Type 2 Diabetes
There is a common perception in the health care world that managing a disease is the same as getting healthier. Well, what if we told you that for the majority of chronic illness in the U.S., managing the illness is simply a means to die more slowly, not improve your health.
This may seem like a minor distinction, but in the case of type 2 diabetes the ramifications are reaching a fever pitch in more ways than one.
As we'll learn in just a bit, type 2 diabetes is a condition that progresses or improves almost exclusively as a result of lifestyle decisions - what we eat, how much physical activity we get, our environmental exposure to certain stressors, etc. - and understanding more about this has shown to be what brings true success in the face of such a devastating condition.
Quick look at Type 2 Diabetes:
Most common presenting symptoms:
- Excess thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased hunger
- Unintended weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores
- Persistent and frequent infections
- Darkened patches of skin
- Nerve pain in feet and hands
For starters, latest estimates show that nearly 100 million Americans have either prediabetes or diabetes. About 30% of those 100 million (or 30 million) have diabetes, leaving about 70 million Americans with prediabetes - many of whom are completely unaware of it. When gone unchecked, about 40% of people with prediabetes will reach full-blown type 2 diabetes status within 5 years.
Now, here’s where the interesting details start. It costs about $15,000 per year per patient to manage diabetes. This usually includes medications taken daily, and also (only partially) takes into consideration that a large percentage of diabetic people also have cardiovascular issues and other concurrent health concerns. When you do some simple math, it is easy to be drawn to the conclusion that this problem has the potential to destroy our healthcare system and bankrupt our country very quickly if we aren’t careful.
Alright, it seems grim. We know.
What if we told you that for a large percentage of those 100 million people, their condition was completely avoidable and reversible? With the right approach, and a solid support system, this can be a reality.
This is where our initial distinction comes into view. Management of diabetes via medications is expensive. But as a diabetic person improves their body’s health the right way, these medications become less necessary, even to the point of not being needed at all. Needless to say, as the condition improves, the cost of the disease drastically diminishes.
At Hill Functional Wellness we understand the big picture, but we also understand that as an individual with type 2 diabetes, it can be hard to improve your condition on your own. We’ve laid a foundation in our practice that has given a structure to this process for hundreds (if not thousands) of willing individuals.
There is nothing we want more than to empower our patients with the tools and education to prevent, improve, and even reverse diabetes, no matter where the starting point.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that develops as a result of a concept called insulin desensitization.
When we eat something with glucose in it, that glucose is digested and absorbed into our bloodstream. Once there, it has to be ‘let in’ to the other cells of the body to be used for immediate energy production and other essential functions or stored for future use. Insulin is a hormone, produced by the pancreas, that acts as the gatekeeper to let glucose into your cells.
If a person were to eat a diet rich in sugar and simple carbohydrates - which are easily converted into sugar - it is insulin’s job to make sure the digested glucose from that food does not remain in the bloodstream for too long.
This is a critical point of understanding: when the body is bombarded with consistently high levels of blood glucose, it also becomes inundated with insulin in an attempt to control those high levels. When this happens for a long enough period of time, the cells of the body become desensitized to insulin, and glucose remains in the bloodstream for longer periods of time (and usually at higher concentrations) than it should, causing a number of negative effects.
Type 2 diabetes used to be colloquially be referred to as ‘adult onset diabetes’ primarily because the average age of diagnosis was in the 4th or 5th decade of life. Currently, it is not uncommon to see adolescents in their teens or twenties diagnosed as prediabetic or fully type 2 diabetic. The youngest diagnosis on record for type 2 diabetes is three years of age!
Correlations for type 2 diabetes include:
- Weight - Being overweight is often correlated to the disease.
- Fat distribution - Storing fat in the abdomen leads to an increased chance in the development of type 2 diabetes.
- Inactivity - By being less active, cells are more likely to become insulin resistant.
- Family History - Having a direct relative like a sibling or parent with type 2, also increases the chance of developing the disease.
- Race - As the direct causation is still unknown, African-American, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American populations are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
- Prediabetes - This one may not need to be stated, but is a warning sign that diabetes is in development.
- Liver Complications - Issues affecting the liver can be a risk factor for diabetes.
Signs of Type 2 Diabetes
The symptoms of diabetes are often slowly progressing; therefore, if you believe you may be at risk for the disease it is best to see a specialist before the disease becomes symptomatically apparent. The best way to address the condition is through prevention, and monitoring your status is the best practice for ensuring optimal health.
These symptoms might suggest underlying diabetic issues:
- Increased Thirst
- Frequent Urination
- Increased Hunger
- Unintended Weight Loss
- Blurred Vision
- Slow-Healing Sores
- Frequent Infections
- Darkened Areas of Skin
All of these symptoms are important to be on the lookout for if you suspect diabetes, but if a person goes undiagnosed or does not adequately address the issue, a number of downstream effects can result as well.
