News & tips on health, fitness and nutrition

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How to treat diabesity

A new word, “diabesity,” describes this continuum of metabolic imbalance and disease that ranges all the way from mild blood-sugar imbalance to insulin resistance to full-blown diabetes. So, yes, if you have diabetes, you have diabesity. But you don’t have to be a diabetic — or even have symptoms — to be suffering from diabesity.

Nearly all people who are overweight (almost 70 percent of Americans) already have “pre-diabetes,” which, in short, is an earlier stage of diabesity that carries with it significant risks of disease and death. And, although the word diabesity is made up of the concepts of obesity and diabetes, even those who aren’t overweight can have this problem. These are the “skinny fat” people. They are “under lean” (not enough muscle) instead of “overweight” and often carry a little extra weight around the middle.

Diabesity is a leading cause of most chronic disease in the 21st century. Specifically, those with diabesity are at an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer, high blood pressure, blindness and kidney failure.
No. 1: Boost NutritionThe main driving factor of our diabesity epidemic is our nutrient-poor, calorie-rich, low-fiber, high-sugar Standard American Diet. It has led to a nation of overfed but undernourished people. In fact, there are so few nutrients in our diet that we now have an epidemic of nutritional deficiencies that promote the development of diabetes, including vitamin D, magnesium, chromium, zinc and antioxidant deficiencies. Whole, real fresh food that you cook yourself is the most potent medicine you can use to prevent, treat and reverse diabesity.
No. 2: Regulate Your HormonesAlthough my book is mostly focused on the hormone insulin, balancing all of your hormones, including sex hormones, adrenal or stress hormones, and thyroid hormones, is important if you want to heal. They are all interconnected; they interact with one another like a big musical symphony. When this symphony is playing out of tune, problems arise.
To overcome diabesity, you must identify and treat thyroid imbalances that control your metabolism, overactive stress hormones that worsen insulin resistance and blood sugar, and insulin imbalance and its harmful effects on your sex hormones.
No. 3: Reduce Inflammation
Anything that causes inflammation will, in turn, cause insulin resistance. And anything that causes insulin resistance will cause inflammation. This dangerous spiral is at the root of so many of our 21st-century chronic maladies. Sugar, refined carbohydrates, trans fats, too many inflammatory omega-6 fats from processed plant oils (like soybean or corn oil), artificial sweeteners, hidden food allergies and sensitivities, chronic infections, imbalances in gut bacteria, environmental toxins, stress, and a sedentary lifestyle all promote inflammation. Of course, which of these factors is the source of inflammation for you is a key question, and the answer is different for everyone. Locating and addressing each of the sources of inflammation in your life is essential not only for overcoming diabesity, but also for addressing virtually every other health-related issue.
No. 4: Improve Digestion
New evidence points to an unexpected source of metabolic problems and diabesity — a toxic digestive system. Our diet has changed dramatically in the last 10,000 years, and even more so in the last 100 years, with the industrialization of our food supply. This highly processed, high-sugar, high-fat, low-fiber diet has substantially altered the bacteria that historically grew in our digestive tracts, and the change has been linked to weight gain and diabetes. Many other modern inventions — including antibiotics, acid blockers, anti-inflammatory medication, aspirin and steroids — injure the gut, alter our gut flora and lead to systemic inflammation. What we in functional medicine call the 4R program works very well: Remove the bad bugs, drugs and food allergens; Replace needed enzymes, fiber and prebiotics; Reinoculate your gut with good bacteria or probiotics; and, finally, Repair the gut lining with omega-3 fats, zinc, glutamine, quercitin and other healing nutrients.
No. 5: Maximize Detoxification
Over the last few years, scientists have uncovered an unexpected fact: Environmental toxins make you fat and cause diabetes. We have found that environmental toxins interfere with blood sugar and cholesterol metabolism, and cause insulin resistance. One of the key mechanisms that leads to insulin resistance and diabesity is when toxins block the function of very important receptors on the nuclei of your cells, receptors that are critical for optimal insulin function and blood-sugar control. Scientists have shown that toxins cause increases in glucose, cholesterol and fatty liver, and slow down your thyroid function. They also may cause an increase in appetite and problems with brain signals that control hunger. This is no longer something that can be ignored: Toxins make you fat and cause diabesity, and they must be addressed in any treatment program for diabesity.
No. 6: Enhance Energy Metabolism
Our metabolism directly affects our risk for diabesity. Metabolism turns calories and oxygen into the energy that fuels every cell in our bodies. This energy is made in little factories in our cells called mitochondria. When your mitochondria are not working properly, you suffer all the symptoms of low energy: fatigue, slow metabolism, weight gain, memory loss, pain, rapid aging and more. People with diabesity don’t produce energy in their mitochondria as well as healthy people do. Often the cause of damage to our mitochondria is something we call “oxidative stress.” We are familiar with the process — it is seen as rust on a car, wrinkles on your face, an apple that turns brown in the air. But you can wrinkle on the inside, too. The good news is that there are ways to enhance and optimize mitochondrial function, boost energy production, and reduce oxidative stress. The even better news is that doing these things can reverse diabesity and insulin resistance.
No. 7: Sooth Your Mind
Stress makes you fat and contributes to the development of diabesity. When I worked in the emergency room, I frequently saw patients with high blood sugar. These people were not diabetic. Acute stress had caused their blood sugar to skyrocket. Doctors have long known there is a relationship between stress and blood sugar. What we now understand is that, in the face of chronic stress, our levels of insulin, cortisol and inflammatory compounds all increase. This drives the relentless metabolic dysfunction that leads to weight gain, insulin resistance, and, ultimately, diabetes. Thus, managing stress — whether through relaxation therapies, meditation, yoga, massage, exercise, laughing or much more — is a critical component of obesity and diabetes treatment

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