The past couple of months, I took an unintentional break from my blog. When I started writing this, my father-in-law had become increasingly sick and passed away, so I thought of changing the subject (you will understand why as you read). Then, the other day, I kept hearing him say the words he would always say to me, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” That was my sign to keep writing on this subject. We would often talk about nutrition, however, he had a tough time with foods and an even tougher time with the pills that the doctors required him to take. Yet he still took them, and each time he went back to the doctor, they gave him more. I know he felt helpless about all of the prescriptions that he was taking. I miss our nutrition talks and even the frustration I felt in wanting him to change and feel good. This topic is for my sweet father-in-law.
About a year ago I was visiting my father-in-law in the hospital. He had heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. I was there at mealtime, so of course, being the nosey nutritionist that I am, I took a look at what they were feeding him. I had to bite my tongue and shut my mouth. On his plate was some sort of small meat patty. That’s protein, which is fine, but where did it come from and how artificial was it? There was a salad consisting of iceberg lettuce with tomatoes and a packet of non-fat dressing (made with rancid vegetable oils and sugar), potatoes (starch), a roll (more starch), and a fruit cup (sugar). For dessert, there were 2 Nilla-Vanilla wafer cookies, which were mistakenly believed to be good for him because they were “low-fat”. Of course, being low fat, they added sugar to replace the fats and toxic vegetable oils to keep them cholesterol free. Remember, this is a Type 2 diabetic who has heart disease, is overweight, has weak kidneys and is in the hospital!
What kind of diabetic meal is that? There were enough carbohydrates for 3 or more days! At the same time, we are hearing how Diabetes is steadily increasing, especially with kids. From CBS news, “1/3 of all Americans are obese and expected to rise. Projecting a 42% obesity rate by 2030, Diabetes, heart disease and cancer all increasing.”
From Mark Hyman MD, author of The Blood Sugar Solution, “From 2000-2008 the number of teenagers 12-19 with pre-diabetes or diabetes increased from 9% to 23%, that’s 1 in 4 kids!” “1 in 2 Americans is suffering from diabesity (diabetes + obesity), and don’t even know it”. “Diabesity is the leading cause of most chronic disease in the 21st century. Specifically, those with diabesity are at an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer, high blood pressure, blindness and kidney failure”.
Okay, enough with the doom and gloom. This can be changed. Type 2 diabetes is a life-style disease. Starting with nutrition, what and how you eat can eliminate your risk, and if you are already diabetic, reduce your symptoms. When the diet is full of processed fast foods, starchy carbohydrates (bars, cereals, bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, etc.), sugar-laden drinks, and packaged foods, your body requires insulin to remove the sugar from the blood stream and stores it into cells for later energy, or as we know it, fat. Eating these foods all-day, every-day causes the cells to become numb to the insulin and the body then requires the pancreas to produce more and more. That’s where the name “insulin resistance” comes in. When the blood sugar stays too high, we then have diabetic symptoms and all of the declining body issues that go with it. Dr. William Davis from “Wheat Belly” says” eating two slices of whole wheat bread can increase blood sugar more than 2 tablespoons of pure sugar can”!
So what should we do? How should we eat? From the beginning of humanity, our bodies were NOT meant to eat massive amounts of carbohydrates. In fact, our bodies do not require carbohydrates to live. However, we cannot live without fats, proteins, and water. We can get all the glucose we need for the brain from the liver breaking down proteins and the body’s preferred energy source: fat. This process is called gluconeogenesis. Looking into past research, it is clear that we didn’t have the issues of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. before mass agriculture, which has led to an American-style diet based on the wrong type of fats, (too many vegetable oils which are heated and oxidized and put us in an omega 6 to omega 3 imbalance, causing inflammation), massive amounts of wheat and grains, and epidemic doses of sugar. All of which puts enormous stress on the digestive system, kidneys, and the liver.
That is not to say that carbs shouldn’t play an important role in a healthy diet. There are tremendous nutritional benefits in particular vegetables and fruits (in moderation because of the sugar). Non-starchy vegetables have a wonderful supply of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber without too many carbohydrates. Fruits are a bit trickier however. Since they come from nature and are low fat, we are told to eat as much as we can of them. Fruit contains mostly the sugar fructose, which is metabolized in the liver. Your liver is a busy organ and if it is toxic (and if you are eating the standard American diet, it is), it has a harder time breaking down the fructose, which can lead to a fatty liver. Even though fruit has fiber, it contains mostly sugars. For this reason, if a person is overweight or a diabetic, they should limit their intake amount. Dr. Mercola advises to limit your fructose from fruit to 15 grams or less per day. You can go to mercola.com to get a fructose chart.
