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Diabetes: A Naturopathic Perspective
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (The CDC), the 7th leading cause of death in the USA was diabetes in 2017. It was responsible for 83,564 deaths that year. From 2013 to 2016, 15% of US adults over the age of 20 had diabetes. That is an amazingly high number. If you don’t personally suffer from diabetes, you very likely have someone close to you who is.
The good news is that there is a lot that we can do to healthfully manage diabetes and even help prevent it in the first place. Let’s take a closer look.
There are three types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes, which only affects pregnant women. Type 1, also known as juvenile diabetes, is the result of an immune attack on the pancreas. It destroys beta cells (insulin producing cells), so patients will require external insulin for life. While type 1 diabetes and gestational diabetes are very serious conditions, we are going to focus on type 2 diabetes because of its association with poor lifestyle choices.
Type 2 diabetes is the result of insulin resistance. Every time we eat the carbohydrates convert to glucose, a type of sugar, which circulates through our blood stream. We use this blood sugar as fuel to power all sorts of vital cellular mechanisms. Excess blood sugar that we don’t need right away gets stored for later use. This process is dependent on a hormone called insulin. Insulin resistance is when we have difficultly regulating the amount of sugar in our blood. Excess blood sugar can cause all sorts of damage to the body, including the heart, kidneys and nervous system.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include increased hunger and/or thirst, fatigue and changes in urination, among others. If you have or suspect that you are heading towards type 2 diabetes, lifestyle changes are necessary.
Diet and nutrition are probably the most important. The reduction or removal of added sugar, processed or fast foods and refined grains will be necessary. Some other important areas include exercise, possible hormone imbalances and even environmental toxin exposure.
Diabetes is a serious and largely preventable condition. Wherever you are on your diabetic journey, a naturopathic doctor can thoroughly evaluate your situation and help steer you in the right direction to improve the quality of your life.
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