Naturopathic Medicine for Diabetes
Naturopathic medicine relies on gentle, nontoxic, and effective treatments to help patients utilize the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Since prevention is always the best cure, a naturopath will want to determine whether you are at risk for diabetes and help guide you to adopt lifestyle changes to minimize that risk. If diabetes is already a health issue for you, your naturopath can use a variety of strategies to help your body use its inherent abilities to return to better health. Naturopathic medicine helps you strengthen the natural healing powers of your body with a focus on three main lifestyle factors: diet management, weight control, and stress relief.
Diet Management for Diabetes
The decisions you make in selecting different foods, preparing them, and eating them can make a significant difference in your health. We know that diabetes is a condition in which the body does not assimilate food as effectively as it should. When the sugar resulting from digested food is not able to enter the cells, it remains in the bloodstream. This can, over time, cause serious injury especially to the eyes and kidneys. It can slow the healing of sores and blisters, and in extreme cases can even lead eventually to amputation. With his or her training in nutrition, a naturopath can help you adjust your diet to prevent or treat diabetes without the use of heavy drugs.
Controlling Blood Sugar
The goal in preventing or treating diabetes is to reduce high levels of glucose in the bloodstream. Naturopaths, sometimes called “Doctors who listen,” will be interested in knowing what food choices you normally make. Then they can determine whether dietary changes are needed to bring your body back to health. Usually, a diet rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber is recommended by naturopaths. Foods containing whole grains, legumes, and vegetables are ideal for a good diet because they tend to slow absorption, helping to avoid a rapid rise in blood glucose. In some cases, a naturopath will also recommend vitamin supplements such as the B vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) to prevent or treat diabetes.
Your naturopath will also guide you to avoid the foods that can cause a spike in blood sugar, because that spike puts an extra stress on the pancreas. Avoiding sugars—especially refined sugars—is highly advised. Typical foods to avoid are “junk foods,” such as processed bakery items. And it’s important to recognize that many food items which don’t seem sweet at all are actually reduced to sugars during the process of digestion—including breads, starches, even nuts. Fruit juices, though they are known to contain healthy components, should be limited or avoided, since they are digested quickly and tend to cause a quick rise in blood sugar levels. Avoiding excessive fats is important too, particularly those in processed snack foods.
Your naturopath may recommend adjusting the amounts of food taken at each meal. Usually patients are advised to eat small amounts at frequent intervals rather than a few large meals each day. In addition, the naturopathic doctor may suggest taking care in the way that you combine foods. For instance, you may be advised to eat protein-containing foods along with vegetables in order to slow the process of absorption.
Many, though not all, naturopathic doctors have a specialized knowledge of herbal medicine. Herbs often used in the treatment of diabetes are fenugreek, bitter melon, garlic, olive leaves, and ginseng. A naturopath can recommend which herbs are best for you and in what form they should be taken: as a tea, as a pill or tablet, or as a powder, mixed carefully with food.
Hand-in-hand with diet management is the subject of weight control. Selecting foods that help reduce blood sugar levels will usually also provide help in controlling weight. In addition to a change in diet, your naturopath will probably suggest physical exercise appropriate to your health condition. Regular exercise is a vital component in preventing or treating diabetes. Exercise not only lowers blood glucose level, it also promotes healthy metabolic functions and oxygenates tissues.
Stress Relief and Sleeping Patterns
We know that stress increases the body’s production of adrenalin, and that raises the blood sugar level. Though stress seems to be almost built-in to today’s living, we need to keep in mind that it can have a damaging effect on our bodies. If your naturopath notices in chatting with you that you appear to be feeling the effects of stress, he or she may suggest massage therapy. Many naturopaths are specially trained in touch therapy and massage techniques. In addition, you may be given counseling in particular relaxation techniques to help you establish regular, healthy sleeping patterns.
How Can a Naturopath Determine My Risk for Diabetes?
Naturopaths treat the whole person, not merely symptoms of a health issue. For this reason, naturopathic treatment usually begins as the doctor chats with you to develop a patient health profile. In order to partner with you to determine the best way to achieve your optimum health condition, the ND (naturopathic doctor) will want to consider many different factors with you. He or she will most likely ask about your customary exercise level and your usual rest and sleeping patterns. Your residence and place of work can become factors in your total health condition, since either may introduce unsuspected toxins or dangerous stress levels into your life. Since diabetes is a condition that affects and is affected by dietary choices that you make, the food choices that you make as well will become an important part of your lifestyle profile.
Naturopaths train extensively in the use of laboratory and technological testing. The same laboratory tests that are available to conventional physicians are available to the naturopath. Licensing regulations vary from one state, province, or country to another so you will want to ask your ND what procedure is used to gain access to laboratory testing. Some states license naturopaths to order the appropriate tests. If your ND is licensed to perform laboratory tests, they can be administered quickly and easily as part of your physical exam. If not, your naturopath will work closely with a doctor who can give those tests.
A naturopathic doctor will combine all the lifestyle factors from your lifestyle profile with information from the laboratory tests to help you determine whether you are at risk for diabetes or whether it is actually already a part of your life. In many cases, naturopathic treatments are able to reduce or even eliminate the diabetic condition entirely. Your naturopath will partner with you to determine the best natural, safe, and effective way to bring your body back to good health.
The book Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, compiled by the Burton Goldman group, offers detailed information about diabetes care and prevention as well as good information about naturopathy.
The following websites offer more detailed information about ways in which naturopathic doctors can help you deal with diabetes:
“Nutritional Support for Type II Diabetes Mellitus” from Naturopathy Online.
“Herbs for Diabetes” from Holistic Online.
“Successful diabetes treatment through naturopathic treatment regimen” report on study conducted by the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine.