Category Archives: insulin
Agave has become a subject that elicits much passion among the health conscious. Who would have thought a simple little cactus could elicit so much emotion? I’m a firm believer that common sense and moderation are always best. Having said that, here are my thoughts on Agave:
- Agave syrup is NOT low glycemic. I once sat in a meeting with an agave salesman who claimed agave is so “low glycemic” diabetics can drink gallons of it without having it affect their glucose levels. He didn’t get the sale, and I had to politely yet firmly intervene and explain that agave is a SYRUP that is extremely high glycemic and raises blood sugars rapidly. Some studies found it has a higher glycemic rating than high fructose corn syrup and that agave has more fructose than any other sweetening agent, including HFCS. The bottom line is that it raises glucose levels very rapidly and can elevate them to a very high level. Agave is loaded with sugar. Don’t be fooled. This means it is not a good option for anyone trying to lose weight, control blood sugars or control Candida overgrowth.
- Agave is not an ancient sweetener. The agave cactus was traditionally used to make tequila. Using it to make agave syrup as a sweetener has only been popular for about 20 years. It is a new product and therefore hasn’t been on the market long enough for its health effects to be studied in detail. In addition to raising blood glucose levels very rapidly, it is also known to raise blood pressure in some people, and has been implicated in heart disease. (The fact it affects blood glucose levels means it probably raises triglycerides and therefore affects heart health.) The fact agave syrup has such a high amount of fructose in it also means it is very difficult for the liver to process. There is mounting evidence agave strains liver function and may lead to liver damage. In my opinion, agave syrup is not a healthy sweetener, but it is also not as “evil” as many accuse it of being.
- Most agave syrups are not truly natural and are not raw. Although it is possible to make agave syrup from the actual plant syrup at low temperatures, that process is extremely time-consuming and expensive. Most manufacturers prefer to make syrup by exposing the plant fibers to heat and a chemical process that converts the starch in the plant (usually the root) into a syrup. This process is obviously neither natural nor raw and creates a sweetener that is amazingly similar to high fructose corn syrup both in how it is manufactured and in how your body responds to it.
The only agave syrup I’ve found that is truly raw (never heated above 120 degrees) and which is processed in a manner that replaces some of the fiber is Xagave: http://amzn.to/13BW7Tp. I’m more comfortable with it than with any other, but do not believe it’s a good choice for daily use.
So should you use agave, or not? In my opinion, there are better options. I still encourage everyone to use more stevia and fewer sweetening agents in general. If you must use a sweetening agent, I prefer coconut (AKA palm) sugar because it has higher mineral content and is slightly lower glycemic. I think using a high-grade agave syrup occasionally is fine, but do not recommend using it as a daily sweetener.
A famous actress, mother and philanthropist’s recent announcement that she had a double mastectomy as a preventive measure against breast cancer has everyone wondering what her true risks were and whether her decision was warranted or extreme. Please let me say I very much respect her decision and her desire to protect herself out of love for her children. Any decision related to cancer and other health matters is highly personal. There are no “right” or “wrong” decisions. I applaud her for taking control of her health and making the decision which was right for her. I also strongly encourage other women to do thorough research before making a similar decision.
Her decision was reportedly based on her family history of breast cancer (her mother died at age 57 after battling the disease for a decade) and the fact she was tested for and told she has a mutation in the BRCA1 gene.
What are BRCA1 and 2 Gene Mutations?
In their normal state, the BRCA1 and 2 genes help stop abnormal cell growth. They provide a natural form of protection against breast cancer. When these genes are mutated – typically by environmental toxins and other lifestyle factors, not solely heredity – they stop providing the protection they were designed to. If left unchecked, this may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer. If is important to note that only 2% of breast cancers result from a BRCA1 or 2 gene mutation, and that less than 0.25% of the population has such mutations. While researching this article, I spoke with and read quotes from multiple MDs and surgeons who are frustrated that many women are getting elective double mastectomies who do not have the BRCA1 or 2 gene defect.
Why Preventive Mastectomies Often Fail
Unfortunately, the following factors may make the decision to have a preventive mastectomy an extreme measure offering little or no protection:
- Only 2% of breast cancers involve BRCA1 or 2 genes; and approximately only 0.25% of the general population has the mutation.
- Women who had preventive mastectomies often get breast cancer in spite of having little or no breast tissue. Tumors form where breast tissue was previously.
- Women who have preventive mastectomies often believe they are “safe” and therefore fail to make simple lifestyle changes that greatly reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.
- Genes are activated and inactivated by environmental and lifestyle factors. Having the gene may statistically increase the likelihood of cancer developing, but it is not guaranteed and the likelihood can be diminished.
- One study found the risk primarily increased when women with a BRCA1 or 2 gene mutation had their breasts exposed to radiation – such as that from a mammogram. This is significant because women with known BRCA1 or 2 gene mutations are often advised to get a mammogram every three to six months. Although this recommendation is intended to help, the excess exposure to radiation can be very harmful.
- An article published in 2011 in The Journal of the American Medical Association reported the link between the BRCA genes and breast cancer was grossly overstated. The study found that preventive surgery, at best, may only add 3-6 years of life. This low gain in life expectancy exists because preventive surgery does not provide 100% protection from breast cancer, offers no protection from other cancers, and provides no protection against other causes of death.
What Are Other Options?
The cancer industry in the US treats cancer as an “inevitable” disease that cannot be prevented instead of encouraging people to live in a way that reduces the likelihood of cancer developing. The following tips for preventing and reducing the likelihood of developing breast cancer are based on scientific data and research:
- Have thermograms done to check for breast abnormalities and tumors instead of mammograms. Thermograms are an alternative form of scan with significantly lower risks and radiation exposure. Thermograms are also known to provide higher levels of detection.
- Eat your veggies. Several studies proved cruciferous vegetables contain a phytochemical which actually turns off mutated BRCA genes. This study found as little as one serving per day of cruciferous vegetables greatly reduced cancer risks. Indole-3-Carbinol (IC3) in broccoli has also been shown to reduce the activity of the BRCA genes.
- Get out in the sun. Multiple studies have identified a connection between breast cancer and low Vitamin D levels. A study done in 2009 determined 30% of breast cancers could be prevented if men and women would maintain adequate Vitamin D levels. (On a side note, a more recent study which concluded Vitamin D was of no benefit cannot be trusted because the study used a flawed protocol. The study did not use a high enough dosage of Vitamin D to make any difference in health outcomes.) One cancer study estimated that as many as 600,000 cases of breast cancer each year could be prevented if adequate Vitamin D levels were maintained. Vitamin D plays a powerful role in genetic expression and is also known to cause the death of cancer cells. Its value in treating and preventing breast cancer should not be underestimated. (It has been proven beneficial in preventing over 16 different cancers. Are your levels adequate?)
- Maintain normal weight and insulin levels. It is commonly recognized that obesity and insulin resistance (resulting in excess amounts of insulin in the bloodstream) are connected to breast cancer. Eating a diet low in high-glycemic carbohydrates can help with weight maintenance and may help improve insulin resistance. Regular exercise is also known to reduce the likelihood of developing cancer.
