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The Missing Piece of the Diabetes Puzzle

May 18, 2012
By Christiane Northrup MD
|15Comments|


Modern medicine operates much like a farmer who fixes his fences only after the horses or cows have broken out. Hence, most serious health conditions incubate for years before they are diagnosed. This is certainly true of type 2 diabetes.

A couple of weeks ago, I read a timely article in Life Extension magazine entitled “Glucose: The Silent Killer.” In addition to summarizing all of the really bad things that excess blood sugar can do to your body, the article documented an important fact: By the time you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you’ve actually had blood sugar problems for years. (Note: Do not confuse type 1 diabetes with type 2 diabetes. They are really very different. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, which begins in childhood and requires insulin. Type 2 diabetes, also called diabesity, is related to your diet and lifestyle.)

I certainly knew this to be true, and I have written about it in my books. But there is a new piece to the puzzle: We’ve set the range for normal blood sugar too high. Recent studies indicate that fasting glucose levels should be in the range of 70–85 mg/dL. Unfortunately, most standard labs give the upper limit of normal for a fasting blood sugar at 99 mg/dL. That’s too high!

In addition, blood sugar levels after a meal should not spike more than 40 mg/dL higher than your fasting level. This means that your blood sugar level should be in the range of 110–125mg/dL one or two hours after a meal.

After reading this compelling new data on blood sugar, I decided to test my own blood sugar on a regular basis to see how I was doing—to take my health into my own hands. Taking control of your health starts with knowing where you stand. You don’t need to wait! I sure didn’t. (I have a family history of cardiovascular disease, so doing what I can to keep my blood sugar normal is a good way to support my heart, and so forth.) The first thing I did was consult with my Facebook community. I have a lot of “experts” there — individuals with diabetes who regularly check their own blood sugar. After getting some opinions, I bought a One Touch Ultra Glucometer on Amazon.com, along with lancets and blood sugar strips. Ingenious, simple, and oh-so empowering!

I quickly discovered that my blood sugar never went above 120 mg/dL. Probably because I have pretty much quelled my excess sugar cravings over the years by focusing on lots of activities that bring sweetness into my life in other ways besides eating sugar. This includes dancing tango in close embrace, listening to good music, de-cluttering my house, doing work I love, and taking long baths while reading good novels or looking out the window at the river. I have created a personal paradise for myself. This process has taken a lifetime and began in earnest during perimenopause—the time of life when most women first develop blood sugar and blood pressure problems.

I encourage you to do the same. Be kind and gentle with yourself if you’re not there yet. (I realize that I am reporting from the front lines here!) Bringing sweetness of other kinds into your life will bolster your health, allow you to enjoy your life even more, and help you curb those carb cravings! Don’t get me wrong. I crave a gooey chocolate brownie, just like you might. So, from time to time, I indulge without going overboard and savor every bite. But I want to continue to flourish in the personal paradise I’ve created. And that means doing what I can to keep my blood sugar levels normal.

If you’re checking your blood sugar levels regularly, if you’ve figured out a way to curb your sugar cravings, or if you just like what you’ve read, please leave a comment here or on my Facebook page.

This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. All material in this article is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.

Photo credit: Steve Rothman



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15 responses to The Missing Piece of the Diabetes Puzzle
  1. This was a good article but I do wonder since Dr. Northrup was at the forefront of menopausal issues and in many cases recommended bio-identical hormones, why she herself doesn’t take them. How can someone in their 60′s have tight smooth skin and good muscle tone without it?

  2. I know what is discussed here is of great importance, but I have no idea what we type 1 diabetics are supposed to do. I’d say about 50%+ of the time I am way above the good levels which would help keep me healthy. And I’m young. And that’s terrifying.