Long-Term Effects of Diabetes
There is a reason why many other life-threatening ailments run hand-in-hand with progressing type 2 diabetes. As mentioned above, when glucose remains in the bloodstream in high concentration for too long, it can negatively affect other sensitive tissues. A few examples of commonly susceptible tissue types (as well as the disease names that follow) are:
- Retina - diabetic retinopathy leads to loss of vision
- Kidney Nephrons - diabetic nephropathy leads to kidney failure
- Liver - non-alcoholic fatty liver disease leads to liver failure
- Peripheral Nerves - diabetic neuropathy leads to nerve damage in hands and feet
The main reason why these areas are affected is because they depend on your microcirculation - very small blood vessels - to get oxygen and nutrients to thrive. High blood glucose levels lead to the breakdown of these blood vessels, which, in turn, causes damage to the tissues they supply.
On top of these specific tissues, there are also serious negative effects that happen more systemically. People with type 2 diabetes are more susceptible to suffering from cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke), increased oxidized cholesterol levels, sleep apnea, gastrointestinal dysfunction, gum disease, and more.
Which Doctors Treat Type 2 Diabetes?
Endocrinologists are doctors that specialize in the operation of hormones and how their function controls processes like metabolism, physical growth, sexual function, and more. These doctors often work with diabetic patients as well as those with a large range of other hormone-specific problems.
In the U.S. healthcare system, however, because of the very high prevalence of the disease, most diabetic cases are managed by primary care physicians.
Notice the word choice in that last sentence. For the most part, the approach to type 2 diabetes is management of the disease. When a person is diagnosed, their doctor typically will prescribe diabetes medications that are aimed to manage the condition. This is in contrast to the growing population of health care practitioners whose aim is prevention and reversal of the problem. This is where we come in.
Endocrinologists vs. Hill Functional Wellness
So why would you trust functional wellness doctors with your diabetes case over an endocrinologist? Honestly, it depends on what you’re looking for, and what goals you have.
If you are looking for a diabetes specialist who can administer medications in order to manage the condition, an endocrinologist or primary care physician might be your best bet. If you have a desire to work toward a reduced dependence on medications, reversal of the condition, and an action plan to stay diabetes-free, a functional wellness practitioner is a much better option.
There is a wealth of scientific evidence as well as case-specific study that has shown the human body’s potential to restore normal function, even when type 2 diabetes has been in play for years. The key, though, is getting on the right track as early as possible.
At Hill Functional Wellness, we aim to put patients in the driver’s seat of their own healthcare. By working closely with our patients, we tailor a personalized plan that places the focus on optimizing their lifestyle decision making. Type 2 diabetes results almost exclusively from poor food choices, sub-optimal nutrient intake, and inadequate physical activity. By incorporating dietary changes, regular physical activity, and nutrient supplementation, a dedicated individual can greatly improve their diabetic status as well as their overall health.
Our goal is to treat the root cause of every health condition, diabetes included. When you understand what causes type 2 diabetes and investigate the objective details that make an individual physiologically unique, you can put together a long-term fix for their health concerns. The blessing in addressing your health concerns this way is that as you learn and implement, you can leverage that knowledge and experience to become more independent in your health care.
(Aerobic exercise has shown to be an effective treatment for type 2 diabetes.)
A few suggestions that we might implement to help naturally treat your diabetes include:
- Dietary Changes - Filling the body with whole, nutrient-dense foods higher in fiber, protein, and good fats will help the body recover. Examples of these food sources include: kale, spinach, peppers, onions, almonds, walnuts, kidney beans, chickpeas, and many, many more.
- Exercise Regimen - Adding regular exercise is beneficial to treating diabetes. Through the combination of both strength training and aerobic workouts, great strides can be seen in reducing insulin resistance. It doesn’t even have to be strenuous, any physical activity can be helpful.
- Supplementation - Testing to examine if other nutrient deficiencies exist in the body can help improve type 2 diabetes. Optimizing B-1, chromium, and magnesium levels (among others) has been found to help the regulation of proper blood glucose levels.
- Looking at Your Medications - It’s just as important to see what we have been putting inside the body to understand what type of effect it might be causing - both intended and unintended. For example, statin drugs, typically prescribed to lower cholesterol levels, have shown links to liver damage as well as expedited type 2 diabetes onset.
Address Your Type 2 Diabetes With the Right Specialists
Hill Functional Wellness is committed to giving our patients the attention and care they need to meet and exceed their health goals. The road to recovery isn’t the same for everyone, but when you learn about what makes you unique, you can personalize that recovery process to drastically increase your chances for success.
Schedule an appointment today, and turn your life around. We’re honored to help.