Taking Charge of Diabetes: Herbs, Diet, and Supernutrients to Reverse this Debilitating ConditionDr. Carolyn DeMarco, MD April 1, 2007
The incidence of diabetes in westernized countries is exploding. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that the prevalence of diagnosed cases of diabetes had increased by 33% between 1990 and 1998. For people in their 40s, the incidence of diabetes has increased by 40%, and for people in their 30s it increased by 70%. Even more alarming is the dramatic increase in diabetes among teenagers and children. The World Health Organization projects a 170% increase in the number of people with diabetes in developing countries, from 84 million to 228 million by 2025.
This chronic disorder of carbohydrate metabolism will, over time, increase the risk of kidney disease, atherosclerosis, blindness, and neuropathy (loss of nerve function). The alarming increase in the incidence of diabetes is almost entirely related to a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. The average American consumes between 150 and 200 pounds of refined sugar every year. The late American cardiologist Dr. Robert Atkins, author of Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution, put it this way, “the refining of carbohydrates is in reality the greatest unacknowledged cause of death in world history.”
Atkins believed that we can both prevent diabetes and treat it effectively with a high protein, low carbohydrate diet and the use of nutritional supplements and herbs. In addition, we can predict those who will develop diabetes 10 to 15 years ahead of time by measuring fasting insulin levels.
There are two different types of diabetes. Type I (juvenile onset) results from little or no insulin being produced by the pancreas. The second type, known as Type II (adult onset), is a result of too much insulin being produced and body becoming resistant to that insulin.
Type I, or insulin dependent diabetes (IDDS), usually develops under age 35, in those generally between the ages of 10 and 16. It may be caused by an autoimmune reaction after a viral infection. Type I diabetes may also be caused by a cow milk allergy which triggers an autoimmune reaction. Other triggers can be viruses, and there is some evidence that it can be induced by the hepatitis B vaccine. Type II, or non-insulin dependent diabetes (NIDD), develops more slowly, in adulthood, usually over age 40.
The usual treatment for type I diabetes is a high carbohydrate diet along with insulin injections. However, this approach does not usually normalize blood sugars well, or prevent complications.
THE ROLE OF DIET IN ADULT ONSET DIABETES
Thanks to the work of Dr. Richard Bernstein, described in his book, Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution (Little and Brown, 1997), there is a clinically tested and highly effective programme for regulating blood sugars and preventing or reversing long term complications of diabetes. In the book, Bernstein tells his own story of a progression from juvenile diabetes at the age of 12, to recovery in adulthoood. In 1969 he found out that a blood sugar meter that would give an instant reading of blood sugar had just come on the market. He began to do his own experiments on the relationship between diet and blood sugars. Within a year, his insulin requirements had dropped by two thirds and for the first time since he got diabetes he was able to gain weight and build muscle mass.
Bernstein studied the literature and found that complications of diabetes had repeatedly been prevented and even reversed in animals by normalizing blood sugars. His new lease on life allowed him to enter medical school at age forty five. Bernstein wanted to be able to help other diabetics regain control of their lives. His book was published in 1997. In a remarkable section of his book, fourteen diabetics share their experience with his programme. These case histories demonstrate that people can achieve total control of their diabetes and reverse most of the common and debilitating complications of this disease.
Hyperinsulinism is a set of symptoms that usually precedes the development of Type II diabetes by ten or more years. Excessive insulin levels are a risk for heart disease and many other illness.Dr. Gerald Reaven of Stanford University named the effects of this hyperinsulinemia as “Syndrome X”. The five major features of syndrome X include abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low levels of good cholesterol, as well as blood sugar abnormalities.
Atkins maintained there are four times more pre-diabetics than diabetics – or one third of the American population. At the Atkins Center he tested Type II diabetics routinely by drawing insulin levels before and after a high carbohydrate meal. Only 10% of diabetics had inadequate insulin levels and needed to be put on additional insulin. However, an alarming 44% of Type II diabetics are placed on insulin unnecessarily. If medication is needed, Bernstein prescribes metformin or troglitazone, which make the body’s tissues more sensitive to insulin.
The combination of high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol dramatically increases your risk of heart attack. As Atkins said, “Both problems are caused by overconsumption of refined carbohydrates and are correctable by restriction of carbohydrates.”
New research is confirming the validity of Atkin’s approach. Four papers were presented on the favourable effects of low carbohydrate diets at a 2002 conference on obesity. Test subjects on the low carb diet lost more weight and had better levels of good cholesterol and triglycerides than subjects eating a conventional high carbohydrate diet. In July 2002, a study of Atkin’s diet at Duke University in North Carolina, published in the American Journal of Medicine, showed that a low carbohydrate, high fat diet can indeed lead to significant and sustained weight loss, with an average weight loss of twenty pounds. “We were somewhat surprised to find that patients’ blood lipid profiles improved, even though there was much more fat in the diet,” said the principal investigator, Dr. Eric Westman.
In addition, a low carbohydrate diet can help people with Type II diabetes get their blood sugar under control when standard dietary changes (high carbohydrate diet) and drug treatments have failed, according to California researchers in a report published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in December 2000.
A new study published in the March 7th, 2007, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association compared the low carbohydrate diet to moderate and high carbohydrate diets in a randomized year long study of overweight and non diabetic women. Atkin’s diet was the most successful in promoting weight loss, and it did not raise blood pressure or cholesterol. In fact, the Atkin’s diet was associated with greater improvements in trigylcerides, cholesterol and blood pressure.
As a physician, I recommend the principles of the Atkins diet to my diabetic patients – in terms of low carbohydrate, low glycemic index food. At the same time, I am opposed to eating pork, beef, animal fat, trans fat, fried foods, any food with nitrates (ie. hot dogs, luncheon meats, smoked meat) and in general, excess meat. However I put no restrictions on small amounts of organic chicken and lamb. I encourage use of wild salmon, organic eggs, and organic yogurt. The high meat portion of Atkin’s diet was also never meant to be continued on a long term basis. The diet can also be modified for vegans using soy (fermented) and rice proteins.
DEALING WITH THE AUTOIMMUNE ASSAULT
With Type I diabetes, the use of a simple B vitamin can help preserve pancreatic function, if it is given within the first five years of onset. Niacinamide in doses of 30mg per kilo of body weight, up to 3000mg per day, can induce prolonged remissions and lower insulin requirements. Some newly diagnosed diabetics have experienced complete reversal of their diabetes with niacinamide supplementation. Furthermore, niacinamide can prevent the development of diabetes in high risk siblings of the diabetic child.
In addition, the use of plant sterolins balances and strengthens the immune system, and stops the assault on the pancreatic tissues. It is the only natural substance that can actually halt the autoimmune process. Various brands of plant sterolins are available as capsules or tablets in health food stores.
Food allergies may play an important role in sugar control. All children should be tested for food allergies through an elimination diet, or the more accurate Elisa blood tests. Foods that are often associated with diabetes-related problems include corn, wheat, chocolate and dairy. Dr. William Philpott, author of Victory Over Diabetes, (Keats, 1992) found that most diabetics he has treated, both Type I and II, cannot tolerate cow’s milk. Philpott believes that the cause of insulin resistance in Type II diabetics is allergic reactions to certain foods, and to a lesser extent to chemicals and inhalants. These observations were confirmed by several research studies.
VITAL NUTRIENTS FOR DIABETES
According to Dr. Julian Whitaker, author of Reversing Diabetes, the most important vitamins for diabetics of both types are vitamin C (1000 mg to 5000 mg per day), vitamin E (400 to 800 I.U per day), vitamin B6 (150 mg per day), chromium (200 micrograms per day), and magnesium (300 to 600mg) per day.
Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) – can help prevent many of the long term complications of diabetes.
Chromium – has been shown to decrease fasting blood sugar levels, lower insulin levels, and decrease total cholesterol and triglyceride level, while increasing good cholesterol. Chromium picolinate is one recommended form: while chromium helps to increase the efficiency of insulin, picolinate is a chelator which helps chromium to enter the cells.
Alpha-lipoic acid – is a sulphur containing vitamin-like substance. It assures the proper functioning of two enzymes that convert food into energy, so it plays a key role in metabolism of blood sugars. Alpha-lipoic acid has been shown to be particularly helpful for conditions arising from diabetes. It has also been proven to aid in increasing glucosal uptake in skeletal muscles, as well as enhancing insulin-stimulated glucosal disposal. A newly available version of alpha-lipoic acid, called R-dihydro-lipoic acid (R-DHLA) has been shown to offer substantially greater antioxidant and neuroprotective benefits than previous versions of alpha-lipoic acid. (For more on this go to www.lef.org/magazine/mag 2005). In general, the “R” form of alpha lipoic acid is thought to be more effective than the “S” form. It is recommended at doses of 300 to 600mg per day.
