The Naturopathic Approach to Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the most common health conditions in the United States. At least 10.5% of the US population has diabetes. This means that 1 in 10 Americans has diabetes.

The most common form of diabetes, by far, is type 2 diabetes. The good news is that this type responds very favorably to lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise.

Type 2 diabetes results when we consume too much simple carbohydrates and/or sugar over an extended period of time. When we eat simple carbohydrates, which is composed of sugar molecules, our bodies respond by releasing insulin. Insulin allows the sugar to enter our cells where it can be stored or used for energy. If we take in excessive amounts of sugar/carbohydrate, we secrete more insulin in response. Over time our cells become unresponsive to this higher level of insulin. This means that sugar can no longer efficiently move out of the blood and into the cells to be used for energy production. This is called pre-diabetes or insulin resistance.

The excess sugar in the blood stream is first sent to the liver and muscle cells. Once they have reached their capacity for sugar storage, the sugar is transferred to fat cell where it is converted to and stored as fat. This is the origin of weight gain, in the form of fat in type 2 diabetes.

Prolonged high blood sugar levels wreak havoc on the body. Eventually, this elevated blood sugar will cause damage to blood vessels, kidneys, liver, eyes, and increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. There is also a greater risk for many common cancers.

The CDC reported that diabetes has increased by over 90% in the past decade.
The American diet has also drastically changed during this time. One hundred years ago the average American ate only two pounds of sugar each year. Today, the average American eats 152 lbs of sugar yearly. It is no surprise that obesity is also on the rise. From 1950-2010 obesity increased by 214% and now 2/3 of the American population is overweight.

Naturopathic physicians are trained in both conventional and integrative approaches to treating diabetes. In focusing on treating the whole person and not just the symptoms of the disease, we address the cause and the contributing factors and seek to correct that. The good news is that diabetes is one of the most preventable and treatable of diseases. We look at all aspects of a person’s health that can impact diabetes including, diet, lifestyle, weight management and hormone balance. The earlier we catch the disease the better the outcome. In many instances, it is completely reversible.

Weight management is often paramount to treating and preventing diabetes.

Insulin resistance is associated with “metabolic syndrome” which is a grouping of signs and symptoms that includes abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol issues, elevated triglycerides and increased blood glucose levels. Increased weight, as increased “body fat percentage,” has a strong relationship to diabetes. An important step in treating and preventing diabetes and insulin resistance is weight management. Naturopathic doctors are well trained in diet and nutrition. We create individualized programs to best meet your weight loss goals.

Did you know that hormones play an essential role in weight management and diabetes?

Thyroid function

Yes, your thyroid function plays a role in blood sugar regulation and weight gain. Studies have shown that even subclinical hypothyroid (meaning before your lab numbers are out of normal range) is associated with higher insulin levels and insulin resistance. A low functioning thyroid can also make it much harder to lose weight. So what does this mean for you? Don’t wait until your thyroid function is out of range. Know your numbers! Getting regular comprehensive lab testing is the key here. Our naturopathic approach means you don’t have to wait until you feel horrible to start balancing your hormones.

Estrogen

Many women start to reach menopause and note that they are gaining more weight in their middle, but their diet and exercise routines have not changed. Estrogen helps to direct fat deposits to the hips and buttock in women, giving the more pear shaped body. When estrogen production from the ovaries drops, women often gain more weight in the abdomen. This is correlated with blood sugar dysregulation.

Testosterone

Testosterone is a key hormone for both men and women. A new study shows that increasing testosterone levels in males with type 2 diabetes can improve their response to insulin. Low testosterone levels in both men and women can encourage weight gain around the midline and simultaneous muscle loss.

Cortisol

Cortisol commonly known as our stress hormone is a key player in weight gain and blood sugar imbalances. Too much cortisol can cause excessive abdominal fat deposition, increased blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. High cortisol levels can also interfere with thyroid hormone production. Whereas, low cortisol levels can make it harder to lose weight. The goal, as with all hormones, is to find optimal balance of cortisol.

Naturopathic solutions.

At Desert Wellness Center we take a comprehensive integrative approach to fighting and preventing type 2 diabetes. Our focus is on treating the person and the cause, not just the symptoms. As naturopathic physicians, we are trained in both conventional and integrative care. Our patients have the opportunity to not only treat their diabetes and improve their blood sugar level, but also lose weight, have more energy, manage stress, balance hormones, prevent future illness and improve overall quality of life. Lifestyle changes related to diet and exercise are essential to the treatment, but the naturopathic approach does not stop here. We offer personalized comprehensive testing to address all aspects of body function. We then create individualized treatment plans for our patients to improve blood sugar, balance hormones and manage weight. We encourage you to check out all of the services we offer, including weight loss programs and hormone replacement therapy.

Resources

Algoblan, A., Alalfi, M., & Khan, M. (2014). Mechanism linking diabetes mellitus and obesity.
Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy , 587. doi: 10.2147/dmso.s67400

Klonoff, D. C. (2009). The Increasing Incidence of Diabetes in the 21st Century.
Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology , 3(1), 1–2. doi: 10.1177/193229680900300101

Luboshitzky, R., Ishay, A., & Herer, P. (2010). Metabolic Syndrome and Insulin Resistance in Women With Subclinical Hypothyroidism.
The Endocrinologist , 0(1), 29–32. doi: 10.1097/ten.0b013e3181cb47da

MORSTEIN, M. O. N. A. (2017).
Mastering Diabetes: a comprehensive, integrative approach for successfully treating both type 1 … and 2 diabetics. Place of publication not identified: CHELSEA GREEN.

Testosterone Increasing Insulin Sensitivity. (2015, December 11). Retrieved from
http://www.diabetesincontrol.com/testosterone-increasing-insulin-sensitivity/