Type 2 Diabetes and Insulin Resistance are on the rise. Indeed, more people than ever are at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. It is thought that by 2025, 5 million people in the UK will have the condition.
Blood sugar balance:
We may feel that we need very high levels of sugar in our blood in order to function effectively throughout the day. However, ideally we should have approximately only 1 teaspoon full of sugar in our blood at all times.
When we eat, our blood sugar levels to rise. Insulin is produced from our pancreatic cells to ensure that our blood glucose levels remain in the required limits. Insulin is a hormone that allows excess glucose from our food to enter into our cells and be either used for energy or stored as glycogen. When blood glucose levels fall, the pancreas releases a hormone called glucagon. Glucagon causes the liver to break down glycogen into glucose thereby raising blood glucose levels.
Blood sugar imbalance: Insulin resistance to Type 2 Diabetes
Blood sugar dysregulation can occur if you experience fluctuation in blood glucose levels. Individuals may experience cycles of high blood glucose levels (hyperglycaemia) or low blood glucose levels (hypoglycaemia) both of which can negatively affect our health: Low blood sugar levels or hypoglycaemia can cause fatigue and loss of consciousness. High blood sugar levels or hyperglycaemia in the long term are associated with increased insulin resistance and diabetes.
If insulin is over produced in the long-term, body tissues become less responsive to the insulin secreted. If the body cells cannot respond to insulin, glucose is prevented from entering the cells. This results in a rise in blood glucose levels as glucose is prevented from leaving the blood and entering into the body’s cells. The body detects this threat and produces more insulin to force glucose to enter cells.
If this cycle of high and low blood glucose continues long-term, the pancreas may struggle to make sufficient insulin by which the cells can respond. This can result in insulin resistance / metabolic syndrome and in time may lead to Type Two Diabetes. Here, an individual’s ability to respond to insulin and take up or metabolise glucose, is compromised. Excess glucose is either excreted or converted to fat by the liver and stored in fat tissues.
Symptoms of blood sugar imbalance and insulin resistance
Glucose is needed for all bodily functions. Therefore, there are a multitude of symptoms of blood sugar imbalance and insulin resistance. These include:
- High levels of abdominal fat
- Craving for sugar
- Impaired immunity
- Hormonal imbalance
- Mood swings, anxiety, brain fog, irritability, reduced cognition.
- Digestive disorders
- Thinning hair, brittle nails, poor skin
- Disturbed sleep
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Raised blood pressure
- Excessive thirst
- Altered vision
- Cardiovascular health concerns
How is Type 2 Diabetes managed medically?
Metabolic syndrome is confirmed when there are abnormalities in 3 or more of the following:
- Elevated fasting;
- Elevated glucose tolerance test;
- Elevated insulin levels;
- Increased waist circumference or Body Mass Index;
- High blood pressure;
- High triglycerides;
- Low High Density Lipoprotein levels.
Medications are only suitable if there is some function left in the pancreatic B cells; otherwise insulin is given. Medical treatment focuses on increasing insulin secretion, reducing the breakdown of carbohydrates in the intestine and reducing a process called ‘gluconeogenesis’ in which the body, unable to ascertain glucose from the blood, attains glucose through the breakdown of bodily proteins. Comorbidities are treated symptomatically.
- Sulphonylureas (aimed to enhance insulin secretion in response to blood glucose).
- Alpha glucosidase inhibitors: reduce the breakdown of carbohydrates in the intestine in order to prevent blood spikes;
Please note, there are many side effects to this medication, which must be discussed with your GP. Regular checkups are required.
Having Diabetes or Insulin Resistance can be both devastating and overwhelming. Your symptoms and condition can affect your ability to work, your home life, leisure pursuits, holidays, social life, relationships, motivation and mental well-being. There is, however, a lot that you can do to support and help improve your body’s ability to repair and heal.
Imagine that you are standing on a tack. How would you treat the pain and inflammation? The obvious answer is that you would take the tack out of your foot. You wouldn’t just take aspirin or painkillers until it felt better, you would address the root cause of the problem. The question should always be: ‘Why do I have these symptoms and this diagnosis’?
The symptoms of those struggling with Type 2 Diabetes and blood glucose dysregulation manifest due to a multitude of causes including:
- Stress / anxiety;
- Diet: a host of dietary factors can influence your blood glucose levels;
- Nutrient deficiencies;
- Exercise levels;
- Digestive disturbances.
You can take medication to increase your insulin levels, or suppress carbohydrate absorption, however if your diet, vitamin deficiency, stress, sleep or lifestyle (among others) are not restored to optimal levels you will not return to full health.
