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Type 2 Diabetes: Exploring Integrative Approaches

Updated: Feb 28

What is Type 2 Diabetes

 

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic metabolic condition characterized by elevated blood glucose levels. In this type of diabetes, the body either resists the effects of insulin – the hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates the movement of glucose into cells where it is used for energy – or doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood glucose levels.

 

Uncontrolled type 2 diabetes can lead to several serious complications including heart disease, stroke, liver disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, vision problems, and increased susceptibility to infections.

 

Blood sugar metabolism plays a critical role in the development and management of type 2 diabetes.

 


The Story of Blood Sugar Metabolism

 

Dietary carbohydrates get broken down into glucose. If you eat an apple, the sugars in that apple get broken down into glucose and eventually make their way to your digestive tract. This triggers insulin to be released from the pancreas.

 

Imagine the I Love Lucy episode, “At the Chocolate Factory”, where Lucy and Ethel struggled to keep up with a high speed assembly line. Lucy and Ethel represent insulin and the chocolate on the conveyor belt represents glucose. Insulin’s job is to get glucose into the boxes. But what happened when the conveyor belt sped up and Lucy and Ethel had more work than they could handle? They became less effective and the chocolate piled up. When this happens in our body, it can cause insulin resistance (IR), elevated blood glucose levels, and an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

 

Insulin Resistance (IR)

 

IR occurs when the body’s cells become less responsive to the effects of insulin resulting in the need for more insulin to facilitate the transport of glucose into cells to be used for energy. Initially, the pancreas will make more insulin, but over time it can’t keep up with demand and blood sugar levels rise. Insulin resistance occurs in prediabetes and can progress to type 2 diabetes.

 


Integrative Approaches for Type 2 Diabetes



Maintaining healthy blood glucose levels with diet, exercise, stress reduction techniques, and avoidance of environmental toxins reduce the risk of developing IR and complications associated with type 2 diabetes.

 

Diet

A whole-foods, high-fiber diet with adequate protein and healthy fats encourage stable blood glucose levels and reduce blood glucose spikes. High-fiber, low-glycemic foods like avocado, asparagus, coconut, quinoa, berries, beans, bulgur, steel-cut and rolled oats, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, nuts, and seeds reduce the likelihood of spikes while supporting a healthy gut microbiome, an important consideration for the management of type 2 diabetes.

 

When meal planning, choose foods with a low to medium glycemic index. If you are eating high glycemic index foods, like white rice, potatoes, or honey, pair them with lower glycemic index foods, protein, and healthy fat to help maintain stable blood glucose levels.

 

Consistent meal times are associated with lower body weight and keep blood glucose and energy levels stable throughout the day. For most people, leaving 3 to 4 hours between meals supports healthy digestion and blood sugar stabilization.

 

Inadequate levels of certain nutrients are linked with increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes including inositol (a sugar produced by the body and found in some foods that helps your body process insulin and balance blood sugar levels), vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, chromium, and magnesium. Eating a diverse, whole-foods diet, and taking supplements if and when necessary help support optimal nutrient levels.  

 

Exercise

Cycling, swimming, dancing, strength training, or other joyful physical movement is beneficial in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. Regular physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Walking for 150 minutes per week, for example, can reduce the risk by up to 60%.

 

Stress

The stress hormone, cortisol, raises blood glucose levels which can exacerbate symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Practicing stress reduction techniques like meditation, singing, humming, breathwork, or other calming activity can attenuate high blood glucose levels. 

 

Environmental Toxins

Exposure to toxins like Bisphenol A (BPA, a chemical used to produce plastics), Perfluorochemicals (PFCs, chemicals used to make things non-stick and stain-resistant) arsenic, dioxin, and others commonly found in pesticides increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

 

Choosing glass over plastic for food storage, stainless steel or cast iron cookware, and organic foods help to reduce exposure.

 

Schedule a complementary consultation to see how we can help you support healthy blood sugar levels!  




 


References:

1.     Cleveland Clinic. Prediabetes. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21498-prediabetes 

 

2.     Goyal R, Singhal M, Jialal I. Type 2 Diabetes. [Updated 2023 Jun 23]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan- Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513253/ 

 

3.     Gröber, U., Schmidt, J., & Kisters, K. (2015). Magnesium in Prevention and Therapy. Nutrients, 7(9), 8199–8226. ​https://doi.org/10.3390/nu7095388

 

4.     Petroni ML, Brodosi L, Marchignoli F, Sasdelli AS, Caraceni P, Marchesini G, Ravaioli F. Nutrition in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: Present Knowledge and Remaining Challenges. Nutrients. 2021 Aug 10;13(8):2748. doi: 10.3390/nu13082748. PMID: 34444908; PMCID: PMC8401663.

 

5.     Reutrakul S, Van Cauter E. Sleep influences on obesity, insulin resistance, and risk of type 2 diabetes. Metabolism. 2018 Jul;84:56-66. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2018.02.010. Epub 2018 Mar 3. PMID: 29510179.

 

6.     Tudurí, E., Marroqui, L., Dos Santos, R. S., Quesada, I., Fuentes, E., & Alonso-Magdalena, P. (2018). Timing of Exposure and Bisphenol-A: Implications for Diabetes Development. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 9. ​https://doi.org/10.3389/fendo.2018.00648

 

7.     Weiser, M. J., & Handa, R. J. (2009). Estrogen impairs glucocorticoid dependent negative feedback on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis via estrogen receptor alpha within the hypothalamus. Neuroscience, 159(2), 883–895. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.12.058 

 

8.     Wu Y, Ding Y, Tanaka Y, Zhang W. Risk factors contributing to type 2 diabetes and recent advances in the treatment and prevention. Int J Med Sci. 2014 Sep 6;11(11):1185-200. doi: 10.7150/ijms.10001. PMID: 25249787; PMCID: PMC4166864.




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