The word 'diabetes' is borrowed from the Greek word meaning 'a siphon'. The 2nd century AD Greek physician Aretus the Cappadocian named the condition 'diabetes', explaining that patients with it had polyuria and "passed water like a siphon". Mellitus is derived from Latin, and means 'honey sweet', referring to the sugar in the urine in this condition.
Type1 diabetes mellitus, or just type 1 diabetes, is also called 'juvenile diabetes' as it almost always occurs before the age of 20 years. It is an autoimmune disorder where there is destruction of insulin producing cells of the pancreas (islets of Langerhans). This type of diabetes has to be treated with insulin, otherwise it is a fatal condition. 10% of diabetic people suffer from type 1 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes occurs in females who have not previously been diagnosed with diabetes. They exhibit high blood glucose levels during pregnancy, generally in the third trimester, reverting to normal after the birth of the baby.
Type 2 diabetes is also known as diabetes mellitus and adult-onset diabetes. 90% of diabetic people suffer from type 2 diabetes.
This newsletter is primarily concerned with type 2 diabetes and will hereafter simply be referred to as 'diabetes'. An overview of the condition, the symptoms, the causes, the risk factors and complications will be set out.
Dr Mark Hyman says "Type 2 diabetes is looming as the biggest epidemic and public health issue in human history. Close to 300 million people are affected worldwide and another 150 million are forecast to be diagnosed by 2030. The reason? Obesity." (drhyman.com)
Diabetes is a chronic condition which, according to the American Diabetes Association, has no cure. Likewise the Mayo Clinic also states that there is no cure for type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Australia states "There is currently no cure for type 2 diabetes." (www.diabetesaustralia.com.au). Later in this newsletter we will look at the possibility, indeed the reality, that this is not so, and that diabetes can be reversed.
In a person with type 2 diabetes, the body either resists the effects of insulin or does not produce enough insulin to maintain normal glucose levels. Untreated, diabetes can be life-threatening.
Insulin is a hormone produced by special cells (islets of Langerhans) in the pancreas. Insulin is central to the regulation of carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. Insulin causes cells in the liver, muscles and fat tissues to take up glucose from the blood, storing it as glycogen in the liver and muscle.
Symptoms of Diabetes
The classic symptoms are:
- Polyuria - frequent urination
- Polydipsia - increased thirst and drinking
- Polyphagia - increased hunger.
There may also be:
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing of sores
- Frequent infections
- Weight loss.
Causes of Diabetes
Diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin. Exactly why this happens in not fully known. However, it is accepted that excess weight (a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or greater) and especially obesity (BMI of 30 or greater) and inactivity are strong contributing factors, especially in people who are genetically predisposed to the disease.
Due to either insulin resistance (there is insulin but it is unable to function normally) or low levels of insulin for the needs of the body, the glucose or sugar in the bloodstream builds up leading to the symptoms. The excess glucose in the blood is excreted in the urine, increasing the volume needing to be passed, which in turn leads to dehydration, and hence thirst and the need to drink extra fluids.
Risk Factors for Diabetes
Researchers do not fully understand why some people develop diabetes and others do not, when the same risk factors are present.
It is clear, however, that certain factors increase the risk of developing diabetes. These include:
- Weight. Being overweight is a primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes. The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant your cells become to insulin. Fat may also 'coat' the insulin molecule, thus preventing it from working. The more overweight, the higher the risk, especially once you become obese.
- Abdominal obesity. If your body stores fat primarily in your abdomen, the risk of diabetes is greater than if the body stores the excess weight, ie fat, elsewhere, such as hips and thighs. This is part of the 'metabolic syndrome' (see my September 2008 newsletter Metabolic Syndrome).
- Physical inactivity. The less active you are, the greater your risk of diabetes. Exercise helps control your weight, uses up glucose as energy and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
- Family history. Genetics predisposes you to diabetes. The risk increases if a parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes.
- Age. The risk of diabetes increases as you get older, especially after age 45.
- Prediabetes. This is the condition where the blood glucose reading is higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes. Having had this also predisposes you to diabetes later in life.
Complications of Diabetes
In the early stages, the symptoms of diabetes (type 2) may not be recognised or may be ignored. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment is essential because diabetes, untreated or inadequately treated, affects many major organs, including the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. Controlling blood glucose levels can help prevent these complications. Complications include:
- Heart and blood vessel diseases such as coronary artery disease, hypertension, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.
- Nerve damage or neuropathy especially in the legs, gastrointestinal tract, and erectile dysfunction in males.
- Eye damage such as retinopathy causing blindness, and cataracts.
- Kidney damage leading to renal failure.
- Foot complications from nerve damage and reduced blood flow, eventually leading to amputation.
- Infections, especially fungal as well as bacterial.
- Hearing problems.
- Reduced mineral density in bones, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
Diagnosis of Diabetes
A diagnosis of diabetes is generally made from the history.
It is confirmed by:
- Fasting Blood Glucose.
Fasting means that there has been nil by mouth for a minimum of 8 hours.
|Normal:||5.5 mmol/L or less||or||99 mg/dL or less|
|Pre diabetes:||5.5-7.0 mmol/L||or||100-125 mg/dL|
|Diabetes:||7.0 mmol/L or greater||or||126 mg/dL or greater.|
- Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT).
In this test, fasting blood glucose is taken as a control. 75 grams of glucose is ingested and the blood glucose levels are monitored over a 2 hour period, taken at half-hourly intervals. The GTT can be continued for 5 hours, especially if reactive hypoglycaemia is suspected. Insulin blood levels may also be measured.
