Diabetes – A Wholistic Perspective on American Epidemic
Diabetes is a disease in which the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood stays too high. The word translates as “passing through,” referring to the increased urination (polyuria) that happens from the kidneys having to deal with more sugar than they can handle.
How to Know if You Have Diabetes (Diagnostic Criteria)
Pre-diabetes is defined as having both fasting sugar (glucose) between 100 and 129, andhemoglobin A1C (glycosylated hemoglobin, sugar bound to hemoglobin inside the red blood cells) between 5.7 and 6.4. Diabetes is having both fasting glucose 130 or greater, and HGB A1C of 6.5 or greater.
I really like the A1C test because it provides a two- to four-month average of blood sugar, since the lifespan of red blood cells is about four months. I recommend that all adults over 40 and anyone of any age who is overweight to have these two tests done once each year, or every two years if in an excellent state of health and fitness.
World incidence of diabetes has quadrupled in just 36 years, from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2016. World population increased by 62% in the same period, so global per capita incidence has increased more than three times faster than population growth.
Diabetes, by any definition, is an epidemic in America. A ridiculous one-third of all Americans – that’s over 105 million people – are diabetic or pre-diabetic, which is high blood sugar short of the criteria for diabetes. Of those, about 30 million – almost 10% of the US population – are diabetic, and another 75 million – some 25% of the whole country – are pre-diabetic.
What’s Happening in the Body (Pathophysiology)
There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 (T1D) is a pancreas problem. The hormonal part of the pancreas, specifically the beta cells in the Islets of Langerhans, in the endocrine tail of the pancreas, produce little or no insulin, allowing blood sugar to stay too high. Causes includevaccines, eating bleached flour, chlorine exposure, chronic low-level infections, environmental toxins, gluten,
Hormones are messengers or signals, that regulate every system and function in your body. Insulin is a critical hormone that lowers blood sugar when it gets too high. It does this by telling your cells to open up and take in the excess sugar, preventing organ failure or brain damage from high blood sugar. Insulin does the same for your body’s other fuel, which is fatty acids.
Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a liver problem. In this condition, the cells of the body, especially in the liver, muscles and fat, ignore the insulin message, leaving the sugar levels too high in the blood. This is called insulin resistance, insulin insensitivity, or insulin inefficiency. Having read some of the current research on aging, I can confidently state that you age according to how much insulin you produce. Here’s the flowchart: eating lots of sugar + refined foods + sedentary lifestyle → high insulin → insulin resistance → high blood sugar & triglycerides, chronic inflammation → diabetes, overweight & obesity, cardiovascular disease, dementia & Alzheimer’s disease, chronic pain, other chronic/degenerative disease, mitochondrial damage → cancer, autoimmune disease
In blood work, other than fasting blood glucose and HGB A1C, I like fasting insulin, a key marker for insulin resistance. The optimal range is 1-5. Borderline high is 6-9, and insulin resistance begins at 10. Unfortunately, the lab reference range (these are usually of limited value) often has an upper limit of 26.
A 2005 article in Annals of Medicine, Vol. 37, states, “Both obese and lipodystrophic [disturbed fat metabolism] patients… have an increase in the amount of fat hidden in the liver… An increase in liver fat content has been shown to predict type 2 diabetes, independently of other cardiovascular risk factors…”.
An astounding 90 million Americans – that’s 28% of the whole US population, have a fatty liver, where fat fills up and injures the liver cells (hepatocytes), usually from excess sugar. The liver, in general, converts excess sugar into fat. Too much sugar, especially the ultra-nasty high fructose corn syrup, leads to a fatty liver and insulin resistance. This causes insulin levels to rise to compensate – higher levels are needed to do the job of controlling blood sugar. T2D accounts for 90-95% of all diabetes in the US.
Causes of Diabetes (Etiology)
When a person has a poor diet and doesn’t exercise, their cells start to ignore the insulin, and so blood sugar, triglyceride (fat) and insulin levels go up. Eventually the pancreas can’t keep up with the demand for all this insulin, and it gets tired and weak, leaving the person with not enough insulin to keep blood sugar low enough. So, in advanced T2D, there’s both insulin resistance and insulin deficiency.
T2D shows up more as we age, due to the cumulative effects of a sedentary, high-sugar lifestyle. The most common age for a diabetes diagnosis is between 45 and 64.
Why all the diabetes? Did you know that about 150 years ago, the average American ate between two and five pounds of sugar per year? Today it’s between 120 and 170 pounds of sugar per person per year. That means that some Americans eat a half-pound of sugar per day! All that sugar creates insulin resistance and therefore diabetes. This is a big reason why about 10% of Americans are diabetic, and another 25% are pre-diabetic.
