The conventional approaches to the treatment and management of diabetes is the single worst case of mismanagement in medicine today!
Full disclosure: My family history is riddled with diabetes — uncles, aunts, grandparents, and parents all with diabetes. These were not overweight people. Not by today’s standards. They had a genetic predisposition for sure. However, each had a chance to control the disease and failed miserably.
Besides genetics, what did they have in common? They all used the conventional approach to diabetes care: Lowering blood sugar by any means necessary, including using prescription drugs and insulin injections, which increase the risk of long-term complications including heart disease and cancer. Diabetics using the pharmaceutical heavy model are destined to remain reliant on the medical system.
Diabetes treatment in the current conventional health care environment will not reverse diabetes and in many cases will actually aggravate the underlying causes of the illness, leading to more chronic conditions and long-term complications.
How can we expect to reverse something with medicine if we never address the root cause?
Asking Better Questions
Conventional medicine approaches diabetes treatment with the wrong question: “How can we lower the patient’s blood sugar?”
A better question is this: “What are some root causes of blood sugar problems and what can we do to resolve them?”
The underlying causes of blood sugar problems include the following:
- Insulin resistance
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Hormone imbalance
- Autoimmune activity
- Hidden infections
- B-vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Taking insulin when it’s not needed
Testing for Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is a condition in which your cells are unable to use insulin efficiently. As a result, your pancreas makes more insulin to force the issue. The same thing happens when you build a tolerance for alcohol or any drug. Higher and higher doses are needed to produce the same effect. Insulin resistance typically starts 10 to 20 years before a person is diagnosed with diabetes and often is still the main problem when diagnosis occurs.
Taking insulin is generally unnecessary, medically, until the pancreas starts to fail after years of insulin overproduction or an autoimmune response to the pancreas. In many of the cases I have treated, insulin was provided too soon. The problem is usually not the body’s inability to produce insulin; the problem is usually excess insulin.
While this may seem counterintuitive, it only takes a simple lab test to find out. Check the insulin levels, not just the HbA1c. If you see elevated fasting insulin, the pancreas can still produce plenty of insulin. You must then ask, if I can make insulin why are my sugar levels so high? It’s usually because the cells are not using the insulin efficiently. This is a classic case of insulin resistance.
The next question is this: “What’s causing the insulin resistance?”
Insulin resistance can be caused by one or more of the following:
- High carb diet
- High fat diet
- High cortisol secretions due to stress or infection
What can be done to address the root cause(s)?
Diet, exercise, and stress reduction are good starting points. If addressing these factors doesn’t produce the desired results, then we need to dig deeper.
Low testosterone, high cortisol, hidden infections, vitamin/ mineral deficiencies, or autoimmune responses to the pancreas may be playing a role.
Testing for Low Testosterone (Low-T)
Low testosterone is a risk factor for developing insulin resistance. As we age, testosterone declines, increasing our risk for diabetes. Consuming too much sugar and carbohydrates compounds the problem by reducing testosterone and converting it to estrogen. This is why many men develop “man boobs” and symptoms of low testosterone. Weakness, fatigue, low sex drive, and insulin resistance are all associated with low testosterone.
Considering Autoimmune Disorders, Food Allergies, and Hidden Infections
When people develop diabetes as adults, they are often diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (insulin resistance) as opposed to Type 1 diabetes (inability to produce insulin). Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder in which the pancreatic beta cells, which produce and store insulin, are destroyed. However, even if you are diagnosed as an adult with type 2 diabetes, your condition may be more a combination of type 1 and type 2 diabetes — a condition referred to as Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA).
If you have LADA, you may require insulin. However, it is also important to address the reason the immune system is attacking the pancreas. Research shows some evidence of a link between destruction of pancreatic beta cells and dietary intake of dairy and gluten. Several viruses are among the environmental factors thought to foster the development of autoimmune diabetes.
Based on my own practice and an understanding of the research regarding the mechanisms of autoimmunity, I follow the common practice of checking for hidden infections and treating them if found. Other steps can be taken to alter the progression of autoimmune responses. These include avoiding foods that aggravate the immune system and taking various vitamins and minerals that support healthy immune function. Diet, viral infections, and nutritional deficiencies should be checked using patient history, examination, and lab data.
Avoiding the Overuse of Insulin
Your doctor says, “Lose weight!” and prescribes insulin to control your diabetes. This is a double-edged sword!
Insulin clearly causes weight gain. In type 2 diabetes, weight gain is directly related to insulin resistance, risk for cardiovascular disease, and stroke, so it stands to reason that less is more when it comes to insulin. However, most diabetics are in a battle with increasing insulin and increasing waistlines.
If you are facing this same dilemma, what should you do? First, avoid insulin at all costs when possible by addressing the root causes of type 2 diabetes. That would mean a steady regimen of exercise and proper diet, including caloric restriction. Next, have your vitamin and mineral levels checked. Low levels will impact how your body uses insulin, so making sure your levels are adequate (a multivitamin will not necessarily do the trick) is a key to reducing the need for insulin.
In my clinical experience, I have consulted with many patients who have employed a holistic approach to diabetes, while we worked side by side with their endocrinologists. Some of these patients have completely eliminated insulin medications by following a more holistic and functional approach to diabetes care. Others have been able to greatly reduce their daily dose of insulin from 30–60 units down to 10.
Treatment success does not necessarily mean that a patient is no longer diabetic, it simply means they are managing diabetes in the least invasive manner while addressing the root cause of the issue. It also translates to less risk for heart disease and diabetes as weight gain and insulin use will increase risk. For those who are already on medications, diet and exercise are often just not enough.
By not including these holistic practices in the current conventional approach to diabetes, patients are often missing important parts of treatment that clinically improve quality of life and have the potential to reduce the progression.
If we decide to view diabetes from a functional and holistic perspective a whole new world of possibilities opens up.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog post is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current medical thinking or practices. No information contained in this post should be construed as medical advice from Dr. Matt Lewis, D.C., DACBN, CFMP®, nor is this post intended to be a substitute for medical counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate medical advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed medical professional in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
About the Author: Dr. Matt Lewis, D.C., DACBN, CFMP®, specializes in diagnosing and treating the underlying causes of the symptoms related to chronic and unexplained illness through nutrition, lifestyle, chiropractic, and other natural approaches to whole-health healing in Tampa, Florida. He earned his B.S. in Biology from Shenandoah University, his Doctorate in Chiropractic from Life University, his Diplomate status in Clinical Nutrition from the American Clinical Board of Nutrition, his CFMP® from Functional Medicine University, and his certification as a Digestive Health Specialist (DHS) through the Food Enzyme Institute. Dr. Lewis’ passion for health and wellness stems from his own personal experience. With a family history of autoimmune conditions and diabetes, and his own lab tests showing his genetic susceptibility to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (autoimmune thyroid), he has learned how to restore his own health and vigor to prevent the onset of these and other illnesses and live an incredibly active life. Through this process, he acquired a deeper understanding of health and wellness, which he now offers his patients in Tampa.