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The basic principle for treating diabetes is to maintain the best possible glycemic control and to prevent organ damage caused by sugar. Excess sugar is always harmful, even to those who do not have diabetes. Sugar accelerates the aging process by forming compounds together with proteins. The term glycosylation describes this process 1. The more sugar that circulates in the body, the faster and more extensively glycosylation manifests itself.
Collagen is the basic building material of our connective tissue. Our blood vessels are formed of connective tissue and are predominantly made of collagen. Collagen is particularly sensitive to sugar. As a result of the glycosylation process, new compounds are born, called advanced glycosylated end products (AGE); these compounds are quite stable. AGEs are very harmful to the whole body. They cause inflammation, which leads to many different problems. This creates a deteriorating spiral and early death when many bodily systems fail. Heart disease, blindness, renal failure and leg amputations are typical complications of diabetes.
Glycosylation is a problem for those with diabetes. It is the cause for all long-term complications stemming from the disease. The glycosylation process happens considerably more quickly among diabetic patients than among those who do not have diabetes. Sugar also damages the peripheral nervous system, which together with vascular damage causes gangrene in the legs. Eyes and kidneys are also sensitive to this process.
Another problem is after-meal sugar spikes, so-called postprandial hyperglycemia. It has been shown that these sugar spikes damage the inner layer of arteries 2. To counteract this process, doctors currently recommend heavy medication, which means taking other mealtime insulin medications in addition to other medication.
Common sense would seem to dictate otherwise. Why on earth should a person eat a lot of sugar and starch, which causes sugar spikes, and then take medicines to prevent such harmful spikes from occurring. Everything can be done in a different way. I have experience treating several thousand people with diabetes, each of whom has reduced their sugar and starch intake and been able to stop taking all of their medications. Type 1 diabetic patients have also benefited from reducing their carbohydrate intake. It is absurd to stress the body by consuming the amount of carbohydrates currently recommended. Diabetes care is simple. I published a book on the subject in Finland four years ago. The Finnish Diabetes Association, among other medical organisations, tried to prevent the book from being published. However, many people still discovered my book. The great majority of my experience comes from contact with people I have never met via e-mail. They recovered by following my recommendations. They made the change independently. The truth is basically simple.
Reducing the amount of carbohydrates is the first step. We do not know why reducing the amount of carbohydrates changes the overall metabolism. After a certain limit, there is a dramatic change. In my experience the border is 60 grams of carbohydrates, and in some cases it is a bit less.
The second step has to do with the quality of the food. It should be as nutritionally dense as possible. Many of these nutrients protect the body from the harmful effects of sugar. Asian countries have a long history of diabetes nutrition therapy. Many of the herbs taken for example in China balance the blood sugar. People have learned how to use herbs without knowing how they affect the body. Today we know how these herbs and plants counteract the effects of diabetes. The nutrients in plants inhibit the alpha glucosidase enzyme, which breaks down starch and disaccharides into glucose.
The inhibition of the enzyme slows down the absorption of sugars.
Enzyme inhibitors mainly reduce the increase in postprandial plasma glucose. Among patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, these inhibitors decrease postprandial plasma glucose 3 by 40 to 50 mg/dL (2.2 to 2.8 nmol) and hemoglobin A1C by 0.5% to 1.0%. Herbs are remarkably effective in the treatment of diabetes.
Unfortunately, researchers in the Western world have not studied the potential benefits of herbs to a significant extent. Most studies are oriented in the direction of developing chemicals that can be patented. That is why I encourage people to avoid processed food and to make their own food. Many of the plants used in Asia are exotic and difficult to find in the average food store. But now we know that many ordinary plants have the same features. Curcumin 4 is a very potent herb that inhibits quite effectively the glucosidase enzyme and has many other health effects. Turmeric is my favourite herb, one that I recommend diabetes patient use on a daily basis. All plants 5 and herbs contain anthocyanins, polyphenols, flavonoids, terpenoids and, of course, curcuminoids. That essentially means that all spices, herbs, berries, fruit and vegetables are useful for diabetics. My favourite is marjoram 6. There is a potent antioxidant called pygnogenol, a French maritime bark extract 7, which is a member of the anthocyanidin family. In the old days in northern Europe, people added powdered pine bark to flour when there was a shortage of grains. People were healthy in those days; this all turned upside down when wheat was introduced.
Some mushrooms also inhibit the glucosidase enzyme. The most studied mushrooms are Maitake 8, Reishi, Shitake mushrooms, but I believe that many other mushrooms have same effect. Ganoderma lucidum 9 is an old Chinese medicinal mushroom. It has also been used in Siberia and in Finland for many other purposes as well. The Chaga mushroom 10 (Inonotus obliquus) has been used as a very old Russian folk remedy, which helps fight cancer and also helps prevent the formation of the glucosidase enzyme. Chaga mushrooms are quite popular today among health-conscious people in Finland. Chaga mushrooms grow on birch trees. Birch trees also grow in the north states of the US and in Canada.
[Dr Antti Heikkilä has published an English Kindle version of his book Nutrition Therapy Of Diabetes.(non-affiliate link)]
1) A Negre-Salvayre et al: Hyperglycemia and glycation in diabetic complications. Antioxid Redox Signal 2009
2) S Mäkimattila et al: Chronic hyperglycemia impairs endothelial function and insulin sensitivity via different mechanism in insulin depended diabetes mellitus Circulation 1996
3) H E Lebovitz: Alpha-Glucosidase inhibitors.Endicrinol Metab Clin North Am 1997
4) Z Y Du et al: Alpha-glucosidase inhibition of natural curcuminoids and curcumin analogs. Eur J Med Chem 2006
5) S Kumar et al: α-glucosidase inhibitors from plants: A natural approach to treat diabetes: Pharmacogn Rev 2011
6) J Kawabata et al: 6-hydroxyflavonoids as alpha-glucosidase inhibitors from marjoram (Origanum majorana) leaves. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 2003
7) A Schäfer et al: Oligomeric procyanidins of French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol) effectively inhibit alpha-glucosidase. Diabetes res Clin Pract 2007
8) C H Su et al: Inhibitory potential of Grifola frondosa bioactive fractions on α-amylase and α-glucosidase for management of hyperglycemia. Biotechnol Appl Biochem 2012
9) S Fatmawati et al: . Ganoderol B: a potent alpha-glucosidase inhibitor isolated from the fruiting body of Ganoderma lucidum. Phytomedicine. 2011 Sep 15;18(12):1053-5.
10) X Lu et al: Phytochemical characteristics and hypoglycaemic activity of fraction from mushroom Inonotus obliquus. J Sci Food Agric 2010