- The American Institute of Cancer Research estimates that about 40% of breast cancer cases in the US – or approximately 70,000 cases per year – could be prevented using simple lifestyle changes such as making better food choices, exercising more, and choosing a diet high in natural foods. Some experts think these numbers are actually a low estimate and that significantly more cases of breast cancer could be prevented by improved lifestyle habits.
- Consume adequate amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids and limit intake of Omega-6 fatty acids. Multiple studies have shown a connection between Omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies and breast cancer. These studies also found higher rates of breast cancer among women who had excess levels of Omega-6 fatty acids compared to their Omega-3 levels. Good food sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include wild salmon, chia seeds, walnuts, sardines, olive oil, hemp seeds and eggs. Taking an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement is also a valid option. I prefer Krill Oil due to its purity and because its fatty acid content provides other benefits.
As I stated previously, decisions related to health are very personal. I encourage you to do extensive research before making extreme choices.
BRCA Genes In Breast Cancer Chemoprevention, Eliot Rosen, National Institutes of Health
High Penetrance Breast and/or Ovarian Cancer Susceptibility Genes, National Cancer Institute, 3/4/2013
BRCA1 and BRCA2 as molecular targets for phytochemicals, British Journal of Cancer
Research Interests, Donaldo Romangolo, Bio 5 Institute, University of Arizona
Comparison of Effect Sizes Associated With Biomarkers Reported in Highly Cited Individual Articles and in Subsequent Meta-analyses, John P. A. Ioannidis, MD, DSc; Journal of the American Medical Association, 2011;305(21):2200-2210. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.713
Vitamin D for cancer prevention: global perspective; Garland, C.F., et al. 2009
Vitamin D and prevention of breast cancer: pooled analysis; Garland, C.F., et al. 2007
Estrogen and Insulin Crosstalk: Breast Cancer Risk Implications. The Nurse Practitioner. 2003
Opposing effects of dietary n-3 and n-6 fatty acids on mammary carcinogenesis: The Singapore Chinese Health Study. USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, 2003
Regulation of tumor angiogenesis by dietary fatty acids and eicosanoids. Division of Nutrition and Endrocrinology, American Health Foundation. 2000
Graphics: All graphics in this post courtesy of Tips Times
“Metabolic Syndrome” refers to a group of symptoms that are increasing at an alarming rate in the U.S. and other developed countries. Metabolic Syndrome is often referred to as an “epidemic” because the number of people affected by it is increasing so rapidly. Why does this matter? Because Metabolic Syndrome is a set of conditions created by lifestyle and dietary habits. Metabolic Syndrome is known to increase the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hormonal imbalances, depression, stroke and more.
Although experts disagree on the specific causes of Metabolic Syndrome, they all agree that obesity, a high carbohydrate diet, and a diet low in fruits and vegetables are contributing factors. Other factors which may increase your risk include heredity, hormonal imbalances, lack of exercise, smoking and possibly toxic exposure from food, air and water.
The problem with Metabolic Syndrome is that no single definition of what it is and no specified set of diagnostic criteria have been defined. Many practitioners in the mainstream medical community do not believe Metabolic Syndrome exists and do not believe early identification can help improve health outcomes. There is also controversy about whether the symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome truly represent a “syndrome” or are merely a group of related symptoms which each has its own risk factors. The concern is that we have created a “disease” which truly doesn’t exist.
The bottom line is that whether you group the symptoms together and label them or not, they each represent a very real risk to health and longevity. In my practice, I work with many people who have multiple symptoms associated with Metabolic Syndrome. Addressing the issues quickly restores health. It also often results in improved self esteem and a restored positive outlook. I find that people who address Metabolic Syndrome typically experience better overall health on a long term basis.
Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
The most common symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome include:
- Weight gain in the stomach and abdomen, often in spite of exercise and decreased food intake
- Increased triglycerides and cholesterol
- Elevated blood pressure
- Fasting blood glucose levels greater than 100 mg/dL
- Higher than normal blood levels of insulin (Please see The Top 3 Blood Tests Everyone Should Request for more info)
- Mild to moderate kidney damage resulting in excess protein in the urine
- Increased systemic inflammation which may cause joint pain, water retention and other symptoms
- Increased liver enzymes due to insufficient detoxification and/or a condition called “fatty liver”
- Excess growth of Candida (yeast) in the body
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in women
- Low Testosterone in men
- Abnormal development in children
- Mental and psychological issues, ranging from mild to extreme
If you have three or more of those symptoms, please schedule an appointment with your practitioner. Ask him or her to order blood work including a complete metabolic panel, complete blood count, insulin level, A1C and complete thyroid panel. (If your doctor is unsure how to interpret these tests related to Metabolic Syndrome risk factors, please feel free to contact me to schedule a half-hour blood work interpretation consultation.)
Reversing Metabolic Syndrome
The good news is that Metabolic Syndrome can often be reversed using simple lifestyle changes. Supplements may also be used in some cases. The purpose of the recommended changes is to improve insulin sensitivity and restore balance to the endocrine system. Potential changes may include:
- Improving an exercise regimen and combining it with weight training
- Decreasing the type and quantity of carbohydrates eaten on a daily basis
- Increasing the amount of healthy fat consumed on a daily basis
- Identifying and addressing mineral deficiencies
- Improving digestion to ensure foods are adequately digested and absorbed
- Other recommendations based on the person’s specific health needs
Reversing Metabolic Syndrome is very possible, but requires the direction of a qualified practitioner. If you suspect you have Metabolic Syndrome and would like to start the process of reversing it, please contact me to schedule a consultation.
Photo courtesy of Keith Ramsey
Those of you who know me, know I have a deep passion for helping anyone affected by any form of diabetes. This is partly because Type 2 diabetes has become an epidemic, partly because the incidence of Type 1 diabetes is increasing, and partly because I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1967. I’m blessed to say I’ve lived on both sides of the “diabetes fence” and have learned a thing or two along the way.
The first thing I learned about dealing with diabetes is that what my doctor and diabetes educator told me frequently did not work. Their recommendations seemed to guarantee I used excessive amounts of insulin, had sky high blood sugars and never truly felt well. More than once I’ve had a client storm into my office, slam a sheaf of papers on my desk, and exclaim: “She’s trying to kill me!” They were referencing the dietary plan provided by their diabetes educator. This post explains why the mainstream approach often fails. (Please note the photo used in this post is courtesy of DeathbyBrokeh and is not a picture of one of my blood sugars.)
NOTE: Please follow your physician’s instructions. Do not make any changes to your care protocol without first discussing them with your physician and care team. People with Type 1 diabetes must use extreme caution and test blood glucose levels frequently when making any change to lifestyle or eating habits.
Before I dive into criticism, let me say the American Diabetes Association (ADA) has come a long way in the past forty years. They have ceased recommending a single dietary approach and are beginning to recognize that alternative eating styles “may” (in their words) have value. They admit a low glycemic eating style improves control, yet refuse to endorse it or encourage its use. They believe people with diabetes won’t comply with a diet rich in low glycemic foods, and they fail to recognize the other benefits gained from this eating style. The battle to overcome tradition in mainstream medicine is huge, so I’m encouraged to know the ADA is starting to cautiously embrace eating styles different from the status quo.
