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How and Why to Start a Diabetes Control Diet

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2008-06-19 06:21:21     
Article by Michael Danielson

Type II diabetes happens when your body becomes resistant to the insulin you are creating. Easy to say, but what does that mean?

Insulin moves glucose (blood sugar) into the muscles and liver. It stores glucose in the liver as a dense carbohydrate called glycogen, which your body uses as a reserve of glucose for use between meals or during times of stress. Once the glycogen reserve is full (and it's a pretty small reserve), excess glucose in the liver is turned into triglycerides (fat), and moved into your fat tissue. Thus, an overload of carbohydrates makes your butt bigger. Ever had your doctor tell you that losing weight will help your diabetes risk factors go down?

When insulin is high, your body goes into 'savings mode', and hoards your excess blood sugar for storage as fat. When insulin is low, your body goes into 'spending mode', draining your fat supplies for energy.

So what's the point?

The result of diabetes is that the body's cells have become resistant to insulin (so your cells do not absorb glucose to burn). This is what causes diabetes sufferers to have enormous jumps in blood sugar: their blood sugar isn't properly utilized, so it just sits in the bloodstream until your body can figure out what to do with it.

Thus, your cells enter a 'starvation' mode (nothing for them to 'eat') even if the diabetic has recently eaten. The brain interprets the starving cells' signals as actual starvation, and releases signals that make a diabetic hungry, especially for carbohydrates - which would normally stimulate insulin production in a healthy person, resulting in your cells absorbing glucose for energy.

What modern doctors or pharmaceutical companies do not often discuss, however, is that your body can burn fat as well as sugar (in fact, your body prefers it - your body gets as much energy from a pound of fat as it does from six and a half pounds of sugar!). The chemistry of fatty-acid metabolism is too complex to get into here, but the result for diabetics is this: if you can get your body to burn fat instead of glucose, you can stop relying on blood-sugar levels to maintain your body's energy supply.

Be careful.

The question for diabetics becomes: how do you start burning fat instead of glucose? The answer is simple: don't eat carbohydrates. This is a counterintuitive method of approaching a disorder wherein the biggest fear is death from a blood-sugar crash, but it works if you can get your body to make the switch from burning glucose to burning fat. This is done through a hormone called glucagon, which (along with several other hormones that are constantly pressuring your body to burn fat) triggers the fat-burning process and, as an added bonus, causes your body to turn its existing fat reserves into glucose (so even those parts of your body that require glucose, like the brain, don't require you to eat any carbohydrates).

Glucagon production, unfortunately, is suppressed by the presence of insulin in the blood. This means that diabetics are injecting the very substance that is keeping them from making the switch from glucose to fat! Of course, every diabetic knows that simply ceasing to inject insulin may be lethal. The trick is to make the switch slowly.

Each day, reduce the amount of carbohydrates you eat, starting by cutting out processed carbohydrates like sugar and flour, then, if you need to, other high-carb foods like potatoes (most people shouldn't need to). At the same time, go out of your way to eat more protein - lots more protein. Proteins turn into amino acids in your blood, and glucagon production is stimulated by high blood amino acid levels. As you do this, slowly lower your insulin levels. Over several months or even weeks, you can work your way entirely off of insulin.

But I love my pasta!

The best news? Once you are off of insulin, the lack of it in your blood while on a low-carb diet will teach your cells to lose their insulin resistance! After a year or two of strictly monitoring your carbohydrate intake, you may be able to resume eating some of your favorite carbohydrates again (in moderation, of course).

Michael Danielson is the proud husband of a woman who was afflicted with severe carbohydrate-metabolizing problems, and has seen her turn around her health and her weight in the last few years. Nutrition has become his hobby and his joy, and his nutritionist mother-in-law has taken him on as an assistant. He believes firmly that understanding diabetes is a vital first step to examining health and wellness across modern America.

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