One of the key reasons for the prevalence of diabetes is the lack of proper evaluation of blood glucose, and monitoring of symptoms and risk factors, such as excess weight. This should be done from childhood, because the incidence of diabetes in kids is dramatically increasing.
Research has also shown that even a pregnancy complicated by diabetes can cause development problems in the embryo. This is reason enough why physicians are today urged to monitor glucose levels during pregnancy.
What happens in diabetes
Diabetes is a syndrome characterised by a loss of glucose homeostasis [maintenance of our body’s internal environment within tolerable limits]. The disease is progressive and associated with high risk of atherosclerosis [hardening of the arteries], kidney and nerve damage as well as blindness.
One of the major outcomes of long-standing diabetes is damage to the walls of blood vessels throughout the body. This damage, which is the result of daily surges in insulin and blood sugar, can affect body organs and parts. Eyes are damaged, producing retinopathy. Circulation, in general, is affected, which leads to cellulitis [acute infection of skin and soft tissues characterised by localised pain, swelling, and tenderness] and gangrene. The delicate network of vessels in the kidneys can get damaged too, resulting in kidney failure. This requires organ transplant or dialysis. And, not surprisingly, the heart can also get damaged, leading to heart attacks.
People tend to avoid seeing a doctor, even for an annual check-up, until they experience some problem that is causing them concern. But, with conditions cited above, if early warning signs are monitored, complications can be prevented. That having been said, I would like to discuss briefly the approach I take when a patient presents with symptoms of diabetes.
There is a powerful substance called ginkgolide-B, found in ginkgo. This substance has specific and potent pharmacological activity. It seems to increase blood circulation. One of the most powerful substances in ginkgo has proven helpful in clinical studies. This is especially good news for diabetics.
One of my patients, a 57-year-old male, came to me because he was experiencing impotency. He had a family history of diabetes and was beginning to show borderline elevations in glucose. His resistance to insulin was rising and his triglycerides and cholesterol were over 300 and dangerously high. Although his previous doctors had told him to stop eating sweets, he was extremely anxious about his diet, and wanted to know what he could do to regain his sexual potency.
We changed his diet, eliminating sweets and cakes, and recommended nutrient-packed foods such as fish, lean chicken, vegetables and salads. In addition, I recommended a variety of supplements to enhance circulation.
This included the amino acid arginine, and the B3 vitamin, niacin, both of which help dilate blood vessels. The third nutrient in my arsenal was ginkgo, at 120 mg a day, in two divided doses. Ginkgo stimulates a substance that causes cells in blood vessels to relax and ultimately dilate. After three months of treatment, I received a call late one evening from this patient to let me know the treatment was working. [Note: Always check if you are taking any type of blood-thinning medication before using ginkgo. Gingko can heighten the effects of anti-coagulants, or blood-thinning agents].
So, the inference is obvious. Our most powerful ally, that is readily available for reversing and healing the effects of free radical damage and, in particular, diabetes is careful attention to diet and supplementation with nutrients, especially those with anti-oxidant properties.
At particular risk today are our children, who depend on their parents for the food they are given.
Paediatricians, family physicians, nutritionists and dieticians, can go a long way in preventing diabetes by monitoring the diets of infants and children that come into their care, and providing the necessary guidance for parents and school personnel responsible for nutritional programmes.
Diet Holds the Edge
One of the major culprits complicating diabetes is harmful trans-fat, unhealthy hydrogenated fats and saturate diet – particularly fast-foods like hamburgers, french fries, and packaged snack foods like potato chips, popcorn etc.,
In some instances, carbohydrates can even be more of a problem because they can raise homocysteine [an amino acid in the blood] levels. Deficiencies in B vitamins directly affect homocysteine levels. The best way to normalise homocysteine levels is by first lowering the intake of carbohydrates and increasing the amounts of fruits and vegetables. For supplements, I recommend daily doses of folate and B vitamins. These simple changes can go a long way in protecting a diabetic’s health.
Peripheral neuropathy [a painful condition related to damaged peripheral nerves] can often accompany adult-onset diabetes. One patient came to me, alarmed, because she got up one morning with a feeling of numbness in her extremities, which persisted. Tests revealed that her blood glucose was a moderately high 132, her homocysteine levels were a high 20, and she had a deficiency in vitamin B12 and folic acid.
The treatment I recommended was a 10 mg dose of the B complex vitamins. I prescribed 25 mg of B6, 1,000 mcg of B12, and 800 mcg of folic acid. I added garlic pills – garlic has been shown to lower cholesterol and blood sugar – and, I suggested a low carbohydrate diet to help keep her diabetes under control.
I also gave her chromium picolinate. Finally, I added alpha lipoic acid to the mix, since it may not only improve alertness and mental clarity, but also enhance health of the nerves. An exercise regimen of daily walking and stretching was added to stimulate her circulation and help decrease her blood sugar levels. Six months later, her gait had improved, and though she experienced occasional problems, the condition has not progressed.
Alpha lipoic acid, a potent anti-oxidant, can be very beneficial in the treatment of diabetes.
Many health problems, not only diabetes, can be traced to excess sugar in the diet, because sugar itself can promote free radical damage. Both are fuel for the body and primary sources of energy, but both need to be balanced by a strong anti-oxidant defence system. Alpha lipoic acid is the only anti-oxidant that is both water and fat soluble, which means that it is easily available to all areas of the body. It readily passes through the cell membrane scavenging free radicals from sugars, not just in the bloodstream but in the very heart of the cell, thus protecting our DNA from damage and possible mutation.
Because of its potential to protect blood vessels against the damage that excess sugar can cause, alpha lipoic acid has proved very effective in treating peripheral neuropathy in diabetics. It is a recognised treatment for diabetes in Europe.
Another key anti-oxidant, n-acetyl-L-cysteine [NAC] is said to be effective in reducing the severity of diabetes by preventing the destruction of pancreatic beta cells. Research at the Centre of Nutrition in Moradabad is exploring the anti-oxidant properties of forskolin for treatment of diabetes as well as heart disease.
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