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Diabetes and Nutrition Recommendations

Diabetes is a result of problems with the pancreatic hormone insulin. Insulin controls the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood and the rate at which glucose is absorbed into the cells. The cells need glucose to produce energy. In people with diabetes, glucose builds up in the bloodstream instead of being taken into and used by the cells, leading to hyperglycemia (abnormally high levels of glucose in the blood).

Eventually, hyperglycemia leads to damaged blood vessels which in turn may cause eye disease, heart disease, peripheral and autonomic neuropathy (nerve damage in the limbs and internal organs), and diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease).

There are two major types of diabetes. Type 1 (or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus [IDDM]), and type 2 (non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus [NIDDM]). Type 1 diabetes affects 5 to 10 percent of people with the disease and usually starts at an early age. It is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Experts believe this may result from an immune response after a viral infection.

Type 2 diabetes, by far the more common form of diabetes, affects 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas does produce insulin in small quantities, but not enough to fuel the cells. The cells may also become resistant to the effects of what little insulin there is in the bloodstream.

Many people with type 2 diabetes are completely unaware of it. This type of diabetes usually begins in later years, although, unfortunately, it is now becoming more common in young people as well. Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include diet, weight, race, age, lack of exercise, and heredity.

People with diabetes are subject to episodes of both high and low blood sugar. The symptoms of hyperglycemia (too much glucose in the blood) often include fatigue, a constant need to urinate, extreme thirst, constantly feeling hungry, loss of weight, and problems with eyesight. Episodes of hypoglycemia (less than normal amounts of glucose in the blood), which strike suddenly, can be caused by a missed meal, too much exercise, or a reaction to too much insulin. The initial signs of hypoglycemia are hunger, dizziness, sweating, confusion, palpitations, and numbness or tingling of the lips.


According to figures published by the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 15.7 million people in America have diabetes. This disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and is the primary cause of blindness in people between the ages of twenty and seventy.

Hypothyroidism may be a leading cause of diabetes. Well-know researcher and author Stephen Langer, M.D., has notices that neuropathies (kidney diseases), together with other diabetic complications, disappear when thyroid hormone is administered. Many complications of diabetes and hypothyroidism are a result of clogged arteries, which prevent the blood from delivering nutrients and oxygen to the body and from carrying off waste and debris. (See Arteriosclerosis).

Glycosylation—the binding of glucose and other sugars onto proteins in the blood, never cells, and lenses of the eyes—may be responsible for many of the long-term effects of diabetes. Researchers at the University of Surrey’s School of Biological Sciences and London’s Whittington Hospital have shown that vitamin C may inhibit this destructive process. They say that if glycosylation is part of the normal aging process, taking vitamin C supplements may slow it.

Researchers at University of Colorado Health Science Center found that smokers who have diabetes are two to three times more likely than their non-smoking counterparts to develop kidney damage, often leading to the need for dialysis or a transplant. Smoking constricts blood vessels. In people with diabetes, this helps to push large protein molecules out of the vessels and into the kidneys, which can lead to eventual kidney failure.

Nutrition Recommendations

Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet including plenty of raw fruits and vegetables as well as fresh vegetable juices; this reduces the need for insulin and also lowers the level of fats in the blood; fibers help to reduce blood sugar levels

Supplement your diet with spirulina; Spirulina helps to stabilize blood sugar levels; other foods that help normalize blood sugar include berries, brewer’s yeast, dairy products (especially cheese), egg yolks, fish, garlic, kelp, sauerkraut, soybeans, and vegetables

Get your protein from vegetable sources, such as grains and legumes; fish and low-fat dairy products are also acceptable sources of protein

Avoid saturated fats and simple sugars (except when necessary to balance an insulin reaction)

Eat more carbohydrates or reduce your insulin dosage before exercise

Do not take extremely large doses of vitamin B1 and C; excessive amounts of these vitamins may inactivate insulin; these vitamins may, however, be taken in normal amounts

Avoid taking large amounts of vitamin B3 (niacin); however, small amounts (50 to 100 mg a day), taken by mouth, may be beneficial

Supplement your diet with one or more of the following nutrients—click on any link to find it at the Health Catalog Store:

Alpha-Lipoic Acid—For treatment of peripheral nerve damage in diabetic patients; helps control blood sugar levels

Chromium Picolinate—Improves insulin’s efficiency, which lowers blood sugar levels

Garlic—Decreases and stabilizes blood sugar levels; enhances immunity and improves circulation

L-Carnitine—Mobilizes fat

L-Glutamine—Reduces the craving for sugars

L-Taurine—Aids in the release of insulin

Quercitin—Helps protect the membranes of the lens of the eye from accumulations of polyols as a result of high glucose levels

Vitamin B Complex—The B vitamins work best when taken together

Biotin—Improves the metabolism of glucose

Inositol—Important for circulation and for prevention of atherosclerosis

Vitamin B12—Needed to prevent diabetic neuropathy

Folic Acid—Needed to prevent diabetic neuropathy

Zinc—Deficiency has been associated with diabetes

Coenzyme Q10—Improves circulation and stabilized blood sugar

Coenzyme A—Works well with coenzyme Q10 in protecting the cells and removing toxic substances from the body

Magnesium—Important for enzyme systems and pH balance; protects against coronary artery spasm in arteriosclerosis; increases energy levels; low readings magnesium are often found in people with diabetes, and are associate with the complications of eye disease

Manganese—Needed for repair of the pancreas; also a cofactor in key enzymes of glucose metabolism; deficiency is common in people with diabetes

Psyllium Husks—Good fiber source and fat mobilizer;

Vitamin A—An important antioxidant needed to maintain the health of the eyes

Beta Carotene—A precursor to vitamin A and an important antioxidant

Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids—Deficiency may lead to vascular problems in the people with diabetes; vitamin C may slow or prevent complications that occur in diabetes

Vitamin E—Improves circulation and prevents complications through its antioxidant properties; use d-alpha-tocopherol form

For a more in-depth discussion of the causes of Diabetes and its recommended nutritional treatment, consult Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC, and James F. Balch, M.D.

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