Dr. Michael Murray, in his Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements, cites a study suggesting that taking antioxidants such as vitamin E and selenium (which work together synergistically) may achieve the same results as alpha lipoic acid at lower cost.
Magnesium – Low blood levels of magnesium, widely recognized as a marker for diabetes, occur in up to 40% of diabetic patients, says Dr. Carolyn Dean in her book The Miracle of Magnesium. Dean cites the fascinating conclusions of Cornell University researcher Dr. Larry Resnick who has been investigating magnesium and the heart for over twenty years. Resnick believes that syndrome X is caused not by chronically elevated insulin levels but by a low level of magnesium, which causes insulin resistance in the first place. He states that syndrome X is caused by a high calcium to magnesium ratio, typical of the North American diet.
Coenzyme Q10 – Improves circulation and stabilizes blood sugar. An average of 80mg daily is recommended.
Onions and garlic – have demonstrated blood sugar lowering properties in several studies. One to two cloves of garlic per day are recommended.
Other important nutrients include bioflavonoids (500mg per day), zinc citrate (15mg per day), copper (2 to 4mg per day), selenium (200 micrograms per day), vanadium (15 mg per day), and omega 3 fatty acids (5 grams daily).
Cinnamon – According to Dr. Jonathan Wright, a simple herb found in your cupboard could help you control your blood sugar. Cinnamon can prevent Type II diabetes as well as help treating type one and two diabetes.
Researcher Dr. Richard Anderson isolated a part of cinnamon that closely mimics insulin activity. The part was a flavonoid called mehthydroxychalcone polymer or MHCP.
To avoid possible harmful substances found in the soluble fraction of cinnamon, it is recommended that you take one quarter to one teaspoonful of whole cinnamon daily after boiling it in water. Then you pour off the resulting watery solution for use and discard the solid remainder (containing the possibly harmful fat and oil soluble fraction).
An alternative to taking cinnamon is a product called Insulife which contains the cinnamon derivative, plus chromium and other nutrients. Contact Life Enhancement Foundation 800-543-3873 www.life-enhancement.com or tahoma-clinic.com 888-893-6878.
Coffee Berry – Few people know about the exciting health benefits of the coffee berry, the fruit that produces coffee beans (which are actually the seeds found inside the berry). The fruit is loaded with beneficial antioxidants and other potent plant nutrients that are partially destroyed during the roasting process. Phytochem- icals found in the coffee berry decrease intestinal absorption of glucose, thus reducing blood insulin levels and minimizing fat storage. In one study of 75 healthy volunteers, blood sugars were 15 to 20% lower in the group given coffee berry extracts than in the placebo group. The benefits of both cinammon and coffee berry are combined in a new product known as CINNULIN PF Forte. The latest research on both foods can be found at lef.org
Bitter Melon – One noteworthy herbal medicine is called bitter melon, also known ampalaya, a tropical fruit. Frank Murray, a health researcher and writer, has recently authored a book devoted to this plant, entitled Ampalaya – Nature’s Remedy for Type 1 and Type II Diabetes. In the book, Murray relates how extracts of this vegetable – from its leaves or from mature fruits with or without seeds – all produce increased and improved glucose tolerance. Data show that the plant’s overall hypoglycemic effects are significant in diabetics. Ampalaya is available in teas or capsules in health food stores. Or the fresh juice can be consumed three times a day, although it is rather unpleasant tasting. The book is available through Basic Health Publications, Laguna Beach California. To order call 1-800-575-8890.
Gymnema sylvester – is a plant found in tropical forests in India. Research has shown its benefits for both Type I and Type II diabetes. The suggested dose is 400mg per day.
Defatted fenugreek seeds have been shown to improve diabetic control in the dose of 50gm per day.
Blueberry – According to researcher W. Schaffer, the Caucasian blueberry found in Georgia, standardized to contain at least 18% cholorgenic and hydroxycinnmic acids, obtained through water extraction and wildcrafted at high altitudes, is a powerful herb that can be used both to prevent and treat type I and II diabetes.
Chelation Therapy – Dr. Gary Gordan, co- founder of the American College for the Advancement of Medicine, has over twenty years of clinical experience with intravenous chelation therapy. His experience showed him that people with diabetes who receive intravenous chelation have less amputations, less blindness, less real dialysis and other complications of diabetes than those on conventional treatments.
Exercise – in particular weight training, can improve insulin resistance. As Bernstein says, “Increasing lean body weight upgrades insulin sensitivity, enhances glucose transport and reduces insulin requirements, and facilitates loss of stored fat.”