The Lowdown on High Blood Sugar by Jerry Ryan, Ph.d

By: Jerry Ryan, Ph.D.

Diabetes. High blood sugar. Isn't that an 'old people' disease? Doesn't that only cause problems for your grandparents or other elderly relatives and friends? Is that the disease where you have to give yourself shots every day? That's the disease that you get from eating too much sugar, right? Isn't it true that only fat people get that illness?

Before we go much further, let's go over some basics about diabetes. First, about 5.5 million Americans are currently being treated for diabetes. Studies imply that 5 million more Americans have undetected diabetes and another 20 million have an impaired glucose tolerance that may lead to diabetes. That's a significant amount of people. The National Institutes of Health state that millions of people lose their vision each year due to undetected diabetes. Most important to note is that the third leading cause of death in the United States is the complications of diabetes.

There are two different forms of diabetes and it's not the Type I and Type II that you always hear about. The first form is called Diabetes Insipidus. This kind of diabetes is very rare and has two causes. There may be a low level of a hormone called vasopressin or the kidneys cannot effectively respond to the vasopressin. The key symptoms of this metabolic malfunction are an extreme thirst and high urine output.

The more common form of diabetes is called Diabetes Mellitus. It is the result of a problem with the pancreas and its production of insulin. The body's blood sugar level is dependent on the proper amounts of insulin produced to breakdown the glucose (sugar) in our diet. Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease of carbohydrate metabolism. Genetics certainly plays a part in developing diabetes but a diet of highly processed, low-fiber foods has been seen as a major contributor in most cases. This type of diet leads to obesity resulting in overweight individuals having a higher risk of diabetes.

Diabetes mellitus is the Type I and Type II diabetes that you've heard about. Type I, known as insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes. This form of diabetes involves the destruction of the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. It is most common in children.

Individuals with Type I diabetes show the following symptoms:
&bullFrequent urination
&bullAbnormal thirst
&bullWeight loss
&bullUnusual hunger
&bullFrequent bedwetting (in children)

Type I diabetics are also susceptible to episodes of high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Either of these conditions can cause serious medical problems.

Hyperglycemia can sneak up slowly over a period of hours or days and it is most common during an illness. A chief warning sign is the inability to keep down fluids. Possible complications include stroke, coma, blindness, kidney failure, and nerve damage. Hypoglycemia, on the other hand, comes on rapidly and can be caused by skipping meals or exercising too much. The signs of hypoglycemia include dizziness, hunger, confusion, sweating, and tingling lips. Complications can be double vision, trembling, disorientation, and coma.

Type II diabetes is most likely to happen in individuals with a family history of diabetes. This form of diabetes is slightly different. The pancreas produces insulin but it doesn't work properly. As a result, the blood sugar level remains high because the glucose cannot get into the body's cells as quickly as it should.

Folks with Type II diabetes exhibit the following symptoms:
&bullBlurred vision
&bullUnusual thirst
&bullSlow wound healing
&bullNumbness in hands and feet
&bullSkin infections
&bullLingering flu symptoms
&bullLoss of hair on legs
&bullIncreased facial hair
&bullSmall, yellow bumps on the body

A common first indicator of diabetes in men is a condition known as balanoposthitis. This condition is an inflammation of the penis and foreskin and usually accompanies frequent urination.

There is a wide range of natural health options that are available to diabetics. Maintaining a proper diet and participating in an exercise program are two of the most important ways to control diabetes. Your physician and dietician will be most helpful in developing a food plan that will be best for you. A rule of thumb for a diabetic diet is to eat foods that contain complex carbohydrates, low fat, and high fiber. That means plenty of fruits and vegetables, including juices. The complex carbs enter the system more slowly, the fiber helps slow the blood sugar spikes, and the low fat keeps the fat levels in your bloodstream down. Avoid the simple sugars and the saturated fats.

Exercise is of equal importance since obesity is a major contributing factor in Type II diabetes. Your physician and therapists can help you develop a weight reduction program to fit your needs.

In addition to diet and exercise, there are nutritional supplements that have been found helpful for diabetes. These supplements are:
Chromium picolinate - enhances the effect of insulin resulting in lower blood sugar levels
L-Glutamine - reduces sugar cravings
Biotin - assists in glucose metabolism
Manganese - important for repair of the pancreas

Do not take any supplements that contain cysteine, an amino acid. It can cause problems with the ability of the cells to absorb insulin properly.

Vitamins B, C, and E are also helpful as antioxidants. They work toward the prevention of secondary complications of diabetes such a vision and vascular problems. However, large doses of Vitamin C or B1 should be avoided because they may inactivate insulin.

Several herbs are also advocated for diabetes. These herbs are cedar berries, huckleberry, ginseng, bilberry, dandelion root, buchu, and uva ursi. Each herb has a specific role in maintaining proper blood sugar levels.

Because diabetes causes problems with the circulatory system, it is vital to avoid tobacco in any form. Tobacco constricts the blood vessels and slows the circulation. Tobacco use provides less oxygen to the extremities. This lack of oxygen plays a major role in the development of foot ulcers commonly seen in diabetics.

There are many reasons to try to prevent the onset of diabetes. It threatens your overall health and can lead to a wide range of complications. Here are just a few.
Diabetic Retinopathy - This is damage done to the retina and is the leading cause of blindness in the United States.
Diabetic Nephropathy - This is damage done to the kidneys and is the leading cause of death in diabetics.
Diabetic Neuropathy - This is damage done to the nerves and is characterized by numbness, tingling, and pain. It affects the feet, legs, and hands.

It has been said that diabetes is deceptive, insidious, and inconvenient. If you feel that you are experiencing signs of diabetes, check with your primary care provider.

For more information on diabetes, you can contact the organizations listed below.

American Diabetes Association
1660 Duke Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

International Diabetes Center
3800 Park Nicolett Boulevard
Minneapolis, MN 55416
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse
1 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3560

If you would like more information on topics discussed in this article or to suggest ideas for a future article, you can contact me at my website.

I hope that you have found this information useful and educational. Be a major contributor to your health care. Learn all you can about the body you have with you 24 hours a day.

Top Searches on

» More on Diabetes