Type 2 Diabetes – America’s Fastest Growing Chronic Disease
What is Type 2 Diabetes? “Something that happens when you eat too much soda or candy.” “Something that happens when you are obese.” “High blood sugar.” These are common responses we, at 5280 Functional Medicine, receive in our clinic from patients currently receiving education, support and monitoring for diabetes. The lack of education that a type 2 diabetic gets from the average conventionally trained primary care physician, endocrinologist, or internist is scary, and not scary good!
I recall visiting a family member in the hospital a few years ago following their first heart attack (another story for another time). At some point during our visit a friend of my family member (lets just call him Bob) wheeled himself into our room in a wheelchair with his foot wrapped in ace bandage from his toes to his lower leg. It turns out that Bob had been in the hospital for 4 months due to complications due to his type 2 diabetes. He had been undergoing amputation after amputation of his foot over the past 4 months, which is consistent with type 2 diabetes being the leading cause of limb amputation in the U.S. Anyways, it just so happens that while I was visiting I had with me my copy of How to Prevent & Treat Diabetes with Natural Medicine by Dr. Michael Murray, just in case we were going to be a while. This phenomenal resource outlines exactly what dietary factors feed and fight diabetes. So when the topic of lunch came around, out of professional curiosity I asked Bob what he was ordering from the hospital cafeteria for lunch today. Bob replied with an excited “grilled cheese and a milkshake!” When I looked for myself, much to my surprise these options were straight off of the hospital menu that somewhere a highly trained and licensed dietitian had put together (since conventional medical doctors receive no formal training in clinical nutrition). It absolutely floored me to think that the very “health” professionals tasked with “treating” his disease were at the same time poisoning this man with refined flour and sugar products, the very drivers of both obesity and type 2 diabetes. In fact, these high glycemic foods are directly responsible for insulin resistance, the hallmark of type 2 diabetes!
In my professional opinion, if a diabetic patient enters a hospital for a complication that requires surgical treatment, after 4 months that patient’s diabetes should be well on its way to being reversed. In fact, in our practice we teach patients about how functional medicine can actually improve and often times reverse long standing diabetes, first and foremost, through adopting a paleolithic diet. More often than not, in 2-4 months these patients’ fasting blood glucose numbers tend to fall anywhere from 80-150 points depending on where they started at! This is what our hospitals should be doing. That patient should be place immediately on a whole food paleolithic diet that emphasizes a wide spectrum of vegetables and healthy fats. There should be a lesser emphasis on quality protein sources such as wild caught fish and poultry, as well as nuts and seeds, and a very sparing intake low glycemic fruits, legumes and gluten free grains. Instead these patients are fed their favorite comfort foods and told that they don’t have to worry about anything except to make sure they continue on their medications. Unfortunately, by following the lead of doctors with no knowledge of functional medicine or clinical nutrition and who are quick to poo poo the critical impact our diet and lifestyle has on our health, most patients become worse. In fact, many patients are told by these same doctors that there is nothing else that can be done except take drugs.
But this is par for the course. Should we be so surprised? This is exactly why type 2 diabetes has gotten so out of hand in the first place. We, in America, have a system in place that provides our medical doctors with many hours of pharmacology training without a single course in the most basic clinical nutrition! Is anyone else appalled by this? Then, these physician go on to treat and counsel patients with chronic, diet and lifestyle-induced diseases like diabetes. So what do we expect their medical suggestions are going to entail…lots of drugs and fancy procedures with no recommendations in the way of proper diet or healthy lifestyle. I think one thing we have lost sight of is that healthcare providers are not structured like a pyramid with MD’s at the top, but rather like a tree with many different branches. Each healing art has something to add, whether it be chiropractic medicine, osteopathic medicine, acupuncture, naturopathy, homeopathy, nursing, oriental medicine, massage therapy, etc. But conventional medicine, like any other healing art, is not all-encompassing. They do not have all the answers. And as is the case in our country, their training lacks the fundamental component of health…basic nutrition!
The point is that our current system of conventional medicine is doomed to fail when it comes to the management of type 2 diabetes because it lacks any emphasis on basic human nutrition. Educating patients about proper nutrition is absolutely essential to reversing the underlying pathology of type 2 diabetes, which is insulin resistance due to a diet laden with high glycemic sugar and flour products. This is exactly why functional medicine is the only approach that will help! We utilize medical exam and diagnostic procedures to monitor diabetes and its complications by taking blood pressure, performing regular eye examinations, examining the feet for wounds and infections, performing regular blood chemistry analysis to measure metabolic and inflammatory biomarkers, and referring out to specialists when necessary. We also use an equally evidence-based but more natural, conservative and holistic approach to patient-centered treatment, which begins with…you guessed it, nutrition and lifestyle modifications! This natural approach have been shown again and again to actually re-sensitize the body to insulin and eliminate diabetes in the process! That’s it, no tricks. Will a little guidance and some hard work most people with diabetes can enjoy being healthy again!