By Uma Sivanathan
About 600,000 of our Hawaii residents are living with pre-diabetes or have Type 2 diabetes and the numbers are rapidly rising, according to the American Diabetes Association.
In the last 10 years, this disease has increased 70 percent among people in their 30s. Type 2 diabetes used to occur primarily in adults age 40 and older, but now up to 45 percent of new diabetic cases in children are of this type.
Let’s beat diabetes by preventing it!
In “Diet for a New America,” John Robbins states, “The scientific breakthroughs of the past 25 years have found that the same diet and life styles that can do so very much to help diabetics, are the very ones that prevent the disease in the first place.”
In his book, “The China Study,” Dr. Colin Campbell informs us that Type 2 diabetes begins with the malfunctioning of glucose (blood sugar) metabolism.
Normal metabolism goes like this: We eat food; the food is digested and the carbohydrate part is broken down into simple sugars, much of which is glucose; glucose enters the blood, and the hero hormone, insulin, is produced by the pancreas to take glucose out of the blood stream and put it into our cells.
Insulin, acting like an usher, opens doors for glucose to enter into different cells for a variety of purposes. The first cells to fill up are the muscle and liver cells, where the glucose is converted into short-term energy for immediate cell use. After the muscle and liver cells are filled up, insulin puts whatever glucose is left, into the fat cells and is stored for long-term energy and later use.
Active people have more open storage space in their muscles and liver so that is why they have a tendency to stay thinner than those who don’t exercise much. Exercising is one of the best ways to prevent diabetes.
Type 2 diabetics can produce insulin, but the insulin doesn’t do its job. This is called insulin resistance, which means that once the insulin starts “giving orders” to dispatch the blood sugar into the cells, the body doesn’t pay attention. The insulin becomes ineffective, and the blood sugar is not metabolized properly, creating uncontrolled sugar in our blood stream, which is a very toxic condition.
Keeping the body sensitive to insulin, by reducing sugar consumption, is key to preventing diabetes. It also helps keep our weight under control and reduces inflammation in our body.
Dr. Campbell goes on to say that it is so very important to prevent this disease because modern drugs and surgery offer no cure. Drugs allow diabetics to maintain a reasonably functional lifestyle, but these drugs will never treat the cause of the disease. Besides that, the cost of treating diabetes is monumental — more than $130 billion a year in the U.S.
The greatest concern is the potential consequences of the disease. Seventy percent of diabetics have high blood pressure. They are extremely vulnerable to the degeneration of the arteries, called atherosclerosis, which makes them prone to heart attacks and strokes. Less blood is brought to the eyes by the damaged arteries and 80 percent of diabetics suffer serious eye damage, leading to blindness. Circulation to the extremities is cut down and an infection can lead to gangrene and amputation. The blood supply to the kidneys is also restricted, raising the risk of kidney failure and early death.
Many of those who are pre-diabetic aren’t even aware of their risk. Symptoms that can preclude the disease are: frequent urination, extreme thirst and hunger, weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, yeast infections, other infections that do not heal easily, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, and gum problems.
A common cause for the malfunction of a diabetics’ own insulin is a high level of fat in the blood. Reducing saturated fat in the diet lowers the concentration of fat in the blood stream and allows our own insulin to do its job.
Numerous in-depth studies have proven a high fiber, low-fat, high carbohydrate diet found in whole foods, vegetables and fruits protects against diabetes. Worldwide, the disease is rare or nonexistent among peoples who have this kind of diet.
Blood sugar is measured by glycemic index (GI). The best foods are low in glycemic index, high in vitamins, particularly A, C and E, high in potassium, calcium, magnesium and lots of fiber.
Low GI foods contain less sugar and are digested more slowly, so spikes in blood sugar are avoided. Many of our tropical foods are low in sugar and high in vitamins and beneficial nutrients. These foods include taro and poi, sweet potato and its greens, avocado, kiwi, pineapple, bananas, mangoes, coconuts, mangosteen and papaya.
Other recommended foods are barley; beans; berries-blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and açaí; broccoli; dark green leafy veggies, such as kale, collards and spinach; lemons and limes; whole grains; nuts and seeds, especially flax and walnuts for omega 3s; green tea-helps the body use insulin properly; and bitter gourd-full of plant insulin; holy basil — promotes pancreatic beta cells, which store and release insulin; and the cinnamon. Healthy snacks include raw unsalted cashews, hummus, pears, apples, plums, oranges, peaches, cantaloupes, strawberries and cherries.
It is ideal to have about one teaspoon of sugar circulating in our blood stream at any given time. The foods that should be avoided are candy, cakes and sodas (12 teaspoons of sugar in 12 ounces); dried fruit, especially raisins, because the sugar is condensed by the dehydration process; fried foods contain harmful fats and oils; fruit juice — has a crazy amount of sugar; white bread, white rice and white flour.
By being conscious of what we eat, getting plenty of exercise and watching our weight, we will change the statistic that Hawai‘i has the highest rate of diabetes in the country.
May you be blessed with a happy, healthy New Year!
Informative websites on the prevention of diabetes include ehealthiq.com; dailynaturalremedies.com; E4HealthandWellness; E4DiabetesSolutions; knowzo.com; OneGreenPlanet.org; and www.diabetes.org
- Uma Sivanathan is the founder and president of Mana‘olana Center for Health and Healing. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.