Type 2 diabetes is the extreme end of insulin resistance where blood sugar and thus blood insulin fluctuate dysfunctionally. Insulin normally ferries sugar into the cells through gates in the fatty cell walls . When your blood sugar is too high, your cells say “enough” and close or eliminate some of the gates, becoming insulin-resistant. Your body sees the high sugar in your blood since the insulin couldn’t release it to the cells, and triggers the release of even more insulin from your pancreas. However the insulin stays in your blood much longer and in higher concentrations. Insulin is caustic and causes inflammation which can lead to cardiovascular disease and peripheral neuropathy. Cells that don’t get insulin resistant, can replicate vigorously, which is why you may have skin tags or growing cancers. To lower your blood sugar and your blood insulin you need to deal with a number of strategies.
- While we cannot easily measure blood insulin without chilling samples until they arrive at a lab, blood sugar is easy to test at home. So most medical advice focuses on lowering high blood sugar, as a proxy for high blood insulin. If you lower blood sugar by lowering blood insulin by diet, that works. If you lower blood sugar by adding insulin, you don’t remove the inflammation which can kill you. Diet and exercise with appropriate supplements is the best way to lower both.
- You need a low carbohydrate, low glycemic index diet that will not trigger high insulin release. Atkins, South Beach and similar diets give you green leafy vegetables and meat, poultry, eggs or fish as protein and are good at not triggering insulin spikes. In later stages they add non-starchy vegetables and low sugar fruits. Grains were not an appreciable part of a Paleolithic diet, which served humans for most of evolution. If you are dealing with memory loss or neuropathy or want to prevent it, add in a teaspoon of coconut oil to your diet and pattern your eating after Dr. Terry Whal’s diet to support your mitochondria at the bottom of this page.
- If you suddenly change from a high carbohydrate diet to a low carbohydrate diet, you body may have an adjustment period where you feel lousy for 12-16 days. Drink water, take supplements discussed below, and have faith that it will pass. Your body is not used to using fats for fuel instead of sugar, and needs to adjust.
- Don’t eat after 8:00 and have a low carbohydrate breakfast. In one study where teenage boys were given either protein or starchy breakfasts of equal caloric content and allowed to eat what they wanted for lunch, the boys with starchy breakfasts (oatmeal, cereal, pancakes, etc.) ate twice as many calories for lunch.
- You need periods with no food. Every time you eat your insulin spikes and stays elevated for 3 hours or more. During that time you cannot burn fat or build muscle. If you eat frequently you may never reach the fat burning stage. So you are better off not snacking between meals, and if you do consider dried seaweeds, salmon jerky or unsalted nuts which have low glycemic loads.
- Exercise is essential. Three times a day; upon rising, after lunch and after dinner do two minutes of peak exercise. Climb stairs, run in place, jump, use weights, but get to a point where you are panting. You get no additional insulin benefit from doing this longer. And walk 30 minutes a day which can be all at once or in three 10 minute intervals, but which you need to do at a brisk pace. Swimming or biking can be substituted for walking. Weight training helps build muscles, on an every other day basis (or you can do upper body on one day and lower body on another.)
- Even if you work out daily, the number of hours you sit the rest of the time will sabotage your fitness efforts. Put your desk up on blocks to make a standing desk, take stairs, don’t watch television while reclining, bike instead of driving.
- Eat before exercising, NOT after or you will lose the fat-burning benefits. Do not drink sports drinks which contain sugar or fructose and will drive your insulin up. This means you will lose the fat-burning, muscle-building benefit of exercise.
- You also need supplements because the nutrients that used to be in food no longer are due to modern industrial farming methods. Our soils are depleted in chromium, magnesium, iodine, lithium and zinc, all of which are used in sugar metabolism. Our livestock no longer eat greens in a pasture, out in the sun so their fat is deficient in Omega 3 fats (which should make up cell walls or they get “stiff”). We live sedentary indoor lives so rarely make enough vitamin D, a necessary hormone. You need 5 g of fish oil, 400-800 mg chromium, 15 mg zinc, 800 mg magnesium citrate, and 4,000-10,000 iu of Vitamin D3. These nutrients will lower your sugar cravings and will get nutrients into your cells despite the resistant cells.
- There are a number of herbs that may supplement any medication you may have. Cinnamon is the best herb for lowering blood sugar, working similarly to Metformin but may work synergistically if you are on the drug. Take a teaspoon a day of strong smelling cinnamon, stirred in coffee, yogurt, sprinkled heavily on food (even meat.) Fenugreek seed, preferably powdered, is also useful.4 Use small amounts of pungent and aromatic spices like pepper, cayenne, cilantro and cardamom to increase circulation and antioxidants. Seaweed salads help add minerals in a form you can use, as do nettles simmered for a half hour (1 oz/liter). Red raspberry ketones help the body’s natural hormone adiponectin release fat from the cells for energy.
