Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Diabetes part two

Part two (from


The main cause of diabetes is the western diet--based on refined carbohydrates that rush sugar into the bloodstream, trans fatty acids that interfere with insulin receptors in the cells, and difficult-to-digest foods like pasteurized milk and modern soy foods that put a strain on the pancreas--but another cause of chronic high blood sugar levels, one that is often overlooked, is stress. Under stress, the adrenal glands produce adrenaline, an important stimulus for the production of glucagon, which raises blood sugar levels and allows the body to react with a "fight or flight" response. Chronic stress--the stress on the adult in the workplace, the stress on the student under pressure to perform, the stress on the child expected to conform to rigid guidelines or who has been sexually or emotionally abused, even the stress of a spiritual or religious outlook that assumes a clockwork universe or a vengeful god--results in constant outpourings of adrenaline resulting in overstimulation of glucagon to keep blood sugar levels high. The body then responds with increased production of insulin to bring blood sugar levels down.
Polyneuronal Extopy (PNE), more commonly known as panic disorder, is a common symptom of a condition in which high levels of insulin accompany normal blood sugar levels. The condition derives from the vicious circle of constant stress causing increased release of sugar into the bloodstream, kept in check by increased outpourings of insulin, leading to chronic anxiety even under conditions that normally should not produce stress. Over time, especially when the diet is poor, the beta-cells of the pancreas become exhausted and can no longer produce large amounts of insulin. The result is full blown diabetes, characterized by chronically high blood sugar levels--as though the body has balanced a kind of bitterness in the exterior world with excess sweetness in the blood.
Treatment of diabetes may thus entail a strong emotional or spiritual component; a good diet will go a long way to lower insulin requirements and heal the insulin-production mechanism, but removing the origins of stress is an important factor for long-term recovery. A change in job or life-style, therapy and a reassessment of any philosophical assumptions that breed fear rather than love may all be necessary to bring harmony to the body’s finely tuned mechanism for keeping blood sugar levels in balance.


Gymnema: Ayurvedic practitioners referred to gymnema as the "sugar-buster." If you chew some leaves of this inauspicious plant, you completely eliminate the ability of your taste buds to perceive the sweet taste. If you eat a piece of candy or even some honey ten minutes later, it will taste like chalk. One can almost hear a slight chuckle emanating from the plant as if to say, "I truly am the sugar buster." Gymnema also helps reduce blood sugar levels. It does this by lowering insulin resistance, much like conventional oral diabetic drugs, and also by increasing the secretion of insulin from the pancreas. Furthermore, gymnema actually helps regenerate destroyed pancreatic islet cells in type I diabetics. Use of gymnema may not completely reverse type I diabetes, but it always improves glucose control. Thus, gymnema addresses within itself the multifactorial etiology of diabetes in that it helps your body make more insulin, if that is needed, and it makes the insulin more effective. With gymnema there is no risk of provoking the dangerous hypoglycemic reactions so common with the conventional oral diabetic medication.
Bitter Melon: Bitter melon is a fruit that is widely used as food as well as medicine in Asia. Research suggests that bitter melon helps increase the number of beta cells in the pancreas, thereby improving the body’s ability to produce insulin. Furthermore, at least three different groups of constituents provide blood-sugar-lowering effects--steroidal saponins known as charantin, insulin-like peptides and alkaloids.
Bilberry: Used by the British Royal Air Force during World War II to improve night vision, bilberry contains tannins that help shrink up swollen and leaky tissue. The theory of diabetic retinopathy is that it is caused by leaky blood vessels surrounding the eye. Bilberry also contains compounds called OPCs which are good for the eyesight and the blood vessels.
Birch Leaf Tea: Birch leaf tea is excellent for the overweight Type II diabetic as it helps the body get rid of excess fluid and furthers weight loss.
Diaplex: Diaplex is the Standard Process diabetes preparation made from organically grown food containing abundant trace minerals as well as vitamin B6 from raw animal extracts.


