Inheritance. Many people make the observation that their family history is very strong for diabetes, or obesity, or some other serious condition, even cancer. They say, for example, my dad died of heart disease at a young age, so that’s why I had a heart attack. This can be very true and another example is that about 50 percent of the world’s population does have a genetic tendency toward type 2 diabetes. However, most chronic and debilitating diseases are caused by our LIFESTYLE. It has been said that genetics loads the gun but lifestyle determines whether or not you pull the trigger. And, you don’t have to pull the trigger! A loaded gun that is locked up cannot hurt you! This is especially true in the case of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Not all inherited conditions may be prevented and you should still be regularly checked for those conditions that your family has been prone to. However, even about 75% to 90% of cancer related deaths can be traced back to lifestyle. So, it’s good to remember that the risks of family history can be greatly improved by changing your lifestyle.
It’s What We Eat and What We Don’t Do
It is very important to understand how lifestyle affects your risks for developing obesity, type 2 diabetes and other debilitating conditions. It is the high-fat foods, the junk food, over-eating, stress, lack of sleep, lack of exercise and lack of sunshine that pull the trigger on your health whatever your genetics may be.
Sugar is the Fuel on Which Our Bodies Run
Our bodies run on sugar. All the carbohydrates (sugars) are used for energy so that we can function. It is like the fuel in an automobile. Without gasoline, you cannot go at all. If you forget to fill the tank, you run out of gas and must pull over to the side of the road. All starches, like potatoes, as well as sugar like fruit and candy are converted by the digestion into sugar or glucose in the blood. This sugar in the blood is taken into the cells that use it for energy. All of the cells in the body’s organs need that energy to perform any activity. This is especially true of the brain and skeletal muscles. Sugar, however, does have a problem. This problem is that it cannot get into the cells by itself. Sugar can only get into a cell through a special door or receptor. The more sugar that an organ or muscle needs, the more chemical receptors (or doors) it has. This increased number of receptors tells your body that more energy is needed. But, sugar still cannot go through the doors without assistance. This is where insulin comes in.
The simplest way to explain the process is that insulin opens the “door” to the cell and then takes the sugar to the door of the cell and pushes it through so that it can get inside the cell and give it the energy it needs.
Insulin is made in the pancreas. The manufacturing is done by specialized cells called “beta” cells. These cells have sensors that constantly monitor your blood sugar to see how sweet it is. When the content of sugar in your blood increases, the beta cells sense this and produce more insulin. The insulin can then open more receptors for the cells that need more energy. This is the way that your body is programmed to take care of the sugar that is generated by each meal of the day. The insulin brings the sugar in the blood back down to the “normal” levels.
What Causes Diabetes?
Imagine sitting on a couch following a heavy meal. All of the calories you have just eaten are being absorbed into your blood. As your blood sugar level rises, insulin is released from your pancreas. The insulin grabs some of the glucose in your blood and tries to find a cell that needs it. But there’s a problem. Your cells are still too full of sugar from lunch. You haven’t been very active so energy has not been needed by your muscles. These cells say to the insulin, “Sorry, we’re still full from lunch and we don’t need the sugar.” How does the cell “talk” to the insulin? The cell communicates by removing the receptors or “doors” from the exterior wall.
Now this begins to become a real problem. The insulin starts looking for another place to store the sugar. It goes and knocks on the doors of the fat cells. They can store some of the sugar there. In fact, it is important to remember that most sugar that the body does not use as energy is stored as fat. Some can be stored as glycogen in the liver for use in an emergency but over time, without exercise, all of these storage areas will become full. Fat cells become stretched to their limits and then even they start removing their doors. You become fat and the glucose cannot get out of the bloodstream. The levels of sugar in the blood become higher and the viscosity of the blood changes to a syrupy consistency. This may take a long time or it may happen quickly, depending on the metabolism of the individual. You may have noticed the problem as you become thirstier and need to urinate more frequently. This happens when the insulin works to take the sugar out of the blood through the kidneys. It takes a lot of water to remove the glucose from your bloodstream this way and your kidneys must work much harder than they normally do. You may have gone to see the doctor and described the symptoms you were experiencing. The doctor told you that you were a diabetic. This is the point where the doctor starts talking about treatment options for your newly diagnosed condition.
