Whenever I inform my patients that they may be suffering from juvenile diabetes, better known as Type 1, the reaction is often the same. “How can I have juvenile diabetes when I am not an adolescent?” This is a very good question and one worth explaining.
Although juvenile diabetes tends to occur in young, lean individuals, usually before the age of 30, older people may also show signs of this chronic condition. What’s worse is that approximately 12 million people in the United States have diabetes and don’t even know it! The reason for this astounding statistic is that the American Diabetes Association does not recommend screening for the general population at this time unless you have a parent or sibling with the disease.
With an estimated 17 million people (about 8 % of the population) in the United States affected with diabetes it is important for everyone to have a better understanding of this insidious disease.
There are many factors that play into the cause of type 1 diabetes including genetics and exposure to certain viruses. Diabetes is considered to be a chronic condition meaning that it lasts a lifetime. Despite ongoing research no known cure has been found to date, but type 1diabetes is manageable and treatable. People suffering with diabetes are now living longer, healthier lives with the addition of herbs and nutritional supplements available to complement conventional medicine.
It’s All About Blood Sugar
Glucose is a simple sugar found in food and is a necessary nutrient that provides energy for the cells to function properly. Glucose in digested food cannot enter the cells without the help of insulin to help it along. Without it, the cells become starved of glucose energy and the unused sugar is wasted in excreted urine. That’s why a urine test is sometimes used as a means to measure sugar levels in the body and to check for potential signs of diabetes.
A person with type 1 diabetes doesn’t produce enough of the hormone insulin or is unable to use it effectively, which causes high blood sugar (glucose) levels. Over time, this imbalance can lead to heart disease, nerve damage, kidney disease, vision loss, and other complications. The less controlled your blood sugar, the higher the risk of disabling complications over a long period of time.
As a type 1 diabetic, the goal is to keep your blood sugar level as close to normal as possible to delay or prevent complications. This is done by monitoring blood glucose levels and is the only way to make sure that your sugar level remains within the target range.
You should also include a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods are high in nutrition and low in fat and calories. Fewer sweets and animal products provide more nutrients and less sugar.
Move to Keep Blood Sugars Low
If you are a type 1 diabetic, the secret to lowering blood sugar is more than just a healthy diet. Exercise is right up there with watching what you eat. The advantage of physical activity is that it moves sugar from your blood into your cells so the more you move the lower your blood sugar level.
Walking, biking, and swimming are examples of activities that you might enjoy and can easily be included in your daily schedule. Shoot for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise as many days of the week as possible. Add some weight bearing exercises along with stretching to round out your program. Remember not to do too much too soon especially if you have not exercised for awhile. Consult your doctor for advice on the level of physical activity that is best for you.
Type 1 diabetics must also be cautious of their blood sugar dropping too low especially when taking insulin. When blood sugar drops the condition is known as hypoglycemia and is common among diabetics as well as people who are not.
Nature Can Help You Live with Type 1 Diabetes
The majority of people with type 1 diabetes are insulin dependent. But did you know there are natural remedies that have been around for years proven to be effective in lowering blood glucose levels? Here are a few of nature’s miracle workers:
• Gymnema sylvestre – The name of this herb actually means “destroyer of sugar” and was used in ancient times as a treatment for diabetes. “A study published in Ethnopharmacology in 1990 showed a daily dose of 400 milligrams was effective in lowering blood glucose levels in diabetics over the long term.”
• Fenugreek – A popular herb used for high blood sugar and lowering cholesterol.
• Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia) – This plant has a long history of use as a hypoglycemic agent and has been referred to as vegetable insulin. At least three properties of Bitter Melon have been reported to have sugar-regulating properties.
Many famous athletes and professional people suffer with type 1 diabetes. It is possible to live a normal life as long as you follow your treatment plan, get daily exercise, eat a healthy diet, and monitor your blood sugar. Ask your doctor about natural remedies that will help you keep your glucose levels in check and aid you in your quest for good health.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.