Defeat Diabetes

| September/October 2006

Last year, my friend Will, age 49, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. His doctor warned that if he didn’t test his blood sugar daily and take all sorts of drugs and eventually inject insulin, he would lose his legs and die a horrible, premature death. In a panic, Will called me and asked what he should do. Several things, I said — starting with dumping that doctor.

The bad news, I told him, is that the U.S. diabetes rate has jumped more than 50 percent since 1983. Some 16 million Americans are now diabetic. If current trends continue, one-third of Americans born in the 21st century might develop the disease, according to a 2003 article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The good news is that type 2 diabetes — the type 95 percent of American diabetics have — can be completely eliminated. In most cases, all it takes is lifestyle adjustments complemented by herbal medicine.

Diabetes is two different diseases, both involving the hormone insulin. In type 1, which typically strikes before age 25 and only accounts for about 5 percent of the disease, the pancreas stops producing insulin, which is required to usher blood sugar (glucose) into the body’s cells. Type 1 diabetics must inject insulin.

Type 2 diabetes typically develops after age 40, either because the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or because the cells become “resistant” and can’t use it.

In both types of diabetes, sugar builds up in the blood and causes the blood to become sticky. Eventually, this sticky blood gums up the blood vessels and causes the condition’s complications: cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke); poor wound healing; and problems with the eyes, kidneys, legs, nervous system and sexual organs.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by bad luck. Type 2 is strongly associated with obesity and the lifestyle that causes it: lack of exercise and a diet low in fruits and vegetables, and high in sugar, fat and animal products. As weight increases, the body’s cells become insulin resistant.

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