If you ask your doctor ‘what is the cause of my diabetes?’, you’ll never receive a satisfactory answer. Most doctors aren’t interested in the cause because medicine can now treat you
What has actually gone wrong in diabetes? We know that your pancreas has difficulty producing enough insulin to cope with the sugar you convert from your diet, which you do every day when you eat.
Ordinarily, you consume some carbohydrate and your intestines convert it into sugar, which is absorbed into your bloodstream. This produces a raised blood sugar level that stimulates your pancreas to produce insulin to deliver the sugar to your muscle cells and your brain.
The purpose of this is to allow your muscles to work when they’re needed, and your brain needs sugar to function. If there is too much sugar in your bloodstream or your muscles are full of sugar, insulin redirects the sugar to fat cells. The more sugar you have in your blood, the more fat cells are created to accommodate this extra sugar. You therefore put on weight.
So, quite simply, a diabetic is someone whose pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin when it’s required.
Type 1 diabetes is insulin-dependent, whereas type 2 diabetes is what used to be called ‘late-onset diabetes’, but it can no longer be called this because some teenagers are suffering from it. Type 2 diabetes is said to occur because of insulin resistance. Insulin is quite simply not doing its job properly.
Over the years, I have found a number of myths about both types of diabetes as well as some clues as to why it develops.
Myth no. 1
Type 2 diabetes is caused by eating too much and not exercising enough.
One-fifth of type 2 diabetics are not overweight, so the villain of the piece can’t be obesity.
Furthermore, food is supposed to give you energy, and if diabetes is the result of eating too much, why are diabetics often always hungry and lacking in energy?
Hunger is a mechanism that tells your brain that muscle cells need more fuel. So why doesn’t eating more provide that fuel? Presumably something has stopped the fuel from doing its job. Perhaps something has stopped sugar from entering your muscle cells.
Myth no. 2
The primary cause of type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance—that is, insulin is no longer effective at normal levels, so you have to produce more insulin to do the same job and have the same effect.
In a non-diabetic person, dietary carbohydrate is converted into glucose. Your blood glucose level (I use the words ‘sugar’ and ‘glucose’ synonymously) goes up, and insulin is produced to deliver that sugar to your muscle cells to make energy. If your muscle cells are full, any extra sugar is diverted to fat cells, and if your muscle cells use up all the available sugar, then
fat can be converted into fatty acids as spare fuel.
Insulin resistance is said to make it difficult for glucose to enter muscle cells, so more insulin has to be generated to overcome this resistance. No one seems to know why this resistance occurs.
In the meantime, if glucose cannot enter your muscle cells, it is diverted to fat cells, which have to expand and increase in number to accommodate this extra content, especially around the midriff. If this extra sugar were not diverted somewhere, your blood sugar levels would rise inexorably, leading to hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar), coma and death. So you could call this diversion a brain-protection mechanism.
However, if glucose is diverted to fat cells, it should only be because the muscle cells are full.
But if there is insulin resistance, the muscle cells can’t be full. In this circumstance, the entry of glucose into fat cells sends erroneous signals to the brain that the muscle cells don’t need more glucose which, in turn, stops fat cells from converting fat into fatty acids as an alternative to glucose as muscle fuel.
Unfortunately, for prediabetic and diabetic people, high levels of insulin in the blood put a lock on fat cells, making it impossible for them to release fat as an alternative to glucose.
As your muscle cells have not, in fact, received their correct supply of sugar, you remain hungry and tired, and find it almost impossible to exercise. So you eat something sugary to give you a much-needed boost—which not only doesn’t work, but perpetuates this entire unhealthy cycle.
Anything that is overstimulated for too long becomes exhausted. After many years of trying to meet the extra demand for more and more insulin, your pancreas becomes exhausted, you fail to produce enough insulin, your blood sugar levels rise and you show signs of becoming a diabetic.
To understand what’s gone wrong and that the cause of diabetes is something more than insulin resistance, we need to understand what happens in a normal person. When carbohydrate is consumed, it is converted into glucose (sugar) in the intestines and absorbed into the bloodstream. This causes your pancreas to produce insulin to handle the sugar.
When insulin arrives at the surface receptor of a muscle cell, it signals to a chemical called glucose transporter 4 (GLUT4) to come to the surface of the cell to receive the molecule of sugar. At the same time, chromium moves from the bloodstream into the cell to make the entire process happen more efficiently. Sugar then enters the muscle cell.
The secret cause of diabetes that no one ever considers is inflammation. Inflammation is an essential function the body uses to fight off an invading organism, a splinter or anything else that shouldn’t be there. In the process of inflammation, many powerful chemicals are produced, all with specific tasks to perform. Once the invader has been dealt with, the inflammation is switched off.
One such chemical is called TNF (tumour necrosis factor)-alpha. Any inflammation produces TNF-alpha. Unfortunately, TNF-alpha also destroys GLUT4, so glucose can’t be taken into the muscle cells, which means that glucose is diverted to fat cells.