Wheat, grains, and legumes are not part of the solution either. Grains and legumes typically contain a substance called Phytic acid which binds minerals and eliminates them from the body. The more grains a person consumes, the more minerals are lost and deficiencies can occur, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc shortages. Grains and legumes also contain Goitrogens, also known as thyroid-inhibiting substances, as well as hard-to-digest proteins like gluten and gliadin. These proteins are a common source of allergies and sensitivities. Gluten can affect all the organs of the body – not just the gut. Brain (depression, ADHD), heart, kidneys, skin, and joints can be damaged from the intake of these gluten-containing grains. In fact, there is a morphine-like compound called exorphins in grains, which makes gluten-containing foods quite addictive. While eliminating these foods from diet, many people will feel withdrawal symptoms. Dr. Davis says “wheat is an appetite stimulant. It makes you want more – more cookies, cupcakes, pretzels, candy, soft drinks, bagels. It makes you want both wheat-containing and non-wheat-containing foods.”
Do you ever wonder why Americans have been eating more low-fat and higher carbohydrates they are not getting healthier but instead sicker? Sadly, they are doing exactly what the American Dietetic Association has been telling them to do. Another quote form Dr. Davis – “The list of American Diabetes Association-recommended foods includes:
• Whole grain breads, such as whole wheat or rye
• Whole grain, high fiver cereal
• Cooked cereal such as oatmeal, frits, hominy, or cream of wheat
• Rice, pasta, tortillas
• Cooked beans and peas, such as pinto beans or black-eyed peas
• Potatoes, green peas, corn, lima beans, sweet-potatoes, winter squash
• Low-fat crackers and snack chips, pretzels, and fat-free popcorn
In short, eat wheat, wheat, corn, rice, and wheat”. “To this day, the notion of treating diabetes by increasing consumption of the foods that caused the disease in the first place, then managing the blood sugar mess with medications” Say’s Dr. Davis. “Remove carbohydrates, especially those from ‘healthy whole grains,’ and an entire constellation of modern conditions reverse themselves”.
Dr. Bernstein, who at the age of 12 was diagnosed with diabetes Type 1 was, what he called, a “typical diabetic” with roller coaster blood sugar numbers discovered with a very low carbohydrate diet he is able to manage his diabetes without medication, feel energetic, and his serum blood cholesterol and triglycerides are in normal range. Dr. Bernstein has some great books on controlling blood glucose levels – one is called The Diabetes Diet. Even if you are not a diabetic there is information for everyone in the book. By just keeping blood glucose levels low you can reduce inflammation and weight gain.
Dr. Bernstein’s rule is 6 grams of carbohydrates in the morning, 12 grams for lunch and 12 grams for dinner. Thomas S. Cowan, MD author of “The Fourfold Path to Healing” also suggest a very low-carb eating plan for weight loss, diabetes, and insulin resistance. His recommendation is no more than 60 grams per day. To give you an idea, the ADA advises 300 grams of carbohydrates per day while many Americans consume more that 500 grams per day, every day..
So what are these carbohydrates that we are supposed to cut down? All fruits and vegetables, grains, and legumes contain a large amount of carbs. These carbohydrates immediately break down into sugar in the body. Anything processed most likely has sugars added, and watch out for meats. Read labels on all processed meat, they too sneak sugar into it. Yes, bacon has sugar! Take some time and your reading glasses to the store. Just for the fun of it, start recording your grams of carbohydrates daily. If you have any issues with weight (especially around the middle), insulin issues, hormone imbalances, joint pain, cardiovascular issues, depression, autoimmune symptoms, and even low energy, you may want to reduce these foods and see how you feel.
Personally, I had an interesting awareness. I had eliminated gluten and dairy 4 years ago and felt much better, but still ate grains and lots of fruit. I am a runner and for years doctors and therapists have been telling me to quit because of my knees (always painful) and bunions. I quit grains with my son 1-½ years ago and realized that I have not had any knee or bunion pain and am running more! Also, my endurance to run the hills has improved. The only difference I have made is cutting way down on carbohydrates, eliminating grains, and increasing fats, and did I ever increase those fats! Oh, and something else changed – I became older. So much for the saying that pain comes with getting older. Which leads me all the way back to my dear father-in-law: “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything”. So true.