Although Diabetes II is a huge can of worms and no one has all the answers, I’ll take a crack at it. Obviously, 100 books can be written on this subject, and there have been more than 100 written. I’ll try and keep it relatively short.
Again, no one knows all the answers here, Diabetes II is a humongous puzzle on many levels, and anyone who pretends they have *the* answer is lying, confused, or I want some super compelling proof.
Anyhow, here we go.
What is Diabetes II? How do we define it, and how do people know when they have it?
Diabetes II is basically, at its core, elevated blood sugar levels. That’s it. And there’s a few ways doctors measure to see if you have elevated blood sugar levels. They can do a fasted blood sugar test, a random blood sugar test, an oral glucose tolerance test, or a measure of your average blood sugar over 2-3 months with a glycated hemoglobin test.
Any way you slice it, they’re just looking to see if you have higher than normal blood sugar levels on a consistent basis. And if you do, then you likely have an inability to handle your blood sugar. And that means you have too much blood sugar floating around in your veins all the time, and that’s not a good thing.
And that “not good thing” is called Diabetes II.
So to understand what may cause elevated sugar, let’s look at what can cause blood sugar to go up, and down. There are *way* too many factors to get into here, but here it is at a very very basic level.
Your blood sugar goes up when you eat, especially carbs, and it goes up when you release stress hormones for energy (think fear or fasting.)
Your blood sugar goes down when you use the energy without replacing it, or you produce insulin to help put that sugar into your cells for use or storage.
So if that system of blood sugar going up and down is not working correctly what are some potential causes for this happening?
Number 1: Sugar gets into your cells but then isn’t used fully.
In this case the unused sugar gets turned into lactate, pushed back into your bloodstream and then converted back into sugar again through your liver. That basically means that sugar gets into your cell and gets bumped right back out again. That means your cells aren’t using the sugar you eat, and the excess is backing up into your bloodstream. That means elevated blood sugar.
If this is the case, then you are producing enough insulin for the sugar to get into your cells, and your cells are accepting the insulin. But then something on the inside of your cells is not working. The mitochondria inside your cells may not be using the sugar correctly, and that means your mitochondria are possibly damaged. Mitochondria are needed to fully use sugar. Otherwise that sugar turns into lactate. Also, enough oxygen is needed to process the sugar, and that’s why if you’re working out hard, you can produce lactic acid. That’s because the sugar gets into your cells, but there isn’t enough oxygen to use it, then that sugar gets transformed to lactate and lactic acid.
Number 2: Sugar never gets into your cells.
In this case, there may not be enough insulin produced to shove the sugar into your cells. If this is the case, there is a good chance that you have a fatty liver and fatty pancreas. Your insulin is produced by your pancreas, and if your pancreas is overburdened with fat, it may not be able to produce enough insulin. In that case, if you aren’t producing insulin, then you probably won’t be getting enough of that sugar into your cells.
Or maybe, the sugar isn’t getting into your cells because your cells are insulin resistant. In this case you would be producing enough insulin, but just not using that insulin. And if your cells can’t use the insulin, then it is much more difficult for the sugar to ever get into the cells to be used. And if the sugar is not getting into your cells then it will be backing up into your bloodstream and elevating your blood sugar.
So what are some potential solutions for fixing the issues of Diabetes II?
Let’s tackle them by the two different scenarios laid out above, one being that sugar gets into your cells but isn’t used fully, and two being that sugar never gets into your cells to begin with.
If sugar gets into your cells but isn’t used fully then it is likely that you have damaged mitochondria, or you may just be eating too much for your body to use.
If your mitochondria are damaged many people diagnosed with Diabetes II take a drug called metformin. That drug is thought to help multiply and possibly repair mitochondria, and it does seem to help with getting Diabetes II under control. Exercise can also help create more mitochondria. Also, eating to support your mitochondria would be a good idea, and that basically means eating a balanced diet trying your best to get all of your vitamins and minerals from real food sources, and also getting balanced amounts of carbohydrate, protein and fat.
If you are getting sugar into your cells but then not using that sugar inside your cells, and your mitochondria are not damaged, then you may just be eating too much. In that case I would assume that someone would be able to self-diagnose in this department. But it’s fairly safe to say that if you’re already overweight, and are still gaining weight, and you have been diagnosed with Diabetes II, that eating too much may be a significant part of the issue. Cutting back on your calories could have a significantly positive effect.
What about if sugar never gets into your cells in the first place?
In that case you probably are not producing enough insulin to get the sugar into your cells. That may be due to having a fatty pancreas. If you do have a fatty pancreas which is overburdened and unable to produce enough insulin, then it could be a good idea to eat less and or exercise more. Basically, if you want to lose fat on your internal organs, you’ll need to go on a fat loss plan. If you are able to lose fat then at some point you will start to lose fat on your pancreas, and that may help your pancreas start to produce enough insulin again.
Alternatively, if you are producing enough insulin, but you still are unable to get sugar into your cells then you may be insulin resistant. That means that your cells just don’t recognize insulin very well any longer. The best way I’ve seen to increase insulin sensitivity is to exercise more, and to eat a balanced diet.
Ultimately, this all is a complicated way of saying that Diabetes II means your body isn’t using sugar well. And if you’re not using sugar well, then you probably need to lose some fat, exercise more, and eat a balanced diet.
And, it’s much easier to prevent this from happening than it is to fix it once it does happen. The problem with going on a weight loss program and exercise with someone who is already unhealthy is that losing weight could compromise them further. But it’s a risk that seems worth taking to me. Especially because living with Diabetes II is also a huge risk.
About Sean Bissell
Sean Bissell is a 32 year old Dad and nutrition nut who lives in the Seattle area. At age 20 Sean began having debilitating headaches, after a CAT scan, doctors discovered he had a significant plaque build up in the arteries leading to his brain. After research, Sean realized the plaque build up was a result of his bad diet and he took steps to reverse the damage. Sean stopped having the headaches and continued researching diet and nutrition passionately. He then used his knowledge to improve many other areas of his life and is continuously searching for better ways to optimize health. Sean now leads a health and nutrition group called The Middle Path Health Alliance on Facebook. You can request to join for free here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/themiddlepathhealthalliance/
This week’s podcast on Type 1 Diabetes: CLICK THIS LINK
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