London Acupuncturist Roisin Golding for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate
“You are what you eat, so you should eat plenty of nice sweet things,” remarked the receptionist at my clinic the other day.
Mmmhmmm, beautiful theory! But untrue. Insulin makes sure of that. It’s the no-nonsense hormone with so many close connections to other chemicals in your body that a biochemist needs a computer to keep track of it.
Insulin’s primary goal is to control glucose levels in our blood. While vitamins, minerals, proteins etc. are necessary for complex chemical exchanges, glucose alone provides energy for the brain. Thus only the brain and liver are freely permeable to glucose at all times. Every other cell in the body is impermeable, unless insulin opens the cell doors.
When the body cannot produce insulin, insulin dependent diabetes (known as Type 1) results. Without insulin, cells in the body are forced to take energy from fat stores instead, which is why these diabetics are skinny.
Type 1s account for 5-10 percent of diabetics worldwide. The other 90 – 95% are non-insulin dependant, or Type 2 (even though some of these patients take insulin as a medication.)
With Type 2 diabetes, insulin is released from the pancreas, as normal, after eating. The difference is, the body no longer pays attention to it.
Ninety percent of those with Type 2 diabetes are obese. They usually have eaten a poor diet over twenty or more years. They consume refined carbohydrates (white bread, white pasta, white rice, cookies), lots of fats and very little complex carbohydrates, (brown rice, wholewheat pasta, oats, vegetables and fruit.)
Can diabetes Type 2 be cured by diet? Dr. Charles Weller, in his book, “The New Way to Live With Diabetes,” claims that remission can often be brought about by diet and exercise alone.
The majority of obese patients have enormous trouble a) sticking to a diet, and b) losing weight while they’re on one. London based nutritionist Debbie Eagle explains that this is physiologically based. Insulin insensitivity, leading to higher and higher amounts of the hormone in the blood, happens long before there are any frank symptoms, such as sugar in the urine. Yet all the while, high levels of insulin block the breakdown of fats while increasing the appetite for carbohydrates.
To understand this we need to know how the body’s chemicals communicate with each other. Think of a board room meeting, at which each chemical ‘director’ has her own agenda and are stubborn bureaucrats to boot. Everyone tries to get her own way instead of compromising.
For years the body opened its cell doors to the deluge of easy energy, it had done its best to store the excess as glycogen and then fats. Finally it realises it has enough in store to keep it going until the end of the next century. It shuts the cell doors, changes the lock, and insulin’s key no longer fits.
Insulin then calls for reinforcements from the pancreas until your blood becomes a thick soup of insulin and glucose (as well as cholesterol).
The point is not to eat a high protein low carbohydrate diet, but to increase whole foods and vegetables which supply glucose in discreet, easy to handle amounts. On its own this will increases insulin receptivity in the cells. As far back as 1930, Dr. H.P. Hemsworth demonstrated that cutting complex carbohydrates from the diet completely while replacing it with proteins or fats will quickly cause diabetes.
If you can’t bare the thought of yet another diet, simply throwing out all refined foods and eating as much of organic whole foods, fruit and vegetables as you like, could improve both your weight and your diabetes. Further, taking mineral supplements (if organic food is hard to come by) such as chromium, magnesium, B vitamins, vanadium, and omega 3 oils, will increase insulin receptivity in the cells. Essentially you, as supplier of nutrients, are becoming mediator in the chemical boardroom.
Vital minerals get washed away with sugar laden urine. One thousand years ago, long before the discovery of insulin, the Chinese used the simple test of urinating on a flat stone. The arrival of ants, rushing to lick the sugar, was taken as confirmation of ‘sugar urine disease.’ The treatment was pig’s pancreas – from where modern physicians now obtain insulin.
Gradually, within three to six months of following the new regime, your craving for carbohydrate will diminish, you will lose weight, and your blood sugar levels and insulin levels will decrease. If, in addition, you exercise regularly (for example walking an extra bus stop) you could bring about a dramatic improvement in your diabetic condition.
It’s worth it. Fifty percent of all male diabetics become impotent. Diabetes is the main cause of adult blindness. It also increases the risk of stroke fourfold.
Eagle also points to some non-diabetic complications of chronically elevated insulin: high cortisol levels contributing to obesity; high cholesterol; lower oestrogen levels contributing to polycystic ovaries (which produce excess oestrogen and is possibly a reaction to reduced oestrogen caused by high cortisol levels.) Polycystic ovaries is a common cause of infertility. Insulin may even provide a clue to the high correlation between being overweight or underweight and infertility.
So remember, sugar is sweet, but so are carrots, yams, parsnips, pumpkin and fruit – just add cinnamon, as taking 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon a day also increases insulin receptivity.