The megatrend is alarming: More than half of all Americans will have diabetes or prediabetes by the year 2020, at a cost of $3.35 trillion unless something drastically changes in U.S. health trends.
Diabetes is an inflammatory disease that damages blood vessels and threatens blood flow to the legs and the body’s most vital organs — the kidneys, heart and brain. Every year millions of diabetics suffer heart attacks, and almost as many suffer strokes — life-changing, irreversible injuries that often result in serious disabilities and death.
Genetic mutations that cause diabetes must be “turned on” by the environment, and America offers the perfect breeding ground. Our foods are grown with pesticides, thoroughly processed and wrapped in plastic, shelf-life guaranteed. In food factories, Mother Nature’s living flavors are exchanged for artificial ingredients and eye-catching colors, and promoted on a grocery aisle with a buy-one-get-one-free coupon.
In addition, we are stressed and exhausted and over-stimulated by 24-hour news channels that advertise the next new drug for the same old illness. We don’t move enough, we don’t get outside and we feel apathetic about the consequences.
Better lifestyles habits could prevent 90 percent of Type 2 diabetes, estimates Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition. One of the most obvious but underutilized weapons in our healing arsenal is nutritional therapy.
We haven’t evolved to efficiently metabolize the processed and refined foods sold in our supermarkets. Refined foods contain less water and fiber and more added fat, salt and sugar than fresh foods, making them less filling, more fattening and prone to raise blood glucose and insulin which can lead to Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
8 tips to extinguish the fire
1. Stop eating processed foods. If it comes from a package, it was made in a factory and likely contains ingredients that are toxic. Headaches, heart aches and hormonal imbalances like hyperglycemia are caused by chemicals in our food. When you crave potato chips, cookies or a zesty marinade, make them from scratch. Spend time preparing your food, or lose time feeling ill.
2. Eat whole foods filled with color. Plants are filled with antioxidants, phytochemicals and living enzymes. These are the micronutrients that keep digestion, immunity and brain function running on all cylinders. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are also filled with fiber, essential to keep the digestive track moving and clean, which in turn strengthens the immune system.
3. Drink 5-8 glasses of water a day. This maximizes cellular activities, promotes detox and keeps your skin glowing.
4. Stop drinking soda pop. It is now being recognized as the biggest contributor to obesity and diabetes (newly coined as diabesity). Regular colas contain high fructose corn syrup, which spikes the blood sugar and leads to insulin immunity. Since fructose is only processed in the liver, it also leads to non-alcoholic fatty liver, and severely inhibits the function of that organ. Diet colas have saccharine or aspartame, and regardless of the source, these chemicals promote carbohydrate cravings, increase hunger and can lead to neurological damage.
5. Eat organic as much as possible, especially meat and dairy. Factory-farmed animals are given growth hormones to maximize their size and minimize the lifespan it takes to mature so they can be harvested sooner. Those are not hormones you want in your body! Factory farms consume 70 percent of our nation’s supply of antibiotics in an attempt to prevent the diseases that naturally arise in filthy living conditions. (No one can clean a chicken coup with 60,000 chickens in it!) These antibiotics affect your gut flora and digestive health and lead to antibiotic resistance.
6. Eat less meat and dairy, if only to make room for more vegetables because you need them. Make the main course plant-based and include only small portions of lean meat. Minimize cheese. Experiment with coconut, almond and soy milk; try hummus, avocado and cashews for creams. Your taste buds will adapt to whatever they think is “normal.” If you want a piece of cheese, eat it with joy and savor the flavor. Otherwise, skip it.
7. If you have high cholesterol, go vegan. Our bodies are able to synthesize all the cholesterol we need, so any excess comes from food. Plants don’t have any. Work with your doctor as the results come fast (within weeks, you can be off medication)!
8. Find a movement that you enjoy, and do it outside as often as possible. Every day, take several 5-minute breaks to breathe 10 deep breaths. Make them slow and controlled; match the inhale to the exhale. Direct your mind to focus on the sound, the sensations and finding tension to release. If you are forgetful, plug a reminder into your phone. In as little as 5 minutes, you will reduce cortisol and adrenaline levels, and induce a sense of peace, empowerment and well-being.