By Dr. Mercola
In 2012, over 90 million people had diabetes or pre-diabetes.1 One out of every 2 people with diabetes don't know they have the condition. Lifestyle choices are the best strategies to controlling your blood sugar, reducing your risk of diabetes and preventing secondary health problems from the condition.
Over the past years, both Great Britain and the U.S. have experienced a rapid increase in the number of people suffering from pre-diabetes and diabetes. In 2003, 11.6 percent of people in Great Britain were diagnosed with pre-diabetes. That number had tripled by 2011, reaching over 35 percent.
These numbers demonstrate the rise in people suffering from diabetes originate outside a genetic cause. Historically, the rise in diabetes was prompted by a flawed nutritional and exercise program initiated by the now-refuted Seven Countries Study.
The study, published in the 1950s by economist Ancel Keys, Ph.D. sparked an increase in the quantity of carbohydrates recommended in your diet and a severe reduction in healthy fats.2 This imbalance affects your cellular resistance to the hormones insulin, leptin and ghrelin.
This cellular resistance is the real foundation to problems with diabetes and not the symptom of high blood sugar.
Insulin, Leptin and Ghrelin — Oh My!
Your body is a complex combination of chemicals, enzymes and hormones. While it might be tempting to believe that one hormone controls an entire health condition, the reality is far more intricate.
The same is true of diabetes. You may have learned that diabetes is a function of too much sugar in your blood, but it's actually a function of insulin resistance at your cell level.
Insulin is a hormone secreted by your pancreas responsible for ushering blood sugar across cell membranes for use as fuel inside your cells. When your cells become resistant to insulin, glucose (sugar) stays in your blood, raising your blood sugar levels.
Another function of rising blood sugar is the malfunction of leptin signaling. Leptin is a hormone produced by your fat cells. The function of leptin is to tell your brain you have enough fat stored, have eaten enough and to burn calories at a normal rate.3
Leptin doesn't function only with your metabolism and fat stores. It is also involved in your immune system, fertility and regulating how much energy you burn.4
The third hormone most intimately involved with diabetes is ghrelin. This hormone is secreted by your stomach lining and is your "go" hormone, or the hormone telling your brain that you're hungry. Ghrelin is affected by growth hormone in your body, and therefore works differently in men and women.5
These are the three main players, in a cast of others, playing a role in the development of diabetes. With a malfunction of leptin or ghrelin signaling, you may eat too much food for your activity level and rate of your metabolism, resulting in weight gain and obesity.
With obesity often comes a resistance at your cell level to insulin, resulting in high blood sugar and a diagnosis of diabetes.
Diabetes and Your Body
Chronically high blood sugar from poor nutrition and exercise choices may trigger long-term damage to your body. This damage may even result in death.
It is imperative that you evaluate your current dietary and exercise choices against the natural ways you can prevent diabetes, listed below. Damage you may face if diagnosed with diabetes includes:6,7,8
✓ Heart attack
✓ Bacterial infections
✓ Fungal infections
✓ Itchy skin
✓ Diabetic dermopathy
✓ Diabetic blisters
✓ Digital sclerosis
✓ Disseminated granuloma annulare (a skin condition)
✓ Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage)
✓ Foot ulcers
✓ Foot amputation
✓ Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome (a metabolic complication of diabetes)
✓ Hearing loss
✓ Gingivitis and periodontitis (stages of gum disease)
As with most medical conditions, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A healthy lifestyle can not only prevent type 2 diabetes but also typically may reverse it as well. With proper attention to diet and lifestyle, type 2 diabetes is curable, and in the vast majority of cases does not require any form of medication.
The Fiber Factor
One important change to make in your diet is to increase the amount of fiber you eat each day. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can absorb water in your intestinal tract, slow the process of digestion and help you to feel fuller, longer.
Insoluble fiber increases your rate of digestion, reduces your risk of colon cancer, prevents constipation and helps weight maintenance. You need both soluble and insoluble fiber for a healthy and balanced nutritional plan.
On average, Americans eat approximately 15 grams of fiber each day. The American Heart Association recommends between 25 grams to 30 grams of fiber for a 2,000-calorie diet.9 I believe you need 50 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you eat to maintain a healthy gut and good overall health.
The benefits of a high-fiber diet begin with regulating your food digestion and the release of leptin and ghrelin. These hormones are essential in your efforts to lose weight, feel full and prevent diabetes.