What’s worse is that much of that sugar intake (about 30%) is high-fructose corn syrup (HCFS), a dangerous, mercury-containing sweetener which did not exist 100 years ago. At least half of HFCS is synthetic glucose. The other half is usually extracted from genetically-modified corn, itself a toxic and carcinogenic “food’. HCFS can cause a fatty liver, a condition which now affects an amazing 28% of the entire US population (that’s 90 million people!). Your liver converts HCFS directly to fat. What’s more, eating HCFS has been shown to cause high insulin, sugar, triglycerides (blood fats) and high blood pressure.
Dangerous, useless statin drugs which lower cholesterol, dramatically increase one’s risk of diabetes, which is great if you’re a drug company. These drugs, like most drugs, do far more harm than good.
Jack, a 45-year-old diabetic patient, came in as a new patient for nutritional care. I asked him about his diet, and to keep a seven-day food diary. Jack replied that he couldn’t understand why he was diabetic, because he didn’t eat that much sugar. When I looked at his food log, I saw that he drank about a six pack of soda daily. Each of those cans of soda contains about seven tablespoons of sugar. That’s almost ½ cup of sugar from each can. Jack didn’t realize that most of his sugar (and I’ve seen this dozens of times over the years) came from he drank, not what he ate. Jack’s chosen diet contained about four cups (that’s two pounds) of sugar per day, an unbearable burden for anyone’s pancreas, liver and adrenals. His diabetes was inevitable.
Jack was a common and tragic example of the truth of the words of the late, great Dr Royal Lee, one of the greatest nutritionists of all time. Dr Lee lamented that Americans, with their diet of what he called “counterfeit” foods, were “digging their graves with their teeth,” every time they ate.
A recent observational study of 2,800 people found that those who consumed more than two servings of sugar-sweetened beverages per day had a 20% increased risk of developing T2D. And another study found that overweight adults who swapped diet sodas with water, experienced a decrease in insulin resistance and lower fasting blood sugar and insulin levels. It’s no surprise that drinking added-sugar beverages like sweetened tea, soda, or coffee with sugar increases diabetes risk.
Sugar Replaced Fat
About 100 years ago, fat made up about 50% of the calories in the American diet came from fat. Real, protective fat, mostly animal fat, and none of it hydrogenated (artificially saturated) fat. Heart disease and diabetes were present but uncommon. Today, American fat intake has dropped by a third to about 34% of calories, and lifetime heart disease risk is 50%, with one-third of American adults diagnosed with some form of cardiovascular disease. This includes 1.6 million heart attacks per year. One third of those are fatal, which is one US heart attack death per minute. It also includes 800,000 strokes per year, one-fifth of which are fatal.
We’ve replaced protective animal fats like lard, butter and beef tallow, with sugar, and hydrogenated, genetically-modified fats like corn and soybean oil. All this is causing much of the metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance) diseases, which include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and more.
Drugs for Symptoms (Conventional Medical Management)
This is all great news for the drug industry, which has pharmaceutical drugs for managing the symptoms of all these conditions. Big pHarma makes an estimated $200 billion each year from diabetes and related drugs alone. And many diabetes drugs significantly increase risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke and overall mortality.
I had a new patient come in one day saying she “used to have high blood pressure,” until she started taking a drug for it. I explained that she still had hypertension, and that the drug was simply suppressing that symptom of a deeper problem. I was like, I shared, if a rock got into her shoe and caused foot pain. If she went to a drug-happy medical doctor, she would get a prescription for a pain-relieving drug (analgesic). If she went to a wholistic practitioner like myself, I would help her get the rock out of her shoe. Two hallmarks of wholistic healthcare are root cause resolution, and the principle of “nature first, drugs last.”
We could accurately say that the food industry makes billions of dollars creating disease, the drug industry makes billions managing those diseases, and the government makes all that deadly profiteering legal. In 2002, the ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 were more profitable than the other 490 companies combined. I’m all for conscious capitalism, and love to see success in businesses that serve the “fourfold bottom line” of people, planet, presence and profit. Drug companies have proven repeatedly to pursue profits at any expense, including ethics. Government agencies like EPA, FDA and CDC are cozy with, or, more accurately, controlled by, these industries. This is part of why my mission is to help create a world of vital, resilient people who boldly make their positive contribution in the world, and stay out of the medical system entirely, except in emergencies.
In Part Two, you’ll learn how to prevent and reverse diabetes, something which I’ve done hundreds of times in practice, and which is pretty simple to do, if the person is willing to do it.