Understanding Diabetes and Its Prevalence
There's no two ways about this, diabetes has grown into an epidemic.
1 in every 4 adults in the USA presents with diabetes. The situation in Spain where I live is that 13.8% of Spanish adults have diabetes type 2, the equivalent of more than 5.3 millon people. Of these, almost 3 million have already been diagnosed but 2.3 millon, 43% of the total, are unaware that they have the condition.
What is Diabetes?
So what exactly is diabetes and why do so many people have it?
Diabetes Mellitus is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, which affects how the body is able to use glucose for energy.
In order for cells to use glucose for energy, insulin must be present. In people with diabetes, the pancreas either produces little or no insulin (known as type 1), or the cells do not respond appropriately to the insulin that is produced (known as type 2 and gestational diabetes). The latest research suggests that diabetes is more complicated than this and that there are in fact 5 different types: Severe autoimmune diabetes (type 1 diabetes), severe insulin-deficient diabetes, severe insulin-resistant diabetes, mild obesity-related diabetes and mild age-related diabetes.
The basic idea is that glucose builds up in the blood, overflows into the urine, and passes out of the body in the urine. Thus, the body loses its main source of fuel.
Oriental Medicine's Approach to Diabetes
Now would you be surprised if I told you that the group of symptoms termed ‘diabetes’ in conventional medicine has been treated for thousands of years with the system of traditional Oriental Medicine. It was considered a condition of too much heat and dryness in the body and was known as ‘Wasting and Thirsting disease.’
For the ancient Chinese, the general imbalance behind the symptoms of diabetes lies in a weakness of digestion. As the stomach becomes weaker, heat accumulates, drying up body fluids and creating hunger and thirst. Maybe the heat rises to the lungs to create more thirst or maybe it sinks down to the kidneys which affects urination. In type 2 diabetes it is a gradually developing imbalance connected to your diet, lifestyle and stress levels.
If you develop symptoms of wasting and thirsting disease (rather than being born with them) - your body is telling you to stop and change. But you don’t need to wait for the symptoms to make changes.
The Causes of Diabetes According to Oriental Medicine
What do you need to change? Well let’s look at some of the causes of the imbalance that leads to the symptoms of diabetes. And none of these should surprise you:
The Impact of Diet on Diabetes
Yep. One of the key factors in kick starting the diabetic process is too many processed, fried or oily foods. I talk to my patients about diet all the time because I want to make them aware of how what we eat, can actually make us very ill. I'm particularly hard on them consuming soft drinks because believe it or not I still get sick people in my clinic who think drinking litres of coke a week is the same as drinking water and can't see how their metabolism is screwed up. It is just that kind of digestive change that can lead to diabetes type symptoms. Then we can make a long list of junk foods and generally unhealthy packaged foods. The problems with these foods is that they can taste nice (if I open a packet of Pringles...), they are cheap and they are very convenient. But they are not good for you and are sold by large multinationals who, despite what they may claim, are not interested in your health.
Smoking and Diabetes: The Oriental Perspective
Remember that the Oriental idea of diabetes is one of heat and dryness. What better way of drying and heating the lungs, than by smoking. When people think of the dangers of smoking they usually think of lung cancer but there are so many more problems directly connected to smoking.
Alcohol Consumption and Its Role in Diabetes
Alcohol has a heating quality in the body. Drink too much and it will add to the weakness and heat in digestion.
The Connection Between Weight and Diabetes
If you are overweight, then you need to look at what you do to reduce your weight. This could be a change in diet and more exercise. US research has shown that weight loss and exercise are more effective than medication in preventing type 2 diabetes.
Exercise: A Preventive Measure Against Diabetes
At least 30 minutes a day five days a week is the minimum.
Preventing Diabetes with Lifestyle Changes
The key in terms of oriental medicine is that the symptoms of diabetes can be prevented if we make changes to our modern lifestyle.
The big question is whether you make the changes or not.
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