What’s more, TNF-alpha stimulates the production of fat cells, and fat cells produce TNF-alpha, so there’s a lot of TNF-alpha floating around in an inflamed, overweight person.
There is also an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL) which effectively has a threefold job: to deliver fat to fat cells; to move free fatty acids from fat cells to muscle cells; and to help convert triglycerides into free fatty acids.
TNF-alpha destroys LPL, which can also be destroyed by calorie restriction and exercise. And without LPL, fat cannot be used as an alternative form of fuel. So a vicious circle is set up with TNF-alpha at the centre, particularly in diabetics who are forced to restrict calories and exercise vigorously.
So, with no glucose getting into your muscle cells, they cannot even use their normal, alternative supply of energy in the form of fatty acids made from fat, even though you have plenty of stores of fat. And if you try to lose weight with high levels of circulating insulin, 90 per cent of what you lose will be protein (muscle tissue). If you then put weight back on again, it will be mainly as fat.
To make matters worse, the body’s store of chromium, which is essential to the entire process of converting sugar to fuel in your body, is lost by a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, and low in antioxidants, especially vitamin C.
What causes inflammation? It could be an infection or some sort of virus; a toxic chemical or perhaps mercury, lead or aluminium; stress; petrol or diesel fumes; or even the gas from your gas cooker.
But the most likely source of inflammation is what you eat and drink. So instead of the inflammatory reaction being turned off, it will carry on because you are continuing to eat the foods that are causing a reaction in your bloodstream.
Every diabetic is told to avoid high glycaemic foods and given a list of foods with a high and low glycaemic index. They are also told to eat a low-fat diet and to exercise vigorously. Why doesn’t that work for everyone? The answer must be because the advice given is only partially correct.
What everyone seems to be missing are the individualized, idiosyncratic reactions to a food, causing a high glycaemic reaction in an individual, but not necessarily everyone else.
I once had a patient who found that wholemeal bread produced a far greater increase in his blood sugar level than white bread or sugar itself. Another patient of mine experienced a tremendous increase in her blood sugar with aspartame. I’ve lectured to people who have had blood sugar surges from such diverse foods as pumpkin, rice and potato.
The late American William Philpott, MD, who specialized in nutritional and environmental medicine, and his colleague Dwight K. Kalita, PhD, admitted all their diabetes patients into their hospital unit, had them undergo a fast for four or five days, and then challenged them with individual foods and drinks, up to three a day, taking a blood sample for blood sugar levels before, and approximately one hour after, each challenge.
As described in their book Victory Over Diabetes, each of their patients had their own idiosyncratic food reactions. Meats, dairy products and fatty foods sometimes caused far more of a rise in blood sugar than ordinary sugar. Sometimes sugar caused no abnormal increase at all. Some of their patients even had significant blood sugar rises
to gas from gas cookers, and car and diesel fumes.
And the reaction wasn’t always a rise, but sometimes a significant and dangerous drop in blood sugar. Other patients experienced a change in blood sugar levels with very significant mental and physical changes, while others had no obvious symptom changes at all.
Philpott and Kalita labelled these reactions ‘disordered carbohydrate metabolism’. They also argued that, by focusing only on the insulin-producing function of the pancreas, doctors were ignoring another vital aspect: the part of the organ that produces enzymes and sodium bicarbonate for the entire body.
Their theory was that the production of sodium bicarbonate and enzymes are affected before the insulin-producing part of the pancreas and that, when treating diabetes, it is vital to support all parts of the organ at the same time.
Because the digestive enzyme-producing part of the pancreas is not working properly, it’s logical to assume that a number of individual foods escape the digestive process and are effectively absorbed almost whole into the bloodstream.
This sets up an alarm reaction in the bloodstream called a ‘kinin inflammatory reaction’, rather than a classical allergic one. But as Philpott and Kalita discovered, when they gave about 1,600 mg of digestive enzymes, a supply of basic amino acids and half a teaspoonful of sodium bicarbonate 20 to 30 minutes later, they were able to block the rise in blood sugar that had occurred on an earlier challenge.
How to identify your culprits
How do you track down what foods you might be reacting to? There are basically two ways of doing that. An inexpensive but lengthy method is to make a list of all your foods and drinks and divide them into food groups: meats, dairy, fish, vegetables, fruits, salad items, grains, pulses, nuts, herbs and drinks.
Write down the name of a food on the left side of a page. Draw about six lines vertically down the page, moving to the right, so that you can put a tick in any column against a food, depending on how often you consumed that item—for example, daily, two to three times a week, once a week, once every two weeks or once a month.
Investigate the foods you consume most commonly first, and don’t forget to make a note of the cups of tea and coffee and any juices you drink.
