Have you been diagnosed with Diabetes mellitus (DM)? Have you been told that you have increased cholesterol, hypertension and rising blood sugar levels, even if some of these look ‘normal’ on a lab test? Unfortunately, leaving any of these conditions untreated can lead to numerous complications – heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, circulation problems, lower extremity ulcerations and amputations, and more. It is estimated that one in ten deaths in Canada is attributable to complications of diabetes, and over 5 million Canadians are currently living with some form of diabetes, many who do not even know that they may have this condition.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease where the body experiences elevated blood glucose levels (sugar) due either an inability to produce (Diabetes Type I) or inability to manage (Diabetes Type 2) insulin, which is pumped out from the pancreas. All foods and drinks that we consume are transformed into sugar, which our body then uses for energy. Both types of Diabetes build up glucose in the blood – at too high levels, this causes widespread systemic damage.
What are the forms of Diabetes?
Type I Diabetes (DM1) is a chronic problem. This often shows up earlier in life, where the pancreas is unable to pump out the insulin hormone and cause blood sugar levels to rise uncontrollably and be improperly metabolized. This condition is life-long and absolutely requires insulin. Naturopathic Medicine in these cases is used as a supportive measure, but not as the primary source of correction and control.
Type II Diabetes (DM2) totally stems from lifestyle and diet choices. This is by far the most common form, and is absolutely preventable. Poor eating habits and lack of exercise can ultimately have a profound effect on middle age adults and beyond. Unfortunately, this condition is now becoming more prevalent in sedentary children – teenagers and adolescents. What happens is that over a number of years, the body cannot properly use up the insulin that is produced, and eventually leads to insulin resistance and subsequent mismanagement of the glucose. This, however, can be prevented wholeheartedly with re-evaluating dietary choices, weight and lifestyle management, and physical activity.
Metabolic Syndrome / Syndrome X
Along with Diabetes, a prevailing condition which being identified more often is something called Metabolic Syndrome or Syndrome X. It is usually connected with a Pre-Diabetes state and although it doesn’t quite fit the definition of DM1 or 2, it needs to be treated regardless. Syndrome X is a combination of four primary characteristics – increase in blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, and excess body fat around the waist. Just like Diabetes on its own, this also increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. If you have a family history of DM2, you are more likely to have Metabolic Syndrome, with the risk increasing with age.
Naturopathic Medicine utilizes many different approaches in dealing specifically with DM2 and Metabolic Syndrome. Because DM2 is a disease of diet and lifestyle, adjusting one’s intake of harmful fats and sugars, alcohols and similar indulgences, employing a whole food approach and lowering intake of pro-inflammatory foods is the place to start. It is not uncommon to include prescribed exercise and stress management as part of a customized treatment program. In my clinic, I will often order an initial diagnostic lab workup either to establish a baseline or to monitor existing blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. Establishing optimal nutritional status is also vital, so I will typically prescribe high-potency therapeutic supplements in order to support the immune system and prevent complications.
To tackle Diabetes and related syndromes, a multi-pronged approach is required. If you are struggling with this and need assistance getting back on track, give our office a call and see how Naturopathic Medicine can play a vital role in your health journey.
To your Health,
Dr. Olena Gill is a Licensed Naturopathic Physician and Registered Acupuncturist (2003). She practices at Indigo Integrative Health/The Mind-Body Connection Centre in Parksville/Qualicum on Vancouver Island, and on Gabriola Island, BC.
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Disclaimer: No information given here or in any post or page on this site should be construed as medical evaluation and advice. Please see your Naturopathic Doctor for proper evaluation, diagnosis and treatment.