Let me also say I am NOT a fan of extreme eating styles which claim to reverse all forms of diabetes. I have seen many people’s health harmed, sometimes irreversibly, by following diets that greatly restrict nutrition. These extreme attempts at healing scare me. I prefer to use a much more balanced approach that supports the body’s own healing ability and which allows the body to rebuild and rebalance itself. It is also important to state that many people are able to reverse Type 2 diabetes, but there are less than 20 documented cases of Type 1 diabetes being reversed. I believe it’s possible, but I do not believe we know enough about autoimmune illnesses to consistently combat Type 1 diabetes and restore pancreatic function. I help people reverse Type 2 diabetes every day in my practice, but each person is very different. Not everyone is able to reverse it, and extreme caution must be used. I have tried many extreme eating styles. Each extreme style has benefits, but almost all ultimately create systemic imbalances which harm health.
The standard eating style endorsed by the ADA recommends that every person with diabetes, regardless of age, sex, weight, activity level, or type of diabetes, eat a minimum of 130 grams of carbohydrates per day. A single serving of carbohydrates is 15 grams, so consuming 130 grams of carbs every day equates to eating 8.7 servings. That is a lot of carbs! The large amount of carbs recommended concerns and shocks me. I eat 2-4 servings of low-glycemic carbohydrates every day. Doing so allows me to avoid gaining weight, maintain normal glucose levels, and use less insulin. (Please read Surprising Facts About Insulin for information on the damaging effects excess insulin has on the body.) I currently maintain A1C’s* between 5.5-6.0 and have no diabetes complications. I am extremely blessed to enjoy vibrant health in spite of having had diabetes for more than 46 years.
* In simple terms, the Glycosulated Hemoglobin (A1C) is a blood test that measures blood sugar averages. Normal is considered 4.5-6.0.
The concept of encouraging diabetics to eat high amounts of carbs and then telling them to take large amounts of insulin to counteract the effects those carbs have on blood sugar makes no sense.
The primary reason the ADA form of eating does not work is that it does nothing to improve insulin sensitivity and fails to combat the cause of high blood sugars. Effectively controlling all forms of diabetes requires maintaining adequate insulin sensitivity and eating in a way that does not greatly elevate blood sugars. The ADA style of eating tends to decrease insulin sensitivity in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics because it encourages eating large amounts of high-glycemic carbohydrates. (Insulin resistance is as large a problem in Type 1 diabetics as it is in Type 2 diabetics. Learn more about it here: Top Ten Signs You Have Insulin Resistance.) This approach often leads to higher levels of diabetic complications.
The ADA recommends such high amounts of carbohydrates because it fails to recognize how the body converts food to energy and believes carbohydrates are necessary for normal brain function and normal energy levels. This is simply not true. The body’s best source of energy is fat. Yes, fat. Healthy fat, not hydrogenated oils and inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids. The body converts fat to energy 80% more efficiently than it converts carbohydrates to energy. Fat is essential for the health of cell membranes, neurotransmitters in the brain, and cardiac cells. For more information on fat and to bust a few myths, read Why You Need to Eat More Fat and Surprising Facts About Cholesterol.
The fact is our bodies don’t need high amounts of carbohydrates. Your body can very effectively function on small amounts of carbs. (I spent two years eating NO carbohydrates that affected blood glucose levels, so I know it can be done, but I don’t recommend it.) The ADA believes carbohydrates that raise blood sugar are necessary for proper brain function. This is not true. The brain runs on pure glucose. As long as there is adequate glucose in the blood stream, the brain will function well. People with Type 1 diabetes rarely need to eat carbohydrates to maintain adequate levels of glucose in the blood stream. The only time they truly require carbohydrates is their blood sugar falls below normal levels. Again, the concept of encouraging diabetics to eat large amounts of carbohydrates and then making them take high amounts of insulin to counteract the effect on blood sugars is counterproductive.
So what style of eating is best for diabetics? The simple fact is that each person’s style of eating must be customized to their metabolism, lifestyle, schedule and many other factors. There is no single style that works for everyone. Each person with diabetes or metabolic challenges must work to find the best style of eating that works for them. In general, an approach that does not encourage excess carbohydrate consumption, focuses on incorporating exercise and healthy eating habits, and one which focuses on using low-glycemic carbohydrates works best for most diabetics.
I am committed to helping diabetics improve their control and live life more abundantly. I have high success rates because I have spent almost 50 years living with diabetes every single day and have an intimate familiarity with what it takes to successfully incorporate diabetes control techniques into daily life. I’ve lived both the good and the bad of diabetes. Nothing brings me more joy than helping others achieve increased control and health. If you would like to schedule a consultation to discuss your options, please contact me via email or call 317.489.0909.
A study at the University of Michigan found people with diabetes have a 35% higher chance of having Glaucoma than people who do not. The study went on to say the reason for the higher rates of glaucoma in diabetics is “unknown.” My purpose for writing this article is to explain the nutritional reasons that diabetes and glaucoma often go hand in hand.
Before going further, let me state this very clearly: The purpose of this article is to provide education. Both diabetes and glaucoma are serious conditions requiring medical intervention. All eye conditions must be diagnosed and treated by an ophthalmologist. It is imperative that everyone with diabetes have an eye exam including a retinal exam and a glaucoma screening once yearly at a minimum. Never change your medication dosage without consulting your MD and/or ophthalmologist. If you wish to reduce the amount of glaucoma medication you take, consult with your ophthalmologist. Ask him or her to check your ocular pressure every three months, adjusting your dosage as needed. Failure to work with your ophthalmologist could result in blindness. Please do not take matters into your own hands. None of these statements were evaluated by the FDA and none are intended to diagnose, cure, prevent or treat any health condition.
I was diagnosed with glaucoma in April of 2000. I reversed my glaucoma in less than six months using simple lifestyle changes and it has never returned. (I know it has not returned because I continue receiving ophthalmologic care on a yearly basis.) As someone who has had diabetes for over 45 years, I have dedicated my life to researching the biochemical effects of diabetes and to helping those who have it avoid complications. My research led me to draw distinct conclusions about why diabetics are more likely to have glaucoma.
In the simplest terms, glaucoma is an increase in the internal pressure of the eye. (This is known as the “intraocular pressure.”) In the most common form of Glaucoma, Open Angle Glaucoma, the increase in intraocular pressure often occurs because the eye’s drainage system, the trabecular meshwork, fails to drain excess fluid from the eye. This creates increased pressure within the eye. Left untreated, the increased pressure harms the ocular nerve, causing loss of peripheral vision in the early stages and blindness as the disease advances. Glaucoma typically has no symptoms. Those who have it rarely notice its effects until it progresses to the point it harms vision.
Why do diabetics have such high rates of glaucoma? Some suspect it’s due to peripheral nerve and vessel damage caused by high glucose levels. This may be true, but if we dig into the chemistry of diabetes – and insulin – a much simpler cause comes to light. Glucose has a very similar molecular structure to Vitamin C. When cells become resistant to and stop absorbing insulin, they therefore also may stop absorbing vitamin C. (Insulin resistance occurs in Type 2 Diabetes due to excess insulin produced by the body; and in Type 1 Diabetes due to the need to inject high amounts of insulin.) What is one of the first effects of a Vitamin C deficiency? Increased interocular pressure. (For more information on insulin, read: Surprising Facts About Insulin.)
