A Diabetes Diet

A Diabetes Diet
July 18, 2013 WoW admin

I used to write a column called Holistic Health 101 for one of the local papers here in Edmonton. I loved that “job”. Anyway, that’s an aside to the point of this post. Nutrition with connection to type II diabetes has been coming up a lot lately. I previously wrote a two-part column on the topic, and Geha asked me to post it here. I will post it in the same way that it appeared in the newspaper: part one this week and part two the following. That way I won’t lose you in an excessively long blog post! Here it is:

Recently, I’ve been working with a client who has type II diabetes. To learn more about the disease, I picked up a book by Diana Schwarzbein, M.D., leading American endocrinologist and authority on metabolic healing, sub-specializing in diabetes. In reading Schwarzbein’s book, I discovered that conventional recommendations for type II diabetes include following a diet low in fat and quite high in complex carbohydrates. Frankly, I’m perplexed by this since carbohydrates convert to glucose in the body, too much glucose being the issue with type II diabetics to begin with.

Schwarzbein Principle Type II diabetes is characterized by high blood glucose levels due to insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that is released when we eat glucose (sugar) in any form and is responsible for tightly managing the amount of glucose that reaches the brain. If too much glucose reaches the brain, cells in the body get damaged. This is why type II diabetes is associated with heart and kidney disease, nerve and eye damage, osteoporosis, frequent infections, Alzheimer’s disease and hearing impairment. Insulin protects the brain in two ways: by alerting the liver about incoming glucose so it can stop large amounts from reaching the brain and by storing glucose in cells, keeping blood sugar levels stable. Once glucose is stored away, insulin levels normalize. The body uses glucose stores to generate energy over time. With type II diabetes, cells resist insulin, not allowing storage of glucose, so blood sugar levels are high, especially after a meal. Meanwhile, the pancreas secretes more insulin because the body thinks more is needed to store away extra glucose floating around in the blood. This means insulin levels are also high in type II diabetics. With nowhere to go, glucose stores as fat, commonly around the midsection. This is why type II diabetes is associated with obesity.  

Back to Schwarzbein’s book: at the start of her career, Schwarzbein took a position working primarily with type II diabetics. Schwarzbein was attentive to her patients, many of them having been accidentally diagnosed with type II diabetes during routine checks. She notes, “after following the standard of diabetes care, they felt terrible”.  She couldn’t help but feel that there must be a better nutritional program for type II diabetics. Thereafter, Schwarzbein discovered a clear connection between patients’ high blood sugar levels and what they were being told to eat.

Consider a sample breakfast plan from the Canadian Diabetes Association’s website: ½-cup cold cereal with 1-cup low-fat milk, 1 slice whole grain toast with 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1 orange and tea or coffee. Firstly, things like cereal, bread and pasta are refined, meaning they’ve been altered by man. Refining removes bran and germ, components of grains that provide fibre. Fibre lowers blood sugar levels and maintains healthy weight. Naturally occurring grains include barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, couscous, millet, oats, quinoa and wild rice. Secondly, most supermarket peanut butters contain sugar and are highly susceptible to toxins from mould due to the way they’re harvested. Toxins and mould weaken the body’s immune system. Finally, caffeine entices a stress response, especially since it throws the endocrine system out of balance. The endocrine system needs to be as balanced as possible to ensure optimal wellness for a person with type II diabetes. I feel flabbergasted that caffeine also shows up in the sample lunch AND dinner plans! Lunch also includes a sandwich on TWO pieces of whole grain bread with margarine! If you’re a type II diabetic following these meal plans, your blood sugar levels are through the roof at this rate since you load up on refined carbohydrates from morning to night and the THREE cups of coffee you may have had by bedtime are creating imbalance and stress, depleting your body’s ability to be well. To top it all off, you consume toxins from peanut butter and margarine.

Schwarzbein’s regime for type II diabetics is a healthier alternative to what the Canadian Diabetic Association is suggesting and has helped many people improve their health and quality of life. She encourages healthy, balanced eating, focusing on non-starchy vegetables, proteins, fats and limited portions of naturally occurring carbohydrates such as fruit, non-refined grains, legumes and starchy vegetables. With few exceptions, including her support of soy products, which are known endocrine disruptors, I think her program has a lot to offer. For more information, please check out The Schwarzbein Principle: The Truth About Losing Weight, Being Healthy And Feeling Younger.

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for next week’s installment!

Roberta Shepherd for Wellness on Whyte