Updated: Sep 7
How naturopathic doctors tailor diabetes treatment plans to give patients the best chance for success
An alarming 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a marked increase in the prevalence of diabetes among Americans. More than 29 million Americans now have diabetes and it’s estimated that another 86 million Americans are pre-diabetic. What’s worse, one in four people with diabetes doesn’t even know he or she has the disease.
What is Diabetes?
A group of diseases marked by high levels of blood glucose, diabetes causes issues with insulin production and the way insulin functions. Diabetes can cause serious complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and premature death. In adults, type 2 diabetes accounts for 90-95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Older age, family history, physical inactivity, impaired glucose metabolism and race/ethnicity can all be risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes.
Pre-diabetes: A Precursor to Diabetes
People that have pre-diabetes have elevated glucose levels that are not yet high enough to be classified as diabetes. Without lifestyle changes, including diet, weight loss and moderate physical activity, 15-30% of pre-diabetics will develop type 2 diabetes within five years. Those with pre-diabetes are also at high risk for developing heart disease.
The Naturopathic Approach to Diabetes Management
There are numerous ways to help manage diabetes and it is never the same for two individuals. I take a complete naturopathic approach by first identifying and addressing the root cause of the issue and then trying to heal the patient from within. A number of different therapies may be indicated, ranging from allopathic therapies using insulin and metformin, to addressing nutrition or stress in the patient’s life.
Weight Management is Vital
When dealing with type 2 diabetes, weight management plays a critical role. I’ve developed a 12-week weight management program that was designed to help diabetics modulate uncontrolled blood sugar levels. The most valuable lesson to be learned from the program is “how to achieve normal blood sugars”. The current ADA dietary guidelines are proving not to be very successful at managing healthy glucose levels.
A Customized Diabetes Management Plan for Each Individual
Prescribing the same diet to each patient does not work because no two individuals are the same, even if they have the same disease. I use a blood glucose profile in combination with a food journal so that patients can see how foods influence their blood sugar. Through this tool, patients are able to understand the role individual food has on their own blood sugar. The individualized program educates patients about low-glycemic foods, anti-inflammatory foods, foods that address insulin resistance, proper protein and carbohydrate intakes, foods that aid in digestion and foods that combat oxidative stress. I also cover common allergies in diabetes, proper ratio of fat consumption, and I provide a meal guide.
How Stress Affects Diabetics
Our biochemistries are wired in such a way that stressful situations cause elevated blood glucose levels. If we are in a constant state of stress, this can be very detrimental to our health, especially for those with diabetes. Through counseling, life strategies and other recommendations, I aim to help the patient significantly reduce their overall stress.
How Supplements Can Help Control Blood Sugar
Supplements, vitamins, minerals, and botanicals are also discussed with the patient to help with insulin resistance and modulating blood sugars. There are numerous botanicals and micro nutrients that are vital when addressing health in diabetics. Oxidative stress and inflammation are two main contributors when it comes to complications of diabetes. Addressing these issues through proper supplementation helps support the body at the cellular level in common areas of injury to diabetics, including the kidneys, central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and eyes.