Other deficiencies known to contribute to increased intraocular pressure include deficiencies in vitamin B12, magnesium, zinc, iron and others. All of these deficiencies are very common in people with diabetes. The fact that nutritional deficiencies contribute to or may cause glaucoma cannot be denied. Scientists in Russia have known this for years and very successfully treat glaucoma using a much different protocol than what is used in the US. Quite frankly, the US is one of few countries where glaucoma is treated purely with prescription medications. Other countries combine prescription medications with nutritional support.
Multiple studies showed taking oral Vitamin C reduces interocular pressure by as much as 30% within half an hour. In spite of this being a known fact, very few ophthalmologists tell their patients to take a Vitamin C supplement. For many patients, taking 500 – 2000 mg of Vitamin C on a daily basis reduces their interocular pressure to the point they no longer need prescription medication. One study found Vitamin C was very effective at reducing eye pressure even for patients who did not respond to prescription medication.
So can we reduce ocular pressure simply by taking Vitamin C? In part, yes; however, additional change must occur to allow the body’s cells to adequately absorb the Vitamin C. A key factor to allowing the body’s cells to absorb Vitamin C is to reduce the amount of insulin needed (or being produced by the body) and to improve the cells’ insulin sensitivity. This is typically accomplished by eating a low-carbohydrate diet, eating high amounts of antioxidant-rich foods on a daily basis, and other lifestyle changes.
I recommend taking oral vitamin C throughout the process of improving insulin sensitivity and reducing insulin levels. Some people use vitamin C eye drops to bypass the digestive tract and get the vitamin C directly to the eye tissues, while others use intravenous vitamin C to deliver it directly to the blood stream. Although all three delivery methods are known to be effective, taking vitamin C orally is certainly the most convenient.
Vitamin C is known to benefit diabetics in a variety of ways. In addition to aiding glaucoma, the antioxidant effects of vitamin C are known to help prevent cataracts by preventing the formation of compounds that can lodge in the lens of the eye. Vitamin C is also known to be beneficial for diabetic retinopathy and other diabetic complications. Vitamin C has also been shown to be effective at helping reduce high blood pressure when used in conjunction with other lifestyle changes. The use of vitamin C for both diabetes and glaucoma is beneficial in most cases.
For me personally, the combination of high doses of oral Vitamin C, a strict low-carbohydrate eating style, and high intake of antioxidants quickly restored my intraocular pressure to normal. Since then, I continue eating limited amounts of carbs and still eat high amounts of vegetables, but reducing the amount of insulin I take on a daily basis seems to have been the key to permanently reducing my intraocular pressure. Reducing the amount of insulin I need on a daily basis allowed my cells to absorb Vitamin C and naturally decreased systemic inflammation. One of the greatest joys of my life is knowing I was able, by God’s grace, to permanently eliminate my need for glaucoma medication.
I’ve had diabetes for over 46 years. I’ve lived on both sides of the “medical fence” and have devoted my life to helping other diabetics and anyone dealing with metabolic disorders. I have helped 100’s of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics improve their glucose control, reverse their need for medication, lose weight and more. I have higher success rates than other practitioners because I live this on a daily basis. I know I can help you. Please contact me to schedule a consultation.
Virno M, Bucci M: Oral treatment of Glaucoma with Vitamin C, The Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Monthly, Vol. 46, 1502-1508, Dec. 1967
Liu KM, Swann D, Lee P, Lam KW . Inhibition of oxidative degradation of hyaluronic acid by uric acid. Curr Eye Res 1984;3:1049-1053
Schachtschabel DO, Binninber E. Stimulatory effects of ascorbic acid in hyaluronic acid synthesis of in vitro cultured normal and glaucomatous trabecular meshwork cells of the human eye. Z Gerontol 1993;26:243-246
This post is a very personal one. I’d like to share a tale of what happens when an insured diabetic needs medication but can’t get it.
Current estimates show there are over 90 million people in the US who have diabetes or pre-diabetes. That equates to almost 30% of the population. Approximately 8 million people have diabetes but are not aware of it. The end result of this epidemic is that diabetes has become a huge liability for the mainstream medical community. In the midst of trying to help everyone they can, the medical community has developed a fear their efforts will result in someone’s death. (This fear exists for other medical conditions, but nowhere is it stronger than in diabetes.)
Three weeks ago my insulin pump stopped working. The manufacturer replaced the pump, yet 12 hours later the same problem occurred. Still assuming the problem was related to equipment, I insisted the pump manufacturer replace the insertion sets I was using. Insertion sets attach the insulin pump to the body and have a short tube – a “cannula” – which sticks into the skin to a depth of about ¼ – ½”. (See picture. The cannula is the tiny piece of plastic at the far right.) Unfortunately, the new box of insertion sets had the same problem. After about 12 hours, the insulin pump returned error messages stating it could not deliver the insulin. The area where the cannula entered the skin was always inflamed, a bit itchy and very painful, but had no indicators of infection.
I experimented with multiple locations on my body and always had the same problem. Final conclusion? I had developed an allergy to the plastic used in the insertion set’s cannula. This meant I had to take a “pump holiday” and return to using injections to control my blood sugars while I researched insertion sets with a stainless steel cannula. Not using my insulin pump presented a problem because the only insulin I had a prescription for was fast-acting Humalog, which has a lifespan of about two to four hours, This short duration of effectiveness meant I had to inject insulin every two to three hours. It also meant controlling my sugars while I slept was virtually impossible. I needed a prescription for Lantus, a long-acting insulin with a lifespan of approximately 24 hours. This is where the story gets interesting.
I called my GP, who told me she would not give me a prescription for Lantus because the liability was too high since I had never taken it before. I offered to come in for an appointment, but she refused. She told me to go to an emergency room. I called an emergency room and was told the physicians there would be unwilling to prescribe Lantus for a patient whom they had no history on and for whom they could not follow as an in-patient. I called my endocrinologist, whom I had not seen for almost two years*. I knew they could not prescribe for me without seeing me, and I begged for an appointment. The best they could do was to “squeeze” me in ten days later. They also suggested I go to an emergency room to get the insulin I needed.
*Please note: The fact I had not seen my endocrinologist for over two years does NOT mean I was not receiving care. I adjust my insulin levels as needed, and I was getting necessary blood work such as A1C, thyroid profile, etc. from my GP. I was staying on top of things and consistently maintain A1C’s between 5.7-6.0. I want to clarify that I maintain very strict control over my diabetes and always get the blood work needed to monitor my control. I was recently told my experience was “my fault.” Please know it was not and that I was doing everything necessary to maintain perfect control of my glucose levels.
In the midst of this, my blood sugar control went haywire. I typically awoke with sugars higher than 500, even if I got up at 3 am to take insulin. During the day, I had to inject every one to two hours in order to maintain decent control. I quit eating carbs completely and still had to inject frequently. My energy levels plummeted, and I began to fear my poor control would have a permanent effect. At this point, I had gone almost two weeks without my pump. The early days were spent negotiating with the pump manufacturer; the later days were spent begging providers for a Lantus prescription.
