At least one in four Americans is impacted by type I (T1) or II (T2) diabetes or a pre-diabetic (PD) condition. While you may have been told that diabetic conditions are incurable (perhaps even by a doctor), scientific research shows that nearly all cases of T2 diabetes and PD conditions can be corrected through dietary interventions alone (1). Unfortunately, the majority of conventional medical practitioners view PD and T2 as a problem associated with high blood sugar levels alone. While it is true that high blood sugar is a symptom of any form of diabetes, it completely ignores the underling cause and therefore misses the mark when it comes to finding a treatment protocol that actually addresses the root issue.
The Root Cause of PD and T2 Diabetes
Using carbohydrates in any form (including whole grains, fruits, and foods low on the glycemic index scale) as the basis for one’s diet forces the body to secrete large amounts of insulin to manage the blood sugar rise that follows every meal. Over time, surges of insulin can reduce the body’s sensitivity to this important hormone. Although the body is usually still producing a sufficient amount of insulin (unless the condition worsens and insulin producing cells begin to die), cells no longer respond normally to insulin in circulation. At this stage, a person may be diagnosed with “insulin resistance” which is nearly certain to develop into T2 diabetes if adjustments in one’s diet and lifestyle are not made (2).
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The Role of Insulin in the Body
All carbohydrates consumed are eventually broken down by digestion into the simple sugar known as glucose. Insulin is needed to “escort” glucose from the bloodstream through the cellular membrane where it can be converted into energy by the cell. It also directs excess glucose into the muscle and liver tissue to be stored as a back-up energy source known as glycogen. When blood glucose levels are still high, insulin directs the body to store any remaining glucose as fat; it also prevents the body from utilizing its own fat stores as a source of energy (3).
Leptin – The Satiety Hormone
The other primary hormone involved in the development of PD and T2 diabetes is known as leptin (1). Leptin is responsible for balancing appetite and satiety and is produced within fat cells. The amount of leptin present in your bloodstream increases with additional weight due to the presence of a greater number of leptin producing fat cells. In a manner similar to the development of insulin resistance, excess circulating leptin often results in decreased sensitivity. The inability to “hear” the message to stop eating often causes people with leptin resistance to experience excessive hunger. This hunger in turn leads to overeating, additional insulin production, more fat storage and, ultimately, more leptin production. The vicious cycle between leptin and insulin is the root cause that underlies all cases of PD and T2 diabetes.
Health Risks Associated With Elevated Insulin Levels
High insulin levels are associated with a host of physical aliments including obesity, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and, of course, diabetes (4, 5, 6), regardless of whether the form is natural or injected. It is important to note that people who are insulin resistant are often still producing significant amounts of insulin, yet due to the inability of the cells to respond in a normal fashion, blood sugar levels remain high and trigger the body to produce even more insulin.
People with T2 diabetes (essentially an extreme form of insulin resistance) who take additional insulin in an attempt to “force” their resistant cells to respond to an ever greater amount of insulin are proportionally increasing their chances of developing a secondary yet serious disease. In genetically prone individuals, this can actually lead to the death of insulin producing cells within the pancreas, creating a version of T1, insulin dependent diabetes (7).
The Ultimate Solution to Any Diabetic Condition
People who eat a ketogenic diet generally obtain close to 75 percent of their daily caloric intake from healthy sources of fat like avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut oil and grass fed, unprocessed meats and butter. A high intake of fat can fuel the body, allowing carbohydrate intake to be slashed to a small fraction of what is normally consumed in the traditional American diet. Once in ketosis, the need for insulin is dramatically reduced, since ketone bodies produced from dietary and/or bodily fat easily pass through the cell membrane without the need for insulin (8). Glucose is still needed for specific cells in the body, yet the small amount required can easily be produced (through a process known as gluconeogenesis, 9) from protein and/or fat when carbohydrates are in short supply.
Strong Scientific Support
Although the ketogenic diet has become popular in recent years as a therapy for many serious illness ranging from heart disease to cancer and beyond, more scientific research has been conducted on the the use of ketosis for effective, long term diabetes management than virtually any other condition (10, 11, 12). Studies have shown that diabetics lose weight, enjoy reduced hemoglobin A1c (13) and insulin levels, and improve their triglyceride levels while following a ketogenic dietary protocol.
A Superior Form of Energy
Ketones provide a superior form of energy for cells and require no insulin to pass through the cellular membrane. Since the majority of human cells have the ability to use ketones instead of glucose for fuel, insulin receptors have the opportunity to gradually regain sensitivity as they are given time to essentially “rest” in the ketogenic state. Ketosis is safe for all diabetics (provided insulin levels are medically monitored), even for extended periods of time. Many T2 diabetics and those with PD are able to completely correct their once “incurable” condition with this dietary protocol alone (1).
Work With a Physician and Coach
While adjusting to this new lifestyle, it is important to have your insulin and blood glucose levels monitored with the help of a doctor in order to make any necessary adjustments in medication(s). Supplemental insulin will need to reduced in nearly 100 percent of people following a ketogenic diet, but maintaining a minimal level of insulin is critical to avoid the dangerous metabolic condition known as ketoacidosis (14). A health coach can help take the hassle out of learning a new way of eating and living while providing you the support you need to make it through the initial adjustment period.