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What Is It?
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disorder of the digestive system, involving all nutrients in food. The human body requires glucose (sugar) for energy, both immediately and stored for future use. Insulin, a hormone produced by specialized cells of the pancreas called Islets of Langerhans, is necessary to move glucose from the bloodstream into the cells for use as energy. A meal is consumed, broken down by the digestive enzymes into basic nutrients for use by the cells. The result of carbohydrate breakdown is a rise in the glucose level of the blood. This triggers the production of insulin and its secretion into the blood stream, which causes the cells to take in and use the glucose, lowering blood glucose levels to normal limits.
Diabetes mellitus can take two forms. Type I (juvenile onset or insulin dependent) usually occurs in children or teens, but generally well before age 40. No insulin is being produced at all by the pancreas. Type II (adult-onset or non-insulin dependent) usually occurs in those over 40 and involves either insufficient insulin production or decreased efficiency of the hormone itself
TYPE I - Insulin Dependent Diabetes (IDDM)
This variety of the silent assailant usually strikes young children and adolescents and is characterized by a complete lack of insulin production. The beta cells of the pancreas which produce insulin are destroyed by a mechanism which is as yet unclear. It is considered to be due to an autoimmune response wherein the body attacks and destroys the beta cell. Exposure to viral and/or chemical agents, response to allergens and free radical damage has been proposed as possible causes for beta cell destruction. Hereditary predisposition to injury of these vital cells is probable, since the antibodies against beta cells are present in 75 percent of IDDM patients, but in less than two percent of the nondiabetic population. IDDM is the leading chronic disease in children. The insulin dependent diabetic will require one or more injections of insulin daily for the rest of his/her life and absolute discipline will be required to maintain normal blood sugar levels and prevalent complications.
TYPE II - Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes (NIDDM)
The "typical" person with NIDDM will be over 40 years of age, overweight and consumes the typical American diet of high fat, high sugar and low fiber.
Not an equal opportunity disease, diabetes mellitus, especially NIDDM, afflicts Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Native Hawaiians more frequently than Caucasians. This disparity appears due both to heredity and such environmental causes as diet and life-style.
The NIDDM person's pancreas is functioning, at least half heartedly, but the body's cells are not responding appropriately to the insulin and don't take in the needed fuel. This leaves the person with very high blood sugar and therein lies the problem. Poor glycemic control catapults the incidence of complications from possibility to statistical predictability, especially in the areas of amputations, peripheral vascular disease and peripheral neuropathy.
The NIDDM patient may be able to control the disease by changing dietary habits, sticking to a diet low in fat, sugar, salt and by exercising regularly. If diet/exercise regimen doesn't bring control of blood sugar, oral anti-glycemic agents are available.
One reason many cases of diabetes are out of control before being diagnosed is the relative "normalcy" of the symptoms. Acute symptoms are thirst, frequent urination, tiredness, blurred vision, weight loss and increased irritability. It isn't until we experience unusually slow healing of bruises or cuts, numbness and tingling of extremities or recurrent infections of skin, gums or urinary tract that we begin to wonder if something is wrong. That is why the diagnosis of diabetes is secondary to some other problem; frequently found by blood work for some other condition. This is especially true of non-insulin-dependent diabetics.
There are not enough adjectives to adequately describe the absolutely devastating consequences of uncontrolled blood sugar. Every system of the body is affected, because every cell of the body uses glucose for energy. In 30 years of clinical nursing practice, Intelligent, capable people who would not control their diet and blood sugar turn into demented beings who suffered several heart attacks and amputations. Patients cram three to four candy bars into their mouths and then express amazement at outrageously elevated blood sugar levels and denying noncompliance with their diets. Much of the problem with complications is due to lack of discipline on the part of the patient, since control of blood sugar requires constant attention and personal responsibility. While 90 to 95 percent of all diabetic are non-insulin dependent or Type II, both forms of the disease lead to massive complication when blood sugars are not controlled.
Tests have shown diagnosed Type I diabetics who show no blood flow problems to their heart muscle, but who already show evidence of diminished innervation of the heart muscle by the sympathetic nervous system. Heart disease is the most frequently occurring, life threatening complication of diabetes. This comes in the form of heart attack, strokes and peripheral vascular disease. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, secondary to fat plaques in the blood vessels. It is not uncommon to have every bed in a coronary care unit filled with patients who are diabetic. Morbidity (illness) and mortality (death) from coronary heart disease can be predicted, since studies have shown high lipid levels and poor glycemic control were associated with a two-fold increase in the risk of (coronary heart disease) morbidity and mortality independent of other cardiovascular risks. Kidney disease is another complication. Sugar in the urine damages kidney tubules which filter the blood to remove waste products. Damaged tubules spill protein in the form off albumin, which further damages the kidney's filtration system, progressing to renal failure.
