Herbs For Health: Obesity and Diabetes

| 7/13/2011 12:36:42 PM

L.HoltThere’s been a lot of media focus on obesity lately, and with good reason: According to a recent report by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), obesity is a consistently growing problem. No state has decreased its incidence of obesity in the past year, and 16 states have an increased population of obese citizens. In fact, 38 states now have an obesity rate of more than 25 percent, and the state with the lowest percentage still hovers at around 20 percent. (It’s Colorado, by the way.)

One of the risks of chronic disease that can come with obesity? Type 2 diabetes. In 2003 an Herb Companion article stated that nearly 90 percent of the diabetics in our culture have type 2 diabetes, which is characterized by either a decrease in pancreatic insulin production, or cell resistance to using the insulin the body produces. Diabetes rates have tripled in ten states over the past 15 years, and in eight states 10percent of adults are now combating this illness. USA Today states that nearly 350 million adults worldwide have diabetes, and the rate is rising twice as fast in the U.S. as in Western Europe.

There are lots of debated causes for both the obesity epidemic and the rise in the number of people who have diabetes. Is it eating too much? Is the quality of our food? (Or rather, the low quality of a mainstream diet full of refined sugars and over-processed “meals?”) Is it hormonal disruptors in shampoo, or make-up, or plastics? Or maybe it’s stress, or a lack of exercise, or poor sleep?

Perhaps it’s time to stop worrying quite as much about a single cause for obesity or diabetes, and to start looking for a solution that’s more successful than a “quick fix” pill that only treats a single aspect of a disease. According to research in our archives, lifestyle changes and herbal supplement use have been shown to help people with type 2 diabetes reduce their dependence on pharmaceutical drugs and improve their body’s ability to regulate blood-sugar levels. 

The most important lifestyle elements are regular exercise (even just 30 minutes of walking per day), a diet of whole, real foods (especially foods high in fiber and low in fat or carbohydrates), and (often) weight-loss. Many obese diabetics can restore their blood-sugar balance if they reach their ideal weight, and eating smaller, regular meals rich with foods like legumes, nuts, whole grains, vegetables and fruits can help the pancreas to perform more efficiently. A supplement of guar gum has also been beneficial in increasing fiber in the diet.

Oregano and other antioxidant-rich herbs can help the body use insulin more efficiently.
Photo by tibbygirl/Courtesy Flickr