More than 23 million Americans suffer from diabetes—a full 8 percent of the population. The vast majority of those cases are Type 2 diabetes, however, which experts believe is largely preventable. In honor of Diabetes Month, here’s what you need to know about the different types of this disease.
Type 1 diabetes (formerly juvenile diabetes)
Usually diagnosed in children and young adults, this type occurs when the body stops producing insulin, a hormone need to convert nutrients into energy. It’s a result of an auto-immune disorder in which the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
Type 2 diabetes
According to the American Diabetes Association, an estimated 5.7 million people in America are as yet undiagnosed with Type 2 or are pre-diabetic. People with this more common form either do not produce enough insulin or their cells “ignore” the insulin they do produce. Instead of moving normally into your cells to produce energy, the insulin builds up in the bloodstream.
This imbalance leads to symptoms such as increased thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, slow-healing sores and frequent infections. While these symptoms come with the full onset of Type 2, they are prefaced by a cautionary period called “pre-diabetes,” which is indicated by heightened glucose levels.
Though experts are unclear about exactly why Type 2 occurs, there seem to be direct correlations between Type 2 and excess body fat and inactivity. In addition, certain ethnic groups—including African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans—are more at risk for this type. We spoke with herbalist Lisa Ayala at our new Menlo Park store about how she counsels pre-diabetic and diabetic clients. “A lot of people can control Type 2 diabetes with diet,” she says. “I’ve seen miracles.”
“The first thing you need to do is get the sugar out of your life,” says Lisa. “Eliminate foods such as white rice, and pasta and breads made with white flour.” She also recommends removing fruits from your diet that are high on the glycemic index—like dates, figs, raisins and bananas. These changes can be helpful for anyone, Lisa says, including those who are diabetic, pre-diabetic or just looking for overall good health.
Diabetics or pre-diabetics should also be regularly checking their blood sugar levels with a medical doctor. While there are home glucose tests, Lisa recommends getting a full blood test so that you can see everything that’s going on—including any other issues that might affect blood chemistry. The doctor can then prescribe necessary medications, and practitioners like Lisa can come alongside and help develop a nutritional support protocol, either through dietary supplements or herbs. “It’s dependent on the person, but I often suggest things like cinnamon, bitter melon and fenugreek,” she says.
Lisa also recommends starting with a colon cleanse that is appropriate for your body type to help kick-start the reduction of sugar in your system. Add some probiotics and enzymes to help support the digestive system, including the pancreas, which a key player in the diabetes disease. And finally, make sure you’re getting enough exercise, since it can help burn up excess sugar in the system (the American Diabetes Association suggests that even 30 minutes, five times a week can help reduce your risk).
With these steps, “You’re helping to balance the body chemistry, and changing the terrain of the body—not just treating symptoms,” Lisa says. “We work in baby steps, but you have to get a grip on it or it can blossom into other health problems.”
If you or someone you know may be pre-diabetic, speak to a Pharmaca practitioner today to get advice about exercise, nutrition and which blood-sugar-regulating supplements may be helpful. We’ve also recently expanded our product selection for people dealing with diabetes, including glucose meters, herbs and supplements, as well as drinks and snacks developed for diabetics.
Sources: American Diabetes Association and Mayo Clinic