Determined to get what I needed, I went to an immediate care center. The triage nurse told me the doctor would not be willing to prescribe what I needed. I begged and confess I bullied a tiny bit. Luckily, the on-call physician was in the reception area and heard my tale. He asked me a few questions and agreed to prescribe what I needed. He was the first physician who had shown more concern for my health than for his own liability. I am forever grateful to him.
Let’s review: I’m fully insured. My glucose levels were above 500, meaning I was in an emergency situation and desperately needed different medication. I have 45 years of experience controlling diabetes, so I am not a new diabetic who presents a large risk. I’m a Naturopath who speaks nationwide on endocrine disorders and controlling diabetes, so I have knowledge and training most people with diabetes do not.
In spite of all of that, not one of the MD’s I spoke with was willing to prescribe what was obviously a medically-necessary medication. Failure to prescribe this medication could have resulted in my death. Even when I shared that my glucose levels were running above 500, no one was willing to incur the liability of prescribing the medication that was desperately needed. My best option for care would have been to allow myself to go into a diabetic coma, at which point they would have gladly assisted. I instead chose to take matters into my own hands and be my own advocate in a very strong way.
If I had any other condition, physicians would have prescribed what I needed without question. ALL medications have side effects. ALL medications can result in death if not taken correctly. Only a diabetic would be denied care due to physician’s fears of liability. Physicians regularly prescribe narcotic pain medication to patients, often without providing adequate instruction. Those narcotics could just as easily cause death from overdose as insulin could, yet getting them is incredibly easy.
There’s something wrong with this picture.
The current medical system has put so many shackles on physicians that a patient in desperate need of care cannot receive it. When an insured patient is refused care by an emergency room, solely based on fears of liability, there is a desperate need for change. Based on current trends, I predict things are going to get worse, not better.
What are your thoughts?
Insulin is an important hormone for everyone, whether they have diabetes or not. It performs many functions in the body that most people are completely unaware of. The purpose of this article is to show you how important insulin is and why you may need to start paying more attention to it. Unfortunately, we live in a society where many people’s cells have stopped absorbing the insulin their body produces. This insulin resistance creates a domino effect of negative consequences, even though many people never have elevated blood sugars. All of us have insulin resistance to some degree. The resistance is partially caused by aging, poor eating habits, lack of exercise, etc. However, it is very simple to regulate insulin production and insulin sensitivity. (The picture you see is a cross section of the beta cells of the pancreas that create insulin.)
Let’s get started! The following facts about insulin may surprise you.
Insulin is found in almost every life form, including single-celled creatures
Any chemical that is found in every life form on earth must be vitally important. For most single-celled organisms, insulin’s role is to control and advance aging. The older the life form becomes, the more insulin it produces. Insulin is therefore vitally connected to the aging process. When people become insulin resistant, causing their body to produce excess insulin, their cells age and deteriorate much more rapidly. Controlling insulin production and resistance is vital to slowing the aging process.
Insulin allows the body’s cells to store and create energy
We’ve all been convinced that insulin’s role is to lower blood glucose levels. Truth is, that is not insulin’s job. Insulin’s primary role in the body is to create energy. Plain and simple. The insulin your body creates should allow your cells to create energy. When cells become resistant to insulin, it means those cells can no longer create energy. Fatigue and exhaustion follow. This is why many people with insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and diabetes are often so tired.
Insulin signals the body to store fat
Insulin is a fat storage hormone, especially when it is not absorbed by the body’s cells. Excess insulin in the blood stream tells the body to start storing as much fat as possible. This is why people with insulin resistance and diabetes often find it impossible to lose weight. It is also why people with those challenges often have extremely elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It’s just that simple.
High cholesterol has a stronger connection to insulin than it does to fat consumption. I recently worked with a lady who came to me with a cholesterol reading of over 300 and a triglyceride level of over 1500. What did I do? I recommended an eating plan that was very low in carbohydrates and very high in healthy fats. (Yes. You read that right. I gave her body what it needed. A low fat diet does not help weight loss, nor does it improve coronary health.) She lost forty pounds in three months and had normal cholesterol and triglyceride levels within six weeks. Focusing on insulin instead of her blood lipids made the difference.
Insulin delivers magnesium
One of the most important jobs insulin fulfills is to carry magnesium into the cells. Experts currently estimate that seventy percent of the US population is magnesium deficient. There is a large probability this deficiency is not solely due to bad eating habits, but is also linked to insulin resistance. For information on the negative effects of magnesium deficiency, please read Why You Need More Magnesium.
One of magnesium’s jobs is to relax the blood vessels. A primary result of a low magnesium level is that blood vessels constrict and blood pressure rises. Over 80% of people with diabetes or insulin resistance also have high blood pressure. The connection is purely related to insulin. Unfortunately, the cells in blood vessels never become resistant to insulin. These cells continue absorbing all the insulin that is present. The excess insulin in the walls of the blood vessels makes them hard and predisposes them to being covered with plaque. Both of these factors create elevated blood pressure. Left untreated, these factors create serious heart disease. Few people speak about regulating insulin levels as a means of preventing and reversing coronary disease, but it is one of the simplest ways to improve heart health.
Insulin triggers hormones that create a feeling of fullness
Insulin is a hormone that tells the body when it’s time to stop eating. This makes perfect sense. As we eat a meal, our body releases insulin to turn that food into energy. As those insulin levels rise, it should trigger a feeling of fullness once a sufficient amount of food has been eaten. When the body stops absorbing insulin, it prevents the signal that tells the person it’s time to stop eating and allows people to eat far more than they need without feeling full. This is another reason why people with insulin resistance and diabetes have such a hard time losing weight. The key is to improve the body’s ability to absorb insulin. It is very simple to improve insulin sensitivity using lifestyle changes and sometimes a few inexpensive supplements.
Insulin lowers blood glucose levels
Last on the list is that insulin lowers blood sugar. Insulin’s least significant role in the body is lowering glucose levels. The fact is that elevated glucose is merely a nasty side effect of poor insulin metabolism.
Do you deal with insulin resistance? Is this a new concept for you? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.
Please contact me at 317.489.0909 if you would like to start the process of improving your health and slowing the aging process by improving your body’s ability to absorb insulin.