A recent patient of mine was a 67-year-old retired white male who gave a history of diabetes for about 4 years. He suffered from the typical symptoms including high blood pressure in the 160/95 range, diminishing eyesight and the recent onset of protein in his urine. This patient was about 35-40 pounds overweight, and he complained of increasing fatigue and lethargy.
This is the classic presentation of type II, or non-insulin-dependent diabetes. The typical story is onset in the 50s to 60s in a person who is significantly overweight. Diabetes often goes along with high blood pressure, both as a direct consequence of being overweight and as a result of the fact that excess insulin (the hallmark of type II diabetes) itself causes high blood pressure because it stimulates the retention of fluid in the body. The protein in the urine is a sign that the diabetes is affecting his kidneys and that they are starting to "leak" protein. This is usually a harbinger of advanced diabetes and if not corrected will eventually lead to compromised kidney function and the misery of regular dialysis treatment. The eyesight problem is also a direct consequence of the diabetes because diabetes leads to a deterioration of the small blood vessels everywhere in the body. This includes the retina, where one begins to see exudates or leaking of blood from the blood vessels of the eye into the retina. Eventually, this process will lead to further impairment of the vision, if it is not reversed. I have also found that many of my patients with this kind of advancing diabetes also complain of not feeling well in a non-specific sort of way. Often the complaint is fatigue, lethargy, or just a decreased joy in life.
As is usual in these cases, my patient was on a number of drugs to address his health concerns. He was on an oral hypoglycemic agent to lower his blood sugar, a beta-blocker to lower his blood pressure (which incidentally raises the blood sugar), and an ACE inhibitor to lower the blood pressure and protect the kidneys. He believed that these drugs were contributing to his feeling unwell.
On his initial visit to me, in spite of these drugs, his blood pressure was 165/95, and his HgbA1c ( a measure of the average blood sugar over the past 6 weeks) was 8.1 (normal is 5.5-6.5). He had been instructed in the American Diabetes Association diet which is calorie-restricted and fat-restricted--and also universally reviled by the patients. Clearly, in spite of the best that Western medicine had to offer, he was not doing well.
I suggested a strict 60-70 gram per day carbohydrate intake while implementing a nourishing traditional diet to guide his food choices and food preparation. He was to eat plentifully of all the good fats and non-starchy vegetables without overeating protein (e.g., eat egg yolks in preference to egg whites, fatty fish instead of lean fish, cream instead of milk, etc.). He was not to limit his total food intake, but rather to strictly limit his carbohydrate consumption to the amount listed above. The patient also began taking a number of medicines which are my staples for treating patients with his constellation of troubles stemming from diabetes, including diaplex, gymnema, bilberry, and birch leaf tea, along with cod liver oil to supply 20,000 IU vitamin A daily.
In 6 months of strictly following this program the results were nothing short of remarkable (though actually predictable). He had lost 35 pounds without increasing his exercise, he felt much more energetic, he loved his food again, and he was off all conventional medicines. When I saw him at 6 months his blood pressure was 135/80, and there was no protein in his urine. The HgbA1c was 6.7 (almost normal) and he could sense his eyesight improving. Confirmation came when he had his checkup with his eye doctor, who produced an after picture showing that his retinal hemorrhages had healed considerably over the previous six months. The doctor commented that he had never seen such a thing.
This story shows that there is hope with diabetes and that with sound thinking and sound intervention much of the ravages of this illness can be prevented and treated.


Vitamin A: Plentiful vitamin A is crucial to the successful treatment of diabetes. The diabetic pancreas is deficient not only in its ability to produce insulin, but also in the production of a variety of key enzymes, including the enzymes the body needs to convert carotenes into vitamin A. Therefore, the diabetic must take in more pre-formed vitamin A than the non-diabetic. Vitamin A is key to the prevention of the side effects of diabetes, including retina problems, kidney problems, neuropathy, infection and slowness to heal. The diabetic should take cod liver oil to provide a minimum dose of 20,000 IU vitamin A per day, in addition to vitamin A-rich foods like liver, egg yolks, seafood and cream and butter from pasture-fed animals.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is needed for the production of insulin. A dose of cod liver oil that provides 20,000 IU vitamin A will provide 2,000 IU vitamin D. Several recent studies have shown that babies who receive cod liver oil during infancy, and whose mothers take cod liver oil during pregnancy, have much lower rates of diabetes. Other sources include lard, shellfish (especially shrimp), organ meats, egg yolks and cream and butter from pasture-fed animals.
Fatty Acids: The diabetic lacks the enzymes needed to make special long-chain, super-unsaturated fatty acids from essential fatty acids. Cod liver oil provides EPA and DHA from the omega-3 family. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) from the omega-6 family is provided by evening primrose oil, black currant oil or borage oil. Four capsules per day providing about 200 mg GLA is recommended.
Vitamin B1: A recent study found that diabetic rats given vitamin B1 (thiamine) had a 70-80 percent reduction in the development of kidney damage. Good sources include nutritional yeast, nuts, vegetables, liver and pork.
Vitamin B6: Plentiful supplies of vitamin B6 are critical for the health of the diabetic. B6 helps prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, to which the diabetic is prone. The best sources of B6 are raw animal foods such as raw whole milk, raw cheeses, raw fish and raw meat. Use only dairy products that are raw and include an ethnic raw meat or raw fish dish in the diet several times per week.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid: Also known as thoitic acid, alpha-lipoic acid is a vitamin-like enzyme cofactor necessary for converting glucose into ATP (chemical energy). Produced naturally in the body, it is also found in potatoes, carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, beets and red meat. As the diabetic needs to limit consumption of starchy vegetables, the best sources would be red meats and small amounts of pickled beets.
Chromium: A key mineral for diabetics, chromium is necessary for carbohydrate metabolism and proper functioning of the insulin receptors. Sources include nutritional yeast, molasses and organ meats like liver. Diabetics should eat liver at least once a week and take 1 tablespoon Frontier brand nutritional yeast mixed with water per day.
Vanadium: Without vanadium, sugar in the blood cannot be driven into the cells. An excellent source is unfiltered extra virgin olive oil.
Zinc: Zinc is a co-factor in the production of insulin. The best sources of zinc are red meats and shell fish, particularly oysters.
Thus, supplements for the diabetic should include cod liver oil; evening primrose, borage or black currant oil; and nutritional yeast.
The diet should be rich in animal foods including raw butter, cream, whole milk and cheese from pastured animals; raw meat and fish; beef and lamb; seafood, especially shellfish; unrefined salt for trace minerals; bone broths for minerals; unfiltered olive oil; molasses, egg yolks; and a variety of fresh and fermented vegetables, especially beets.
About the Author
Tom Cowan, MD is a physician in private practice in San Francisco, California. He is the author of The Fourfold Path to Healing. Visit his website at
Also of interest:
The Ideal Blood Sugar, by Emmanuel Cheraskin, MD, DMD

1 comment:

jessica said...

great and informative post.thanks