short burst aerobic activity and the positive effects on diabetes in prior blog posts, this post will look at one of the most powerful dietary approaches.
Regular readers of the Rantings will know that I am a very big fan of calorie restriction without nutrient restriction. This comes in a variety of flavors, from long term caloric restriction to alternate day caloric restriction to a short term very low calorie diet.
Our own in office weight loss program uses a very low calorie diet for 2-6 weeks to initiate weight loss.
This particular study looks at what happens in the brains of diabetics on a 4 day very low calorie diet. The results are heartening.
Before we go into the results, you need to understand what they hypothalamus does in the brain. It controls body functions such as temperature, hunger, thirst and fatigue. Let’s just say it’s really important.
In a normal person who is not diabetic, the hypothalamus responds to sugar in the bloodstream and responds appropriately. In diabetics, however, the hypothalamus becomes insensitive to glucose and does not respond the way it is supposed to. This is not a good thing.
Back to the study. Researchers put 10 type 2 diabetic males on a very low calorie diet (typically anywhere from 500-700 calories / day) and looked at what happened to glucose sensitivity in the hypothalamus.
As expected, all participants in the study showed an increase in sensitivity to glucose in the hypothalamus. (Tweet this)
What this means is that a very low calorie diet for a mere 4 days was able to begin the process of changing the diabetics system around. This is consistent with studies that have shown that insulin dependent diabetics can be off of insulin in 1 week on a very low calorie diet.
4 days of dietary changes can do something that not a single medication used to manage diabetes can do. And yet the recommendations given to diabetic patients remain rudimentary and basic and of little value.
What lengths would YOU go to to manage your diabetes?