Hold on to your hats. I’m back on my soapbox... Last month I began our discussion of type 2 diabetes with a focus on insulin resistance. This month, let’s examine some other aspects of this disease. Blood sugar levels in the body are controlled by a delicate dance between the pancreas and the adrenals. The adrenal glands sit atop our kidneys and, among their other duties, produce a hormone called cortisol. This hormone increases in response to stress, inflammation and low blood sugar. Cortisol is responsible for breaking down the tissues of the body to make glucose (sugar), which is used as fuel. You see, having low blood glucose is stressful for the body. The brain needs glucose for energy. Simply put, when cortisol goes up, so does blood sugar.
In addition, over time, cortisol contributes to weight gain around the belly and insulin resistance. Do you remember the other reasons cortisol will rise? Stress and inflammation! Think of inflammation as biochemical stress. This is why diabetics have a more difficult time controlling blood sugar levels when they are stressed out—cortisol is running amok. You might be saying to yourself, “type 2 diabetes is genetic.” You are right in that it is an inherited tendency. However, think of your body as a chain. Your genetics determine which links are weakest. Now add some stress to that chain and guess which links break. Since we can’t change our genes, change the amount of stress.
Take Control of Your Diabetes!
Here are some tips to help manage your mental, emotional and biochemical stress, and improve the symptoms of diabetes:
- Routinely use meditation, prayer, gentle exercise, counseling, journaling, gardening or any other calming activity you enjoy to help you relax.
- Consider consulting a counselor to help you learn to manage stress. These well-trained professionals can offer you tools to handle life’s challenges.
- Reduce allergenic or inflammatory foods in your diet. Common allergens are wheat, dairy, tomatoes, potatoes, soy, corn, eggs, peanuts and citrus fruits. (I know this sounds weird, but just try it. I once had a diabetic patient whose blood sugars normalized when he stopped consuming tomatoes. This includes tomato-based products. Since then, I have seen this over and over with patients.) Inflammatory foods include sugar, high fructose corn syrup, trans- and hydrogenated fats, caffeine, alcohol and processed “foodstuffs.”
- Eat anti-inflammatory foods such as vegetables, nuts, seeds and fish. Use anti-inflammatory herbs in cooking, such as turmeric and garlic.
- Improve your digestion. Take a high quality probiotic every day. (L. acidophilus, L. bifidus, etc.) Try ½ tsp of apple cider vinegar in ½ cup of water 15 minutes before meals to enhance digestion. Digestive enzymes may be helpful to reduce allergenic exposure in the digestive tract.
- Take supplements that encourage your body to function optimally. The following supplements may be useful in quelling the stress response and supporting your adrenal glands: Vitamin B complex, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and vitamin C.
For those of you who follow my postings, you may have heard some of this before. The reason is simple: these suggestions help the health of the whole body, not just one disease. Like many health problems, type 2 diabetes can be effectively managed holistically. So, climb up on this soapbox with me and let’s create change together. The view is pretty good from up here.
Take care of your (whole) self—
Amy Bader, ND