Depending on your blood sugar levels, family history, your weight and other health factors, the doctor may either tell you to lose weight and start an exercise program. In addition, it is likely that the doctor will also want to put you on some medications like a pill to lower your blood sugar and perhaps a pill to lower your blood pressure or even your cholesterol.
Some of the pills that are prescribed may work by telling the pancreas to make more insulin. Other types of pills may work by making your cells more sensitive to the insulin that you are already producing. So, the beta cells may begin to make even more insulin. This insulin tries to help your condition by searching for any “doors” that are still available through which it can force more sugar into the cells. But, as time goes on, even these last remaining doors are removed by the cells and you become resistant to your medication. This is usually when your doctor will start you on insulin injections. Sometimes this is done even earlier in your condition in order to safely control your blood sugar. However, day after day, there are fewer and fewer “doors” for even this injected insulin to find and use. This progression is a dangerous path towards kidney failure, blindness, amputations, the increased possibility of heart attacks, and even death.
The Good News
If you think about how you arrived at the point where your health is right now, whether it is type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, chronic pain, acid reflux/heartburn or any other of what have come to be called“lifestyle diseases”, it didn’t happen overnight. It came about gradually as you followed a pattern of choices making a slowly deteriorating path. The good news about this is that you can turn around and follow that path back again to the time when you were healthy.
As you contemplate the condition of type 2 diabetes, is it due to a lack of insulin or a certain medication? No, not really. In the case of type 2 diabetes it is the lack of receptors or“doors” on the cells. The cells themselves have removed the doors because they did not need the energy provided by the sugar in your diet. So now you can see that you may not need more insulin. What you need, if you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, is more doors.
This is a problem because there are no pills that doctors can prescribe that magically manufacture more doors! There are no such medications. But, the solution is very simple. You have to make your cells very hungry. A hungry cell will start building many new doors. How do you stimulate hunger in the cells? You may have already discovered the answer. You must exercise!
The answer is to WALK, WALK, WALK. This is a simple secret that will help restore your blood sugar back to a normal level. It will also help control your weight and bring you back down the path to health. You can literally walk away from insulin injections, the risk of heart attack, diabetes, and obesity.
Yes, you must also learn to eat the foods that do not overload your body with calories. Research scientists have discovered that the best diet is a simple diet based on unrefined whole plant foods. This is exactly the same conclusion reached by your doctors and a number of Lifestyle Centers that specialize in helping people reverse some of the chronic conditions of our society. This is the diet that really works. It is naturally low in fat and high in fiber. It allows diabetics and overweight persons to eat three meals a day and not feel hungry. It can do the same thing for people with serious cholesterol problems. It works so well that you may never have to count calories or do exchanges again. This may seem surprising, but the evidence is clear in the improvement experienced by the people following this plan. Their return to vibrant health is proof of success. Happily, this works for many other chronic diseases as well.
Besides diet and exercise, the third important piece of the solution is to understand why you do or do not do certain things. For example, why do we crave certain foods? Why do you choose that piece of cake or pie? Why do you crave ice cream instead of an apple for dessert? When you learn why you choose certain things and what motivates you to do that, you can begin to control your cravings and the thoughtless eating patterns that affect so many of us. You must also understand why you are motivated to improve. Is it just to live 7 years longer or does it have something to do with the quality of life you would like to experience during those years? Perhaps you strongly desire to see your children grow up or maybe you want to be able to travel the world and enjoy time with friends. Maybe you have watched as chronic disease has taken someone you love from hospital to hospital and from an active life to disability. Only you can decide and choose your motivation.
You may ask yourself: do I have to do all the things I learned and apply all of this information to improve my current situation? The answer is no. You may always choose to improve at any of 3 levels, good, better, and best. You may have prior information and training from other classes, dietitians, or doctors that may have been good. Our goal is to teach you only the best!