There are a wide range of eye diseases and disorders. They range from blurred vision to cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, which affects the retina itself.
Problems with the lower extremities can occur for several reasons. The vascular system becomes damaged and atherosclerosis may cause clogging of the smaller arteries and the extremities. The nervous system is impaired. Poor circulation and edema, coupled with diminished feeling in the legs and feet, set up perfect conditions for ulcers and gangrene. The end result of both problems frequently is amputation of the extremity. The effects of neuropathy are not restricted to the extremities. A systemic problem like diabetes affects the entirety of the body, the entire nervous system including the brain, shows symptoms. Depression is not uncommon, nor are mood swings, both being related in part to blood sugar levels. Throughout the body the nerves don't function correctly, from the nerves needed to maintain muscle tone, to those which help digestion, to those controlling blood pressure. Hypertension (from a whole different cause but the same disease) becomes a real threat, aggravating renal problems.
The immune system is disrupted, making the diabetic much more susceptible to infections of all types and much less capable of fighting them.
Studies have shown the incidence of children with diabetic parents developing diabetes in the 10 to 15 percent range. Evidence has presented linking early life stress (under two years of age), exposure to cow's milk and nitrates as causative of Type I, insulin dependent diabetes.
Obesity is a major factor in development of Type II (NIDDM). According to one author, 90 percent of all diabetics are non-insulin dependent and 90 percent of NIDDM patients are obese. Obesity is a major factor in the body's decreasing response to insulin. Dietary fat intake must be considered a risk factor, along with Chromium deficiency, and possibly, the nutritional status of the mother during gestation of the diabetic person. According to one source, fewer calories during pregnancy is better, significantly reducing the incidence of diabetes in the offspring.
Logically there is some relationship between the development of the disease and one's life-style, one group studied the relationship between maladaptive personality traits and blood sugar control in adult onset (NIDDM) diabetics. The "aggressive-irresponsible" personality type was proven to be a significant predictor of poor blood sugar control.
Type I, insulin-dependent diabetics have no choices. They must take one or more injections of insulin daily and monitor their blood sugar several times a day, adjusting the dosage of insulin to the glycemic level. Failure to do so will lead to the body using fats for energy, causing the development of ketosis, leading to coma and subsequent death.
Education is as vital since the diabetic and the family need to understand what the disease is, how it affects the body, what insulin is and does, symptoms of too much insulin and of diabetic coma. Different types of insulin and when and why they are used and dietary and life-style changes which are necessary to help maintain controlled blood sugar levels. Newly diagnosed IDDM patients receive intensive counseling prior to hospital discharge. Continuing education and follow-up information sessions are necessary.
Sugar is a heavy weight molecule requiring lots of water to excrete. In pulling this water out of the body, sugar spilled into the urine and causes loss of water-soluble nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Multi Vitamin and Mineral supplements are in order, since studies show Type I diabetics are usually deficient in Zinc, Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin D. Persons diagnosed with IDDM must become self-reliant and self-sufficient. Even children need to understand that consequences of eating a forbidden sweets or not testing urine or blood for sugar and taking insulin haphazardly. This disease requires a balancing act involving weight maintenance, adequate exercise, good nutrition and controlled blood sugar via use of insulin in addition to other factors.
Type II (NIDDM)
Those diagnosed with non-insulin dependent diabetes have more leeway in treatment. There is no substitute for dietary control and constant vigilance in maintaining blood sugar control.
Besides a variety of oral hypoglycemics which your MD may prescribe, several herbs have been used historically with helping maintain normal blood sugar levels. Garlic has demonstrated the ability to decrease blood sugar, the effect appears dose related. The leaves of Bilberry have long been used for controlling blood sugar and the flavonoid extracts of the bilberry are proven effective against diabetic retinopathy. Fenugreek used for many digestive problems is used to regulate insulin in diabetics. Ginkgo biloba is used for circulatory disorders and for improving blood flow to the brain. It can be useful in diabetes in enhancing blood flow to extremities and in helping protect against diabetic retinopathy. Eleuthero is of assistance not only as a general tonic and has been clinically proven to reduce fasting blood sugar levels and body weight.
Vitamin and mineral supplements such as Chromium GTF may be helpful as it assists insulin in the metabolism of sugar. B-Complex to support the nervous system and may help prevent or reduce diabetic neuropathy. Vitamin C makes collagen in the body; it strengthens blood vessels, helping to prevent bleeding and speed wound healing.
There are other alternative methods of assisting with control of diabetes. A few suggestions for diabetics include reflexology, relaxation, meditation and yoga.
Diabetes is a chronic disease. This means you have to learn to live with it, despite many changes in diet and life-style. Maintaining health at maximum levels with diabetes requires careful attention, but it need not become the central focus of one's existence.
More Herbs that will control Blood Sugar are:
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LOCLO high fiber