Fiber also reduces your risk of heart disease, normalizes your bowel movements, lowers your cholesterol levels and may reduce your risk of gallstones and kidney stones.
Get Your Fiber On
Before you reach for a bran muffin to fulfill your fiber requirements, it's important to understand that grains are not essential to your health and may actually cause damage to your gut. Loren Cordain, Ph.D. from Colorado State University, explains:10
"There's no human requirement for grains. That's the problem with the USDA recommendations. They think we're hardwired as a species to eat grains. You can get by just fine and meet every single nutrient requirement that humans have without eating grains. And grains are absolutely poor sources of vitamins and minerals compared to fruits and vegetables and meat and fish."
The best sources of fiber in your diet come from whole foods and include:
✓ Chia seeds
✓ Root vegetables and tubers, such as onions and sweet potatoes
✓ Vegetables, such as broccoli and Brussel sprouts
✓ Psyllium seed husk
✓ Green beans
✓ Air popped popcorn, try it seasoned with cayenne pepper or cinnamon
✓ Flaxseed meal
In the Net
One of the benefits of eating high-fiber foods is you can more easily reduce the amount of carbohydrates you consume. When metabolized in your body, carbohydrates turn to sugar, increasing your release of insulin and affecting your leptin function.
The important number is your net carbs. This number is calculated by taking the total number of carbohydrates in grams you've eaten in the day and subtracting the amount of fiber in grams. The resulting number is your net carbs. A key way of preventing diabetes is to keep your net carbs below 50 grams per day.
The only way you'll know how many carbs, fiber and net carbs you eat is to keep a diary of what you eat. You may be surprised at how quickly sandwich bread, pasta, soda, cookies and cakes add up — sometimes to over 350 grams per day. This high carb level increases your resistance to insulin and malfunction of leptin, increasing your risk of diabetes.
7 Ways to Naturally Control Your Blood Sugar
1. Increase Your Fiber
Seek to include both soluble and insoluble fiber in your daily diet. Berries, nuts, vegetables and chia seeds are a great way to slip in the fiber daily. Aim to include 40 to 50 grams of fiber in your daily regimen for every 1,000 calories you eat. You may want to start tracking the foods you eat each day until you are a good judge of how much fiber and carbohydrates you are eating.
2. Reduce Your Net Carbs
A low-net carbohydrate diet reduces the stress on your body, reduces inflammation and reduces the amount insulin required to use the energy from the food you eat. You'll want to reduce the number of net carbs you eat to 50 grams per day. However, it is the net carbs that you'll be measuring.
This number is calculated by taking the grams of carbs you've eaten and subtracting the number of grams of fiber. In this way a high-fiber diet also helps you to lower the amount of insulin you need to utilize your food for fuel.
3. High-Quality Fats
When you reduce your carbohydrates, what are you going to replace them with? Your best alternative is high-quality, healthy fats necessary for heart health, feeding your brain and to modulate genetic regulation and prevent cancer. Healthy fats include:
✓ Organic butter from organic grass-fed milk
✓ Organic raw nuts
✓ Olives and olive oil
✓ Grass-fed meat
✓ Organic pastured eggs
✓ Palm oil
Short-term and long-term exercise don't appear to have any effect on the amount of leptin secreted in your body. However, exercise has a significant impact on the resistance your body builds up to the hormone leptin.11 The more you exercise, the more your cells are sensitive to leptin. As your body becomes sensitive to leptin, it reduces your potential resistance to insulin and therefore your risk of diabetes.
When you become dehydrated, your liver will secrete a hormone that increases your blood sugar.12,13,14 As you hydrate, blood sugar levels lower naturally.
Stay well-hydrated by monitoring the color of your urine during the day. The color should be light yellow. Sometimes your first indication your body requires more water is the sensation of being hungry. Drink a large glass of water first and wait 20 minutes to determine if you're really hungry or you were thirsty.
6. Reduce Your Stress
When you become stressed your body secretes cortisol and glucagon, both of which affect your blood sugar levels.15,16 Control your stress levels using exercise, meditation, yoga, prayer or relaxation techniques. These techniques may reduce your stress and correct insulin secretion problems.17 Combined with strategies that reduce your insulin resistance, you may help to prevent diabetes.
Enough quality sleep is necessary to feel good and experience good health. Poor sleeping habits may reduce insulin sensitivity and promote weight gain.18