It is a simple – although often overlooked – fact that most people in the US are obese because they are insulin resistant. It is true that we live in a society that constantly overeats, but the rising rates of obesity are primarily due to the fact our bodies simply cannot process and metabolize the high amounts of unhealthy carbohydrates we eat. (I use the term “we” very loosely.) If weight loss were a simple math equation where weight loss occurrs if more calories were burned than were eaten, obesity would not be an epidemic. The simple fact is that our society subsists on foods laden with low-quality, high-glycemic carbs. The Standard American Diet (which I like to refer to as the “SAD”) creates metabolic imbalances that cause weight gain. If losing weight has been a problem for you, please read my article, The Top 7 Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight for more information on the potential physical reasons that prevent weight loss. I promise to share more about battling insulin resistance in future posts. For today, let’s simply acknowledge that insulin is a fat-storage hormone. Eating excess carbs causes your body to secrete high amounts of insulin, which causes the body to produce and store fat instead of burning it for energy. When people eat high amounts of foods requiring the body to produce large amounts of insulin, their cells may eventually become “overwhelmed” with the constant flow of insulin. Cells which are overwhelmed with insulin will protect themselves by not absorbing and using the insulin. The excess insulin in the blood stream causes the body to store even more fat. This is what is commonly referred to as “Insulin Resistance.” If someone has even low levels of insulin resistance, it means their body does not use the insulin their body produces. This causes their body to produce higher amounts of insulin to try to lower blood sugars, which causes worse insulin resistance and increased weight gain. The solution to this problem is to reduce the amount of insulin being produced. The most direct way of allowing the body to produce less insulin is to pay close attention to the types and quantities of carbohydrates eaten. Please note that in this blog post, I use the word “carbs” to refer to simple carbohydrates your body metabolizes into simple sugars. Foods that fit this category include breads, cookies, rice, juices, candy, desserts, donuts, pastas, processed grains, etc. I am not referring to vegetables. Fruits are natural, but must be treated respectfully when dealing with insulin resistance. Some fruits elevate blood sugar very rapidly and require high amounts of insulin, which can contribute to weight gain for some people. The simplest – although not complete – approach to weight loss involves eating fewer carbohydrates. Following are simple tips to help cut the carbs without losing nutrition:
Substitute lettuce or kale wraps for bread
Not all bread is bad, but it is ALL extremely high in glycemic impact. High glycemic foods rapidly raise blood sugars and require large amounts of insulin. It is a very sad truth that almost all gluten free grains (with the exception of quinoa and millet) have a higher glycemic impact than wheat and require more insulin to be metabolized. This explains why some people experience extreme weight gain when going gluten-free. (Some people lose weight, but the incidence of people gaining weight after going gluten-free is rising rapidly.) Eating a grain-free diet is ideal for a variety of reasons, but most people have such a strong emotional attachment to grains that eliminating them completely seems impossible. Wrapping your sandwich ingredients in lettuce or kale may take some adjusting, but it’s a great option and the lettuce requires zero insulin.
Be extremely careful with portion sizes
People from Europe are often astonished at how much food people in the US eat at every meal. Europeans eat to live, whereas people in the US live to eat. Europeans eat extremely small (aka: NORMAL) portion sizes and don’t snack as often as we do. In the US, we supersize everything … especially portions. Here’s a quick run down of recommended portion sizes of popular carbs:
- Rice: 1/2 cup (Yes, seriously.)
- Pasta: 1 cup
- Grapes: 10
- Beans and Lentils: 1/2 cup
- French Fries: 10 (I’m not kidding. Probably best to skip this one.)
- Dairy: 1 cup (Dairy counts as a carbohydrate serving, even though it contains protein.)
Start every meal with a salad or big bowl of veggies
Filling up on veggies before attacking the other items on your plate often leads to eating fewer carbohydrates. It is also a very easy way to increase your consumption of veggies, and you know you need more.
Eat veggies first, protein next, then carbs
The order you eat foods can affect how much of it you eat. Again, filling up on veggies first and then eating your protein will leave less room in your stomach for the carbohydrate on your plate.
Stick to one carb per meal
You don’t need more than one carb serving per meal. Trust me. The simple act of limiting yourself to one carb serving per meal will often create rapid weight loss. It also eliminates the “3 o’clock slump” many people experience when their blood sugar plummets after a high-carb lunch.
Think about breakfast in a new way
The dietary surveys I use with my patients reveal that most people eat 3-5 servings of carbs and no protein every morning before they leave the house. I’m not sure why we associate carbs with breakfast, but we need protein and healthy fats to boost energy and keep us going until lunch. A typical breakfast I see listed includes three or more of the following: bowl of cereal or oatmeal, banana on the cereal, toast, pancakes/waffles, glass of orange juice, fruit smoothie, etc., etc. Mega carbs and zero protein or fats. This creates a syndrome where your blood sugar skyrockets after breakfast, but plummets a few hours later. This can make you hungry and may make you crave sugar around 10 am. Adding protein to your morning regimen can make a huge difference in how you feel mid-morning and right before lunch. Combining protein with healthy carbohydrates for breakfast helps stabilize blood sugars. Having a huge veggie omelet with a single piece of toast is a great option. I know one lady who has guacamole on zucchini slices with a slice of turkey most mornings. She feels great and has lost 10 pounds doing this. For more creative low carb breakfast ideas, read Top 11 Low Carb Breakfasts. Other great breakfast options include:
- An apple with almond butter
- 1 cup of berries in a smoothie with an avocado, handful of spinach and a cucumber
- 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal with 1/2 cup nuts and seeds and 1/2 cup almond milk
- Two eggs and 1/2 cup of mixed berries.
Let yourself think outside of the box and stop eating nothing but carbohydrates for breakfast … you’ll feel and look better as a result. Are you eating to live or living to eat? What changes can you make to help you make better choices at every meal? I wish you luck and success!
I’ve recently received many questions about whether or not Green Coffee Extract and Raspberry Ketones actually work. These questions multiplied after a well-known MD with a nationally-syndicated television show promoted these supplements. I’ve also been receiving multiple spam email messages about both supplements. I confess the spam made me question the validity of these supplements, so I decided I needed to do more research. I also have to admit my research was difficult, as most of the sites containing “research” were also trying to sell one or both of the products.
Update, May 8, 2013: I do not recommend using these supplements. Please do not contact me to ask if I think it’s a good idea for you to take them. I do not, regardless of your health issues. Thank you.
Please be aware there are no “magic bullets.” Weight gain or an inability to lose weight always has a cause. Eliminating the cause is key to finally losing weight. Please read my article, The Top 7 Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight, for more information on weight loss and on physiological issues that may prevent it.
If you are struggling with weight loss and need help or coaching, please contact me to schedule a consultation. I have literally helped hundreds of people lose many thousands of pounds. I use an approach that provides coaching and education in nutrition, fitness, metabolic balancing, and eliminating sabotaging thought patterns. I would love to help you reach your health goals. I will not let you fail. Please feel free to contact me at 317.489.0909 or via email. PLEASE NOTE I CANNOT ANSWER MEDICAL QUESTIONS VIA EMAIL. You must schedule a consultation to receive advice.
Very few double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have been done on these supplements. The ones that were done were either very, very small (less than 20 participants) or were done on mice and not humans. The information that follows shares what I found when I researched both supplements. As always, this information is shared for informational purposes only and was not evaluated by the FDA. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness. Please do not take any supplement without first discussing it with your physician and checking for prescription interactions.
Green Coffee Bean Extract
The only study I could find that researched the effectiveness of Green Coffee Bean Extract on weight loss was done by JA Vinson,BR Burnham, and MV Nagendran. This study did find the extract helped with weight loss, but was only conducted on 16 people and was conducted over a very short period of time. In my opinion, a study of 16 people does not qualify as a valid study, as the control group is simply too small to prove the effects would be the same in a larger group. Additionally, I could find zero information on how the “control” group was chosen, which again causes me to question the validity of the study. It is also important to note that the company who paid for the study is a company which manufactures and sells green coffee bean extract. (Please read my article, Simple Ways to Evaluate the Validity of a Research Study for more information on ways to know whether published conclusions are valid or not.)
