Natural Medicine : DIABETES (Adult-type)
For over 70 years, traditional treatment for diabetes was a high fat, low carbohydrate
diet with insulin by injection, or pills by mouth. Justification for prescribing the high fat diet
was that it keeps the blood sugar from rising too much after a meal, and it prevents too much
sugar from spilling into the urine. But the disadvantages of fatty diets far outweigh the advantages.
This type of diet does not reduce blood sugar, nor the insulin requirement to handle the
excess sugar. In fact, it tends to make the body less sensitive to insulin and induces resistance
to it. Elevation of blood fats leads to hardening of the arteries. It promotes the accumulation of
ketone bodies in the body tissue and fluids, and accelerates aging.
Other diets that have been used to control diabetes are high protein, high carbohydrate and high
fiber diets. Protein diets seem to prevent a significant rise in blood sugar, but are "impractical,
monotonous, expensive, promote kidney and liver failure and hardening of the arteries, and are
usually high in fat," hence not recommended.
Refined carbohydrate diets (sugar, white flour, white rice, etc.) are rapidly absorbed, elevating the
blood sugar after meals, as well as increasing triglycerides. Such a diet is a detriment in treating
diabetes, and is no treatment at all. However, when complex carbohydrates--whole grain bread and
cereals, brown rice, bran, fruit, vegetables and no refined sugar--compose most of the meal, these
disadvantages disappear. The body better utilizes the carbohydrate and glucose in the food. When
mildly diabetic persons switch from 45% carbohydrates to 85% complex carbohydrates, their glucose
tolerance test improves.
After a low fiber meal (the typical American diet), blood sugar shoots up rapidly. This stimulates a spurt
of insulin into the blood stream. The resulting overabundance of insulin sends the blood sugar down
as rapidly as it ascended. With high fiber meals there is no rapid rise in blood sugar. Fiber slows the
digestive process so that absorption of glucose proceeds more slowly. A high insulin level itself causes
"irritation" of blood vessels and increases risks of hypertension.
Most Americans on a high meat diet eat between 14 and 20 grams of plant fiber every day. The ideal vegetarian
diet provides 65-70 grams. Insulin must hook up on one side with sugar (glucose), and the other side must
slide into insulin "docking sites" (receptors) on cells. For sugar to be properly utilized, the docking
sites must be filled with insulin. Here is another advantage of a high fiber diet--the fiber increases the
number of docking sites. Obese individuals have fewer insulin receptors, hence fewer sites for
sugar-hooked insulin to slide into.
Fasting for several days, until the blood glucose returns to normal, multiplies insulin docking sites.
(This should be done only under supervision of a physician). If the person is obese, later fasting for
a day or two a week, non-consecutively, can be very helpful for diabetic control.
In addition to decreasing the rapid rise of blood sugar after a meal and increasing the number of
insulin docking sites on cells, a high fiber diet lowers blood fats, helping to carry cholesterol out of the
body. It keeps the blood sugar at a lower level than a fiber-free meal. Triglycerides (blood fats) and
cholesterol are also decreased, thus lessening the risk of coronary heart attack.
Exercise along with the diet is important and cannot be overemphasized. Exercise enhances the sensitivity
of the tissues to insulin, increasing the number of insulin receptors. It helps decrease body fat, thus
making people more sensitive to insulin.
We have found over the years that a total vegetarian diet, high in fiber and the unrefined carbohydrates,
low in fats; coupled with a regular exercise program; and weight control is the very best to control diabetes
and to prevent the serious complications of this disease.
By far the majority of people stay on the program. They enjoy the food, for it is palatable, practical and
attractive. The whole family can benefit from eating this food. Most of those who stay on the program never
need to take pills or insulin again.
(For much more information, see our book entitled Diabetes and the Hypoglycemic Syndrome, available
from Country Life Natural Food Store; phone 706-323-9194.)