The majority of people probably eat and drink pretty much the same things almost every day, so start with one of those. Then buy a kit to measure your blood sugar from the local chemist or drug store, or online. These kits consist of a glucose meter, a test strip and a lancing device to prick your finger to get a blood sample.
Select a named food, avoid it totally for five days (this makes your sensitivity reaction more acute), then challenge yourself with a suitable helping of that food entirely on its own for breakfast on the morning of day six, testing your blood sugar before, and about one hour after, eating that food.
To speed up this method, avoid for five days, say, wheat on Monday, egg on Tuesday, coffee on Wednesday, milk on Thursday and orange on Friday, and challenge yourself with wheat the next Saturday, egg on Sunday, coffee on Monday, milk on Tuesday and orange on Wednesday. The food should be pure, so, for example, don’t fry the egg in oil, but eat it soft-boiled.
Only carry out this test if your before-challenge blood-sugar score is fairly low—say, 4, 5 or 6—and assume you have a reaction if your blood sugar level either rises to well over 10 or falls precipitously.
If you’re sure a particular food produces a significant change in your blood sugar, make a note of it and leave it out of your diet for now. Do the same with any food you’re not sure of.
The other option is to take the ALCAT (antigen leucocyte antibody test), which measures the reaction in a tiny sample of your blood, incubated for an hour, compared with an extract of named foods (see www.alcat.info). In the UK, NPTech Services in Newmarket and the Alcat Laboratory (www.bluehorizonmedicals.co.uk) offer this test, which is based on the fact that if a reaction occurs, neutrophils are activated, which can be picked up by an automated blood analyzer. The test is good, although not 100 per cent accurate in my experience.
With any luck, you will find your culprits early on, as it is overwhelmingly likely that you are reacting to foods you eat almost every day. The only disadvantage of this method is that you have to prick your fingers every time you do a blood sugar test.
If you’re using insulin injections, make sure to inform your doctor of what you’re doing so he or she can keep an eye on you and lower the dose of insulin if need be to ensure that you don’t go into hypoglycaemic shock from having too much insulin. And always carry a lump of sugar around with you at all times as a just-in-case to avoid an emergency.
If a large number of foods and drinks have caused an exaggerated blood sugar response on testing, arrange them in order of severity according to the change in blood sugar level produced by each item on challenge. List those that produced a big, severe change, and make another list of those items that led to a moderate change. Avoid the moderate ones for six weeks and the severe ones for three months.
Also, it’s best not to eat the foods that are left on your list as often as you like because, in my experience, you may end up reacting to one or more of them, too.
Rotate foods every four days according to a food-rotation diet (see box, page 49), eating members of one food family on one day only and not again for four days. The foods you eat on Monday should not be consumed again until Friday.
Take this opportunity to look at your lifestyle and eat a healthier diet, cutting out dairy products, caffeine and alcohol, white refined flour products, and all chemicals and junk food as much as possible and, of course, to deal with any foods you reacted to on challenge appropriately.
If you find you have reacted to only a small number of foods, simply cut them out for at least three months, after which you may be able to eat them on one day in every four, although it may be simpler to avoid them forever.
If you follow this programme, it’s very likely you’ll reduce your insulin requirements considerably, and may even be able to stop your insulin or antidiabetic drugs altogether.
What I’m suggesting sounds nearly miraculous, but it has worked the seemingly impossible for many of my former patients: clean up your diet and lifestyle, cut out the foods that tests suggest cause your blood sugar to rise and perhaps then become free of diabetes.
Turn to page 49 for Patrick Kingsley’s 4-day rotation diet
Dr Patrick Kingsley is the author of The New Medicine and numerous downloads with solutions for many serious illnesses. See www.thenewmedicine.info
Pancreatic support - To follow Philpott and Kalita’s protocol, take amino-acid supplements at the beginning of each meal, digestive enzymes at the end of each meal as per the manufacturer’s directions, and half a teaspoonful of sodium bicarbonate 30 minutes after finishing the meal. This may well help to minimize any lesser reactions you failed to identify on testing.
Be aware, however, that the preparations you take may contain things like lactose, which can cause problems, so you would be wise to test your blood sugar levels before, and one hour after, taking any preparations.
Chromium - Suggested dosage: 100 mcg three times a day with meals
Vitamin C - Suggested dosage: 1–2 g at least, again divided into three doses a day
B vitamins - Suggested dosage: 50 mg B-complex multivitamin, including at least 50 mg of B6
Vitamin D - Suggested dosage: at least 5,000 IU/day if not 10,000 IU/day
A good multimineral supplement
The 4-day rotation diet
The following are lists of foods to eat on a rotation diet. Don’t forget to avoid completely any food(s) you reacted to for at least three months. Remember: you don’t have to eat all of the foods listed.
After avoiding those foods (from six weeks to three months) that caused a significant increase in your blood sugar, add them to your diet sequentially as noted on the four-day rotation system, but make sure they’re not affecting your blood sugar levels adversely even if they aren’t causing any symptoms.