Thursday, July 18, 2013

Avoiding Diabetes

There is good news on the natural health - diabetes front.  Rather than news of new drugs, stem cells, and compatible pig-to-human pancreatic transplants (no joke) we have a super simple and natural approach to prevent diabetes.  That approach is to LOSE WEIGHT.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical School discovered that people who were pre-diabetic and lost 10% of their body weight in the first 6 months of their diagnosis had an 85% reduction in their pre-diabetes worsening into diabetes.(1)

So if this is your health problem, you are probably saying, "GREAT, like I don't already diet out the kazoo."  Losing weight is no small challenge.  In the study there were three components to the weight loss program: diet, exercise, and support.  I have come to the opinion that all three are necessary.

There are 50 if not 100 or more different diets out there -- all of them claiming to be your answer to weight loss.  In 20 years of naturopathic practice what I can recommend in a nutshell about diet is: find the one that works and stick to it.  Every person has a unique set of hormonal, genetic, physical, emotional, and lifestyle factors that contribute to your body's response to food.  All of these factors provide an extremely individualized circumstance for you.  This means that a different diet will work for every person, you only have to find it.  While I might be able to steer you in the general direction if I met with you, trial and error will work too.  

Exercise is simpler than you think.  Don't let the memory of that drill sergeant PE teacher in high school barking out the orders for your calisthenics send you running for the couch with your favorite comfort food.  In this study participants did only 150 minutes of exercise per WEEK.  150 minutes over 7 days is only 21 minutes a day.  You simply need to walk for 20 minutes.  Many of us can just park a couple blocks from work and walk where we need to and get in at least half of this time.  My experience is that once you lure yourself into just doing a few minutes, you decide since you're going already to just do the rest.

I don't pretend to know why this works, but this piece is the one most people don't incorporate.  Weight Watchers has always held this component in high regard.  In the study, people were required to meet with a health coach one-on-one for 3 months and then be in a support group for the second 3 months. I don't know what support does, except that it adds an extra measure of accountability for staying on-track. 

So if your doctor has told you that your fasting glucose levels are running a little high, tackle your weight problems again and redouble your efforts.  It will beat getting pig pancreas cells transplanted, losing your toes and feet, or injecting insulin multiple times a day to treat diabetes.

(1) Johns Hopkins Medicine. "People with pre-diabetes who drop substantial weight may ward off type 2 diabetes." ScienceDaily, 16 Jul. 2013. Web. 17 Jul. 2013.

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