Potential Positive Benefits of Green Coffee Bean Extract:
- Green coffee bean extract is known to contain many anti-oxidants, which are known to boost health and protect cells from damage from toxins, aging, and free radicals. (That does not mean it helps with weight loss.)
- Green coffee bean extract contains chlorogenic acid, a chemical which is thought to help balance blood sugar levels. (Insulin encourages the body to store fat instead of burning it, so reducing blood sugars and reducing the amount of insulin produced is a proven method of assisting weight loss. However, there is no evidence to prove this supplement works or that it effectively reduces insulin levels.)
- Some studies have shown that green coffee bean extract may help suppress appetite and may have a positive effect on lowering blood pressure.
Potential Negative Effects of Green Coffee Bean Extract:
- The frenzy surrounding green coffee bean extract has caused a multitude of supplements to be released which don’t actually contain green coffee bean extract, which contain harmful fillers or which contain a very low-quality extract. Use caution when purchasing green coffee bean extract and only purchase from highly reliable suppliers.
- Some people respond negatively to the supplement. (Any supplement has the potential to create an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals.)
- The supplement does not work for everyone. Physical and hormonal issues preventing weight loss may not be helped by this supplement.
- The caffeine in green coffee bean extract may have a negative affect on some people.
My Conclusions About Green Coffee Bean Extract:
As with most products claiming to boost weight loss, green coffee bean extract is no magic bullet. There are many other methods of reducing insulin in the body, so taking this supplement may boost weight loss efforts a little bit, but won’t produce dramatic results for most people. My recommendation is to follow a low-glycemic eating plan and to use your head. On an interesting side note, roasted coffee also contains chlorogenic acid, so drinking a single, eight ounce cup of ORGANIC coffee may have the same effect as taking these supplements.
The only studies I could find that have been done on raspberry ketones were done on mice, and one was only done on mice who were being fed a high-fat diet. Raspberry ketones have been around for a very long time. The only “new” thing about them is that the marketing. Let’s be honest, the fact a supplement was recommended by a doctor on TV doesn’t mean it works, it just means it gets an insane amount of marketing attention. There is plenty of anecdotal “evidence” stating raspberry ketones assist with weight loss, but I could not find any scientific evidence that proved it.
Potential Positive Benefits of Raspberry Ketones:
- There is some evidence that indicates raspberry ketones might alter the levels of a adinopectin, a hormone that is typically lower in obese people and which has been shown to be a factor in insulin resistance. (Insulin resistance is often a precursor to and major factor in Type 2 Diabetes. That does not mean this supplement helps with weight loss.)
- Raspberry ketones may also stimulate the release of the hormone norepinephrine, an adrenal hormone which affects metabolism. (The problem is that it may negatively affect the adrenal glands and ultimately reduce one’s ability to lose weight.)
- As with green coffee been extract, raspberry ketones do contain anti-oxidants which may have some health benefits, but no weight loss benefits.
Potential Negative Effects of Raspberry Ketones:
- The supplements sold are artificial raspberry ketones created in a lab and are not the real thing
- Norepinephrine can have a very negative effect on health. It can cause anxiety, raise body temperature, and raise blood pressure.
- Stimulating the adrenal glands to release norepinephrine could cause adrenal fatigue, which would ultimately have a very negative effect on weight loss efforts.
- All of the potential negative effects I cited for green coffee bean extract also apply to raspberry ketones.
My Conclusions About Raspberry Ketones:
Similar to the conclusions I drew about green coffee bean extract, I think the claims made about raspberry ketones are all hype. They may assist with weight loss in a very small way, but they are not extremely effective. The fact raspberry ketones affect adrenal hormones concerns me. Adrenal function directly affects weight gain and loss. Taking raspberry ketones has the potential to harm adrenal function, which would ultimately result in weight gain. I can’t honestly recommend taking this supplement. As with any supplement, if you choose to take it, please discuss it with your physician first. Please monitor blood pressure carefully. If elevated blood pressure occurs, or if you begin to notice anxiety or hot flashes after taking it, please discontinue use immediately.
If you are struggling with weight loss and need help or coaching, please contact me to schedule a consultation. (Liability issues prevent me from answering questions or providing advice if you are not an established client.) I have literally helped hundreds of people lose many thousands of pounds. I use an approach that provides coaching and education in nutrition, fitness, metabolic balancing, and eliminating sabotaging thought patterns. I would love to help you reach your health goals. I will not let you fail. Please feel free to contact me at 317.489.0909 or via email
Update added October 24th: Yes, these products can be taken together, but I do not recommend their use. They both do basically the same thing, so taking them simultaneously will not necessarily boost your weight loss efforts. There are much easier ways to lose weight which are free.
This post covers a variety of behaviors and lifestyle habits that people with diabetes rarely tell their doctor. I need to state a disclaimer before diving into this post. Please note I am not condoning the activities and actions I’ve shared below. I’m simply sharing what I know to be true and what I see occur frequently in the diabetic community. Please follow your doctor’s instructions exactly and do not deviate from them.
Most of you know by now that I’ve had Type 1 Diabetes (the auto-immune, insulin-controlled type) for over 45 years. In the time I’ve had it, I’ve devoted years of research to the disease of diabetes. I have also dedicated myself to understanding how diabetes affects a person’s emotions, not just their body. One of the most fascinating things I’ve discovered from chatting with thousands of people with diabetes is that there are some very common habits many of them share, but which few of them tell their medical staff. Some of these habits are harmless, while others could be potentially harmful.
Why do diabetics break the rules? The most common reason is because the rules don’t work for them. Although MDs live in a world of black and white absolutes, every diabetic knows that much of what they’re told about controlling their disease does not work for them or apply to their specific case. Their body never read the diabetes text book and doesn’t do the things the text book says it should. Most of us wish our doctors understood that control is highly individualized and that not all care guidelines work for all people. People with diabetes soon learn which topics are “safe” to discuss with their doctor and which will earn them a quick lecture. They grow weary of being told they’re “wrong” or being told one of the control tactics they rely on “can’t possibly work.” The truth is that every person’s body and lifestyle is highly unique and requires a unique approach to maintaining control. What works for me may not work for anyone else, and what works for them may not work for me. Doctors don’t have time to consider these “gray areas,” so diabetics keep this “secret info” to themselves.
The list that follows includes the top six things I’ve found diabetics rarely tell their doctor. Do you know of others? Please share!
I take a lot of supplements to help control my diabetes
This one is perhaps the most common. I hear this not only from diabetics, but from many different people with many different health conditions. Why do people not tell their doctor about their supplements? People I chat with share one of three basic reasons: 1) They are tired of their doctor telling them the supplement doesn’t work (even though using it has improved their health); 2) They are taking the supplement(s) instead of taking a prescription (see the next point); or 3) They know their doctor doesn’t believe in supplements and don’t want to risk upsetting him or her.
Obviously, it is IMPERATIVE to tell your doctor about every supplement you take. Your MD needs to know what you’re taking so that s/he can advise you about any potential interactions with your prescriptions. A growing group of MDs is learning about supplements and accepting their use. If yours is not one of them, perhaps it’s time to find one who is more accepting of the lifestyle you’ve chosen.
