by Randy Lee, ND
People that were raised on Southern diets that included meat, two veggies, bread and dessert with every meal may have some blood sugar issues, especially if diabetes runs in the family. Blood sugar can be controlled through diet and herbal supplements, but it’s not easy; it’s restrictive and requires persistence. Yet it pays off, because blood sugar issues are some of the leading causes of deaths in America, and the causes are ubiquitous. It seems almost all of us have a sweet tooth— or several of them.
With the typical American diet, it is difficult to get away from the sugar. It’s hidden everywhere, even in places where one wouldn’t guess. A recent visit to a Chinese fast food eatery revealed that, after talking with a manager, there were absolutely no items on the menu made without sugar. Another popular restaurant that features sugary sauces on its meat items had a vegetarian plate, yet after asking the cook which among a dozen side dishes contained no sugar, only one item and the salad—without any dressing—were safe.
So, what can be done to prevent diabetes? First, omit as much sugar from the diet as possible. One doesn’t have to give up all sweets; there are healthy, natural alternative sweeteners, like stevia, xylitol or monk fruit (all available at most health food stores and some traditional grocery stores). Avoid artificial sugar substitutes, like aspartame or saccharine, as those can trick the taste buds into signaling sugar is coming, which causes the pancreas to release insulin to process the sugar that never arrives in the body.
Reduce consumption of white foods—sugar, white potatoes, white rice and white flour. Use blue potatoes, sweet potatoes, or even yellow potatoes; all have less starch, which is converted into sugar by enzymes in the mouth. Use whole brown rice or wild rice; these have more fiber and balanced nutrients. As a minimum, use whole grain flours or non-gluten flour, like spelt, quinoa or teff, made with whole grains.
Many people believe that once one has diabetes, it is for life and nonreversible; however, we now have research that says there are supplements that help. Nopal is from the prickly pear cactus and helps normalize blood sugar levels. Combinations of herbs like licorice root, juniper berry cones, yarrow, slippery elm bark and marshmallow root seem to support proper pancreas functions. Spices, including cayenne pepper and garlic, are helpful, as are essential oils of cinnamon bark and coriander.
Two other herbs generating excitement in the natural health community are chickweed and copalchi bark. Chickweed has been used for years as a fat mobilizer for weight loss. Recent research suggests that fatty deposits in the pancreas contribute to diabetes, so using chickweed to remove the fatty deposits in the pancreas may help to reverse diabetes. Copalchi is better known by its botanical name Hintonia latiflora and contains polyphenols, which are known to be anti-diabetically active. These show promise for helping to actually reverse diabetes.
We all need to reduce our sugar intake. Ask restaurateurs for reduced-sugar meals, and ask questions about menu items. In home cooking, try natural sugar alternatives. Wean off of sugar additions. We can empower ourselves to take charge of our health.
Randy Lee is a naturopathic doctor and owner of The Health Patch, located at 1024 S. Douglas Blvd., in Midwest City. For more information, call 405-736-1030, email PawPaw@TheHealthPatch.com or visit TheHealthPatch.com.