If glucose delivery is impaired, then energy delivery is impaired. As a result, your cells work far more slowly. If your cells work slowly, then so too will your organs – all organs: the brain, heart, immune system, hormone production, liver, kidney and gut among others. If our organs work slowly, this can result in a host of symptoms that you experience, many of which may seem unrelated. There are many systems in our body. How well each of these is working can dramatically affect our energy levels.
Unlike conventional medicine (which carves your body into separate specialities such as your digestive or nervous system), I use a functional medicine approach. Functional medicine views your body as one whole, fully functioning, integrated system, rather than a host of isolated symptoms. It also takes into account your personal story. I aim to determine the root cause of your fatigue and then work with you to address the underlying imbalances. I look at ways of lowering the stress and number of insults and inflammation that you are exposed to. We then work to improve your nutrition and gut health, detoxify and remove waste and both repair and boost the vitality of your cells. As a Nutritional Therapist, I am trained to consider your individual biochemical needs and to use food, and where relevant nutritional supplements and lifestyle changes, to address these needs.
Once your cells are protected and your triggers and mediators removed, your bodily tissue can begin to repair and you can start to notice profound changes in your health and vitality: how you look, feel and think.
Rather than just addressing your diagnosis and related symptoms, I work with you to determine possible contributory risk factors that may be affecting your biochemistry and triggering the change in your immune system function.
An initial holistic assessment of your health, diet, lifestyle, symptoms, family history and medical needs will be conducted to identify any nutritional imbalances or factors which may be contributing to your health concerns and symptoms.
If potential causes remain unclear, I may advise GP or private functional laboratory testing (such as an evaluation of your gut function, nutritional deficiencies or bacterial overgrowth) to clarify any contributing underlying biochemical imbalances. Please see information on relevant diagnostic tests.
Once assessed, I will then help you understand the potential origins of your condition. Written handouts may be provided for you to read at your leisure after your consultation.
Personalised Health Optimisation Plan
I will then work with you to design a bespoke nutritional and lifestyle programme using a wide variety of delicious food choices, to meet your health needs and help change your body’s biochemical environment. Changes introduced will address the root cause of your symptoms, thereby enabling you to manage your symptoms and condition more effectively whilst empowering you to regain control over your own health and reach your health goals.
Every individual seen is unique and any advice provided is tailor-made to address your health concerns, dietary and lifestyle preferences, budget, medication, symptoms and needs at a pace that suits you. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and no two programmes are the same. Changes are introduced gently and over time to ensure that they are achievable and that you do not feel overwhelmed. Your programme is reviewed and adjusted during follow-up consultations to support you on your journey to optimal health. Click here to read more about the consultation programmes I offer.
The 6 R’s
There are a wide range of approaches that may be of benefit to you. These can be explored to ensure that the right one is chosen to meet your specific needs. However, in general, I use the 6 R’s approach outlined below. The staging and timing of the protocol are essential to the success of the programme and although written as 6 steps, one or more of these may be undertaken simultaneously as required:
- Remove: I will work with you to remove factors that may be triggering your symptoms (such as foods, toxins, hidden or latent infections and stress).
- Replace: We will replace any foods and nutrients that your body may be lacking, to promote and support its ability to repair, metabolise, digest, detoxify, signal effectively and ensure our genes can express themselves appropriately. In some instances, nutritional supplements are recommended.
- Repair: We will help support bodily tissue that has been damaged by ensuring that the correct nutrients are in place to help it heal.
- Re-inoculate: Beneficial bacteria are vital to support not only our gut function but our overall health. At the correct time in your programme, we will ensure that these are introduced, using either probiotic food sources and / or supplementation if required.
- Re-balance: This stage addresses you as a whole to ensure that all relevant additional factors have been addressed to promote your health and well-being. This may include: your diet, lifestyle, family, hydration, sleep, stress levels and genes.
- Retest: Nutritional Therapy is a science and retesting is therefore a vital aspect of any nutritional programme. Retesting relevant components of your health helps determine the biochemical effectiveness of any intervention and also highlights any additional areas which may need to be addressed.
I hope that what I have written helps give you a brief overview of how making changes to your own diet and lifestyle can influence how well your body can work both physically and mentally and thereby can influence your overall health status.
If you would like more information or professional help to start improving your health, please contact me today.
Please note: Nutritional Therapy is a complementary therapy that can work well alongside other medical or complementary therapies. It does not replace any medical advice. Clients are always encouraged to consult with their GP regarding any health concerns or for advice, diagnosis and treatment. To get the most out of dietary and lifestyle interventions, please seek professional advice, as there is a plethora of misleading information currently available which may not be beneficial or specifically intended to meet your own identified needs. I am happy to work alongside other healthcare professionals or complementary therapists involved in your care to explain your Nutritional Therapy programme and to ensure it is safely and effectively implemented.