Living Better with Diabetes

By Rebecca Huber

The Zephyr, Galesburg


An estimated 5.5 million Americans are treated for diabetes every year. Studies indicate that there are 5 million adults with undetected type II diabetes, or what is known as adult onset diabetes, and another 20 million that have impaired glucose tolerance leading to full-blown diabetes. The National Institutes of Health reports that undiagnosed diabetes is the reason behind millions losing their vision and is the third leading case of death in the United States due to poor circulation leading to heart attacks and strokes. Because diabetes can be controlled, we tend to believe that this disease does not warrant our attention, yet the numbers speak for themselves.

Type II diabetes, or maturity onset diabetes is the most common form, and is considered a chronic degenerative disease. The pancreatic gland which produces  insulin  literally wears out. Although there is a genetic predisposition to diabetes of this type, a life time of cooked and over processed foods and obesity greatly increases an individuals chances for the development of diabetes later in life.

The symptoms of diabetes vary. The most common symptoms are blurred vision, itching, unusual thirst, drowsiness, especially following a large meal, obesity, fatigue, slow healing, and numbness and tingling in the feet. It can be easily diagnosed with blood tests and if you think you may have diabetes it is vital that you see your physician promptly.

The diabetic is required to change their eating habits and at first will work closely with a dietitian so they understand the diabetic diet and its exchange list.  If the diabetic realizes that the diet changes will be for their life time, they will usually do very well. The basic diabetic diet is usually a very clean diet with a balance between protein, carbohydrates and fat — for this simple reason the diet works very well in controlling most individuals disease and prevents damage to the micro circulation of the body. The diabetic diet is so balanced that most diabetic individuals will loose weight yet not suffer the cravings of a reduced calorie diet.

Exercise is also an invaluable part of the life style change for diabetics. Exercise increases our metabolic rate allowing fats and sugars to be burned more completely. It also helps increase circulation and prevents further damage to nerve endings and capillary beds.

In addition to diet there are some basic herbs and supplements you may want to add to your regimen.  Ginseng is believed to lower the blood sugar levels and produce energy. Huckleberry helps to promote insulin production. Other beneficial herbs that help liver function, closely associated with pancreatic function, are dandelion goldenseal, and uva ursi.

Digestive enzymes are a must. The other major job of the pancreas besides the production on insulin, is to produce  enzymes for digestion.  By using a digestive enzyme, we boost pancreatic function indirectly by giving this small overworked gland a rest.

In studies the trace mineral chromium has been shown to stabilize blood sugar and increase energy. Other minerals important for the diabetic are a balanced calcium magnesium formula and copper in small doses. Copper aids protein metabolism and boosts enzyme function.

 Foods that help normalize blood sugar levels are berries, brewers yeast, dairy products, especially yogurt and kefir, fish, garlic, sauerkraut, soybeans and vegetables.

Some foods to avoid would be highly processed foods, alcohol, fried foods and fats other than small amounts of olive oil. Avoid large doses of vitamin B complex that may interfere with the absorption of insulin, fish oils, and beta carotene which the diabetic cannot covert to vitamin A.

There are several foundations and lots of literature about diabetes if you’re looking for more information try The American Diabetes Assoc, l660 Duke St, Alexandria, VA 22314, or International Diabetes Center, 5000 W. 39th St., Minneapolis, MN 55416.

Till next time, Rebecca.