In the GTT for diabetes, the 2 hour measurement is the key one. At 2 hours:
|Normal:||7.7 mmol/L or less||or||139 mg/dL or less|
|Pre diabetes:||7.7-11.0 mmol/L||or||140-199 mg/dL|
|Diabetes:||11.0 mmol/L or greater||or||200 mg/dL or greater.|
- Glycosylated Haemoglobin (HbA1c) Test.
In the blood are the red blood cells, which contain haemoglobin. Glucose ‘sticks’ to the haemoglobin, to make a ‘glycosylated haemoglobin’ molecule called haemoglobin A1c or HbA1c. The more glucose in the blood, the more HbA1c will be present in the blood.
The HbA1c test shows an average of the blood glucose levels over the previous 10-12 weeks. It does not show the highs and lows during that time, just the average. The goal in treatment is for it to be 7% or less.
A normal non-diabetic HbA1c is 3.5-5.5%.
In Australia, the blood glucose readings are in mmol/L. Diabetes Australia state that the normal range of blood glucose is 4-6 mmol/L.
Different official bodies and pathology laboratories recommend slightly different levels for normality, and in the diagnosis of diabetes. Once the diagnosis has been made, patients are encouraged to monitor their own blood glucose levels using a portable glucometer.
Management of Diabetes
The treatment of type 2 diabetes is complex and requires the supervision of a qualified professional. The 'how to' of treatment will not be dealt with here. Suffice to say that it involves weight control, exercise, diet, oral hypoglycaemic medications and if these fail to give adequate control, insulin. The possibility of complications should always be borne in mind, and appropriate management instituted as necessary.
Is it Possible to Reverse Diabetes?
Prevention is always the best way forward.
Attention to the risk factors outlined above is essential to minimize the chance of developing diabetes.
As mentioned, diabetes is a disease that is generally regarded as incurable.
A study was carried out in a small group of people, all with confirmed diabetes (all were receiving insulin), all being significantly obese. The group were placed on a raw food program for 30 days. They were supervised at an isolated retreat in Patagonia, Arizona, under the supervision of Dr Gabriel Cousens. Dr Cousens has published two books on diabetes: There is a Cure for Diabetes and Healing Diabetes is Easy.
The details of the study are available on the DVD Simply Raw. Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days (produced by Aiyana Elliot and Leda Maliga, see www.rawfor30days.com)
It was of course an uncontrolled clinical trial consisting of six patients, in a somewhat anecdotal form, six different people with vastly differing ages, races and backgrounds. Can one generalize from such a study? Some brief highlights follow.
One of the subjects was a type 1 diabetic since age 11 years. By the end of the 30 days, his insulin requirement had dropped from 70 units per day to 5 units. He had lost 20lb in weight.
Of the other five, one dropped out of the study at day 17, being unable to cope with the rigidity of an all raw food diet, even though tastefully prepared with a wide variety of dishes.
All the remaining four came off their insulin virtually within the first week, with normal blood glucose levels then maintained for the rest of the 30 days. All lost significant weight up to 32 lb. All experienced a drop in blood pressure, and cholesterol levels (for example, 219 down to 74 and 237 down to 171). All were able to cease other medications (for blood pressure etc), in one case stopping 19 medications. All experienced better energy and were mentally much more positive. Follow up at 60 days showed normal blood glucose levels without treatment.
It is of very real interest that the reversal of the diabetic state took place while they were still obese. They had all lost significant weight, but continued to be obese.
This study shows that it is possible to reverse diabetes.
But is this a ‘cure’? There are various definitions of ‘cure’:
"Relieve (a person or animal) of the symptoms of a disorder or condition (verb). A substance or treatment that cures a disease or condition (noun)."
"Restoration of health, recovery from disease. A method or course of medical treatment used to restore health."
The subjects in the above study could thus be termed 'cured' of their diabetes. More correctly, the state of diabetes had been reversed, they were no longer diabetic. However, to remain in this 'cured' state, it is essential that the new lifestyle of diet, exercise etc. is continued. Reverting to previous lifestyle, and especially the previous diet, would very likely result in a return of the diabetic state.
It is true that an exclusive raw food diet for a prolonged period of time is not easy, and most people, diabetic or otherwise, would struggle to adhere to such a strict diet.
In this author's experience, similar results, 'cure' if you wish, have been achieved in reversing diabetes with the diet recommended in:
- My September 2005 newsletter Acid / Alkaline Balance - The Ideal Diet. This recommends that 75-80% of foods should be alkali-forming and only 20-25% acid-forming for health and disease prevention.
- My March 2009 newsletter Foods for Health. This underscores the need for nutrient rich foods that are low in calories for health.
The diet recommended in these two newsletters is, in summary, to progressively reduce animal foods (acid-forming) to zero, and at the same time increase the vegetarian foods (alkali-forming), and to include more and more raw foods. This is easy to follow and is achievable by the majority of those who are serious about their health, whether to reverse existing disease or as prevention.
You do not have to be a diabetic, with the treatments necessary (who wants to have to self-administer multiple injections of insulin daily?) and the possible complications that may result. The choice is yours.
"Healing is a matter of time, but it is also a matter of opportunity."
"Extreme remedies are very appropriate for extreme diseases."
*Copyright 2012: The Huntly Centre.
Disclaimer: All material in the huntlycentre.com.au website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.
Back to the list Print friendly version