- Bitters before meals triggers your gastric juices and lets your body know that food is coming. Start your meal with unsweetened coffee in the morning, dandelion or radicchio greens, or bitter melon for lunch or dinner. Or take a squirt of bitters tincture, Pancreaid by Herbalist and Alchemist or Angostura bitters. Swedish bitters or Fernet Branca are a bit cold and should be supplemented with ginger (you can chop some up and put it in the bottle.) Easier yet, take a slice of lime in water, bite down on the peel for the bitters and squeeze the sour juice in your water. This is one of the most useful steps you can take.
- If you can’t find bitters, try a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice in water before you eat. Sour things help release bile as well.
- Drink 2 quarts of water a day. This can include teas or coffee (but expect that one cup of coffee counts as 3/4 cup from the diuretic effect. ) Do not drink sweetened beverages, but you can add a spring of mint and a slice of cantaloupe to your water bottle if water alone bothers you. Sip your water instead of gulping it to hydrate your tissues. This especially important if you are constipated.
- If you are shaped like a pear, drink two cups of red clover tea daily and a serving of white kidney bean extract (which can go in a low glycemic protein shake.) . If shaped like an apple, take CLA and include organic , preferably grass-fed dairy (unless allergic). If you primarily store fat in your breasts and upper arms, L-Carnitine and dairy.
- Eat superfoods with dense nutrients per calorie. Blueberries, raspberries, goji berries and blackberries are good fruits. Kale, seaweeds (a source of minerals like iodine which can help your thyroid and fiber), spinach and dense greens are essential, while yellow squashes and limited beets help round out the nutrients. Spirulina, chlorella and dried nettles can be used in smoothies and soups. Bitter melon (karela) and the leaves of the prickly pear plant (nopales) both lower blood sugar and can be served sauteed in coconut oil.
- It is better to avoid a sweet taste, but there are some things you can use if you must. This does not include cane sugar, beet sugar, corn sugar (the new name for high fructose corn syrup) or agave syrup which is high fructose. Fructose is worse than glucose, eventhough it is lower on the glycemic index. (The glycemic index only looks at blood glucose.) This also does not include Splenda, saccharine, or other fake sugars which have been shown to prevent weight loss and erratically may stimulate insulin release. Xylitol and mannitol are natural sugar alcohols that look like sugar, but too much will cause gas and diarrhea. The best sweeteners are stevia and lo han guo (monkfruit) which naturally taste sweet and appear to be recognized by the body as different from sugar. Other natural sweeteners are Aztec sweet herb, licorice and cinnamon.
- Sleep lowers cortisol and thus prevents your making additional body fat when other things are in balance. In 1926 the average American slept 9 hours a day: today we are sleep deprived at 6 ½ hours average, and in the midst of an obesity epidemic. In one study healthy Japanese men who were allowed to sleep only 4½ hours a night for three weeks acquired diabetic levels of blood sugar. Get 8-9 hours, and turn off electronics and bright lights an hour before bed. A blindfold or dark curtains help prevent light from interfering with sleep.
- Monitor your blood sugar, not only upon rising, but one and two hours after eating. You do not want your blood sugar to fall below baseline immediately after eating, even if it normalizes later- this is a sign of impaired insulin resistance. You also do not want too long an interval after eating for your blood sugar to normalize- in two hours it should come down. If not, cut your carbohydrates, avoid eating between meals and increase exercise after eating.
- Maintain your medical surveillance. See your family doctor or endocrinologist regularly. Get your eyes checked for retinopathy. Have your feet checked by a podiatrist if your circulation is impaired. Be vigilant about having well-fitting shoes since blisters can be dangerous. Watch your body for growths, tingling, numbness, non-healing sores or other signs that you need medical attention.
- Acupuncture can bring down blood sugar during the session, can reduce stress which causes cortisol to rise (giving abdominal obesity) and can increase circulation to limbs or non-healing sores. There are techniques useful for people with peripheral or retinopathy. But nothing will be more than a bandaid unless you restrict your blood sugar by eating correctly, exercising and taking supplements or medications.
Watch Robert Lustig explain why sugar – and foods that break down rapidly into sugar is toxic. As KQED says: “Before the New York Times asked if sugar was toxic, before Michael Bloomberg tried to ban large sodas in New York City, before people starting calling sugar “the new tobacco,” UCSF endocrinologist Robert Lustig stood in front of a crowd of UCSF extension students and told them that the increase in obesity over the last 30 years is the result of one thing: increased amounts of sugar in our diet. Lustig’s lecture—a combination of righteous anger and dry science—went on to become a surprise viral hit: since it debuted on YouTube in 2009, it’s been viewed almost five million times.”