There are a wide variety of supplements that can help people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes maintain better control. However, these supplements must be very carefully researched before being added to one’s regimen. It can be dangerous for a Type 1 diabetic to begin taking supplements without checking their blood sugar more frequently. No one taking a prescription medications should begin taking a supplement without first discussing the potential interactions with their doctor or pharmacist. My favorite resource for researching potential interactions between prescription medications and natural supplements is the PDR for Non-Prescription Drugs, 33rd Edition.
I don’t take some of the prescriptions you write for me
This is another very serious item. If you are not going to take a prescription your doctor prescribed, you must tell him or her. It is your choice to not take a prescription, but you owe your MD the courtesy of being honest about it. When you share this information with your MD, take your research, be direct without being emotional, and make it clear your decision is final. If your MD has an issue with this, perhaps it’s time to find someone who is a better fit for your needs. (On a side note, there are times it may be better to take the prescription. Please do significant research before deciding to not take a prescription. As an example, I take insulin. There are no viable alternatives that are 100% effective, so I consider myself blessed to have it available.)
I don’t use alcohol when I take my shot or check my blood sugar
I can’t say that 100% of diabetics fall into this category, but a huge number of them do. Remembering to pack alcohol swabs is just one more thing on an already long list of items that have to be carted around on a daily basis. Many diabetics have found – contrary to what their MD told them – that not using alcohol doesn’t make much difference. They don’t wind up with skin infections, and their insulin continues working perfectly. It’s a personal choice. (This is only true if they are healthy and are under good control.) From a bird’s eye perspective, I don’t think this is a big deal, provided their blood sugars are under good control, they don’t have any other auto-immune conditions, and they are not in a dirty environment filled with toxins. It’s always best to use alcohol, but the likelihood of developing a complication if none is available is fairly small.
I use my syringes and lancets more than once
Most people are horrified to learn that many diabetics re-use their syringes. Let me make it perfectly clear they are not sharing their needles, they are simply using them twice in order to save money The same is true of the lancets used to prick their finger to check their blood sugar. Is it the best way to treat their disease? No. Is it one that has a huge negative effect? Not really. I don’t recommend it, but based on the hundreds of diabetics I know who do this, the effects are too small to even be measured. Re-using syringes is never a good idea, but the effects will probably be minimal for someone who is under good control, is in a clean environment and who does not have other auto-immune conditions affecting their immunity.
In all honesty, if a diabetic cannot afford syringes and lancets, I’d much rather they re-use them than not take insulin at all. A diabetic who needs insulin and stops taking it will wind up in the hospital and deathly ill very quickly. Diabetics who re-use needles run a risk of infection and run a risk of injecting bacteria into their insulin bottles. The potential for disaster is huge, but the fact is that very few ill effects are seen. I don’t advise re-using syringes, but if you’re in a situation where you’re forced to re-use one, please do not exert much energy to worrying about the after-effects. Again … this does not refer to people sharing needles. I’m not talking about a family of diabetics using each other’s syringes. I’m talking about an individual who re-uses their own syringes.
I leave my insertion set in for more than 3 days and refill my reservoirs
This item applies to people with diabetes who use an insulin pump. Insulin pumps use a reservoir that looks somewhat like a short, squat syringe with no needle. The diabetic fills the reservoir manually and then inserts it into the pump. One end of the reservoir is connected to a long tube. The other end is connected to the body via an insertion set. The insertion set contains a very tiny plastic cannula (a form of tiny needle) that is inserted into the abdomen, arm or buttocks. The pump injects insulin into the diabetic’s body on a continuous basis. The amount of insulin infused into the person’s body is controlled by information the diabetic (or his/her support staff) programs into the pump. Programming the pump and inserting the insertion set is a very simple process. An insulin pump is the closest thing we have to a functioning pancreas.
Most pump companies instruct their users to change insertion sets and reservoirs every three days to avoid infection and to ensure insulin delivery continues at the correct dosage. Many diabetics I know leave their insertion sets in for longer periods. I also know a few who refill their reservoir instead of replacing it. These diabetics swear they can’t tell a difference. (One told me she can leave her insertion set in for more than 10 days before infection develops. I would say that’s pushing the limit on the insertion set’s ability to maintain adequate delivery.)
Why do they do it? It’s very simple. Many diabetics are uninsured, and many are underinsured. Many insurance companies have changed their deductible program and have raised deductibles above $10,000 per family. This means that most diabetics receive NO assistance with their pump supplies, in spite of having insurance. On my insurance plan, our regular prescriptions are filled for a co-pay and don’t apply to the deductible, but my insulin pump supplies do not. My insurance company will not pay a dime toward my supplies until my family meets our $10,000 deductible. There is no logic behind this, as helping their insureds maintain good control is the best way insurance companies can avoid more expensive claims. Almost four billion dollars each year are spent on diabetic amputations. That number could potentially be lowered if insurance companies would re-think their approach to handling insurance claims for basic care needs.
A 90-day supply of infusion sets and reservoirs costs anywhere between $500-900 dollars. That’s a huge expense for many people. It is an expense that motivates many diabetics to stretch a 90-day supply of materials into a 180-day supply or longer. They don’t do it as a form of rebellion; they do it because they have no other choice.
The diet you told me to follow kept my sugars sky high, so I found a new one that works for me
I hear this more than any other concern voiced by people with diabetes. A mother with a 10-year old recently came into my office and said her son’s dietitian recommended he eat seven servings of high-glycemic carbohydrates per day. She said he used over 100 units of insulin per day eating that diet because his blood sugars were so high. He also felt horrible most of the time. I worked with her to create an eating plan her son could easily work into his daily activities. The plan I recommended focused on low-glycemic carbohydrates in smaller quantities. Within two weeks, this young man’s energy had returned to normal levels and his insulin needs had lowered to around 60 units per day. (Lowering the amount of insulin needed to maintain control is helpful because of the hormonal side-effects of insulin.) I’ve also had clients come to my office who said they argued with their diabetes educator because they felt the amount of sugars and carbohydrates they were eating was excessive. These patients typically get a slap on the wrist and are told they must obey. Sadly, many who find they can maintain better control using a different eating style than the one their doctor’s staff recommended are labeled “non-compliant.”
This brings us back to individuality. Every person’s body responds to carbohydrates and other types of foods in different ways. Most people with diabetes know which foods affect them more than others. (For me, a quarter cup of white rice will send my blood sugar through the roof in about five minutes. I can’t eat it, even though it was one of the main foods recommended by the diabetes educator I saw many years ago.) It is impossible to use a “cookie cutter” approach to eating styles for people with diabetes. Each person must start with a basic recommendation and then tweak it to fit their needs. Many endocrinologists and their staffs are not willing to allow their patients to deviate from their strict guidelines. This is sad, because it makes many diabetics think they have to hide things from their endocrinologist.
I recognize and fully expect this post will generate controversy. I’ve shared the truth, but I know many will react in anger. I’m ok with that.
Do you have diabetes? Do you hide things from your doctor? What do you think needs to change in the world of diabetes to encourage more open dialog between endocrinologists/doctors and people with diabetes? I firmly believe change occurs one person at a time. Let’s start here!
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