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Prediabetes, do I have it?

Prediabetes, do I have it?

Prediabetes is Very Common, Do You Have It?

By Rahim Habib BSc, ND

How many people do you know who have diabetes?  It is estimated that 30 percent of people who have diabetes, do not realize it, it has not yet been diagnosed in them.  However, when we think of diabetes, we commonly think, firstly, “it won’t happen to me”; and secondly, we think, “it only affects older people.”  Well, I’m here to tell you that times have changed, it is affecting people at younger and younger ages.  What you should know are the early signs and symptoms that indicate that your blood sugar and insulin levels may be a problem.  I’ll discuss some naturopathic ideas to keep in mind, which can help reduce your risk of developing diabetes, or what comes before diabetes, called ‘prediabetes.’

The most common, and increasing form of diabetes is what is called Type 2 Diabetes.  It was classically known as “Adult Onset Diabetes” but that term is quickly becoming less appropriate, considering this metabolic problem is affecting younger and younger people.  The classic signs that may indicate diabetes are feeling very tired, very thirsty, and urinating very often.  Keep in mind that there are many more signs that you may be developing diabetes or ‘pre-diabetes’ (see list below) that you should also be aware of.

 Signs and Symptoms of Risk for Diabetes:

  • You are carrying more weight in your abdomen, even if you are thin
  • Unusually high thirst
  • Headaches
  • Dry and itchy skin, cuts and bruises are difficult to heal
  • Frequent urination
  • Blurred Vision
  • Extreme fatigue / low energy / low in mood
  • Frequent and recurring infections (eg: thrush in the mouth, or genital yeast infections)
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Rapid breathing
  • Tingling or numbness in your hands and feet
  • Blood tests show: elevated blood glucose, HbA1c, insulin, uric acid, or GGT

When your physician or naturopathic doctor review your blood test results, it is important to look at where you lie on the normal range in a few areas.  For example, if your fasting blood glucose level is elevated, but not exactly in the diabetic range, you could be classified as being “pre-diabetic.”  This is really a call to action for you.  It’s a sign that your blood is holding onto the glucose longer than it should, since your body cells are not responding to the pancreatic hormone insulin, which normally tells the cells to absorb the glucose out of the blood.  Elevated blood glucose can also relate to stress levels, your overall diet quality, and how active your lifestyle is.  If you are not active, or if you are overweight or obese, then your body cells tend to not respond to the insulin, your cells get ‘insensitive to insulin.’  As a result, your body will make more insulin, to try and tell your body cells to “come on, time to absorb the glucose!”  Having higher levels of insulin and uric acid are also indicators of diabetes risk, as well as slightly elevated GGT (an enzyme from the liver and gall bladder).  A newer, and more sensitive indicator for pre-diabetes risk is the “hemoglobin A1c” blood test, which can be more effective than using the basic fasting blood glucose test at picking up on pre-diabetes risk.

What Does the Extra Blood Sugar Do?

The extra glucose that stays in your blood doesn’t just hang around and do nothing.  It can do some significant damage.  For example, the extra glucose can damage a variety of cells, often binding to different proteins in the body.  This can lead to decreased function in your nerves (also associated with various dementias), blood cells, kidney tissues, etc.  In addition, high glucose tends to create damaging free radicals that are associated with aging overall.  For these reasons, getting your glucose (and insulin) under control is a great strategy towards current and long-term health.

Risks of Diabetes

Diabetes can be confusing since there are many possible complications that can come from it, such as problems with vision (retinopathy), kidney problems (nephropathy), and nerve problems (neuropathy).  There is also an increased risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, colon cancer, breast cancer, and pancreatic cancer.  However, when we are talking about preventing diabetes, it is much easier.  Just like trying to stop a moving shopping cart coming your way, it is easier when it is slow-moving rather than when the cart is going very fast, especially if it is full!

How to Prevent Diabetes and Deal with Prediabetes

1. Consume a healthy diet, including fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains, ensuring sufficient water-soluble fiber (such as from oats, psyllium, and flax seed)

2. Exercise 30 minutes a day, or about 4 hours per week

3. Maintain a healthy weight – healthy weight reduction is one of the best things to do to control your risk for pre-diabetes

4. Avoid pesticide-laden foods which are associated with diabetes risk (see www.foodnews.org or www.leas.ca in their Cancer Smart Guide)

Extra Naturopathic Supports for Prevention

Other factors can improve your chances of avoiding diabetes.  Besides your pancreas, evaluating adrenal gland and liver function can be important, since they can also affect your glucose level.  Testing for and addressing your level of vitamin D, zinc, chromium and magnesium, as well as toxins such as arsenic, cadmium, and pesticide levels can also be useful.  A quality daily multivitamin is a good place to start.  Additionally, drinking tea and using cinnamon spice can help protect your body from the harmful affects of elevated blood glucose, and improve the sensitivity of your cells to insulin.  Regular cleansing and detoxification are also important prevention-based ways to improve metabolic functions overall.

Rahim is a registered naturopathic doctor who has a general family practice, with a special interest in helping patients comprehensively detoxify their bodies for preventative and therapeutic benefit.  He also has a special interest in children’s learning and behavioural health, and chronic conditions in adults.  He is the director of the Four Seasons Naturopathic Wellness and can be reached at 905-597-7201 or www.FamilyNaturopath.ca.

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