  3. Research has shown that if more people followed vegan diets, then the diabetes epidemic would certainly diminish!!! I am 52 years young, have followed a vegan diet for several years and have very good cholesterol levels, no blood sugar issues or weight issues and glowing skin, to boot!!

    veganamericanprincess.com

  4. You just gave us the best medicine right there, Dr. Northrup: Bringing sweetness into your life in other ways besides food. I have noticed in myself that when I am doing the work I love or taking time to be with family and friends, listening to great music, watching an amazing film or doing a fun activity, food is not on my brain at all. We’ve all got to remember this and realize that taking action in our lives brings empowerment and freedom from addictions and bad habits we want to break.

  5. @Kristen. Have you researched the connection between celiac disease and type 1 diabetes? As a health counselor with clients who have Type I diabetes, I’ve helped me clients reduce their sugar levels and insulin needs greatly going gluten-free. I’d highly suggest doing your own research in that direction and give it a try.

    And these clients have tried vegan and vegetarian diets before but experienced the most benefit from eating more paleo. Everyone is different so you really need to see what works for your body. Just because a diet works for one person doesn’t mean it will work for someone else, even those with the same conditions.

  6. To chime on to Kristin’s comment, i am also a type 1 diabetic (adult onset, which is becoming more common). It’s nearly impossible to manage blood sugar levels with type 1. Like many type 1′s, I am not overweight and also I eat a clean, regimented diet. It, too, scares me to hear about the effects of blood sugar when I have no way to control it from hour to hour.

  7. Evie said on May 18, 2012

    I think your main point is right on, but I’m confused about your advice to self-test. In most younger bodies, the pancreas will actually compensate for whatever you throw at it. It would be rare for a <30-year old to see a sugar spike in a home glucose test even if they are hammering themselves with sugar. Check out articles on enlarged pancrease syndrome.

    In addition to typeII diabetes, diabesity can result in many other degenerative diseases and increased risk of cancer. So your main point of changing your diet NOW is right on. It would be a shame for a bunch of folks to run out an purchase a glucose meter though…

  8. That is a really interesting concept that our standard for what really is a healthy blood sugar level is skewed. It makes me think about all the other standards in our mainstream medical world that may be skewed, like cholesterol levels, weight, activity going on within our blood cells….prevention is totally key, i know this to be true! I have been severely hypoglycemic in the past and haven’t done any blood sugar testing as of late but your post has inspired me out of curiosity mainly to check it out.

  9. I am Type 2 on insulin. My daughter and grandson are type 1. I went from an a1c of 7 to 5.1. How you may ask. Read Dr Richard Bernstein’s The Diabetic Solution. …..It is a low carb diet. I then also got
    receipe books by Dana Carpendar on Amazon.com, like “500 Low Carb Recipes.” I am not quite as
    low (blood sugars) as Bernstein would like, ….but I am averaging around 100 now because of the infromation I gained reading his book. I eat 6 carbs for breakfast, ….as for lunch and dinner. I love the
    foods that Dana Carpendar has, ….and I have learned to cook, (which is surprising, as I used to hate it.) I lost 18 lbs, …despite a low thyroid. My blood pressure and cholesterol are now normal and I dropped my medication. …………There is no reason to not have a normal blood sugar if you follow Bernstein’s plan. He is a Type 1 diabetic himself, ….of more than 50 years, and has a web site you can go to and ask him questions.

  10. I loved this post, as a breast cancer patient, I want to keep my blood sugars from spiking so i can possibly help starve my cancer. I will consider getting a one touch glucose monitor :).

    Thanks!

  11. I love the phrase ‘personal paradise’. I realize now that I have been creating a personal paradise for myself as well but never put a label on it and to do so gives me more focus on really following through with building the lifestyle I want for myself? I too am post menopausal so I’m starting a little later in life than I would like but I’m not going to beat myself up about because this is a different time then when I grew up. We never had to resources then that we do now and looking back it is clear to me all the bad things I was doing to myself. I had food allergies I didn’t know I had but just knew I felt lousy all the time. A few years ago I started getting really painful and irritating rashes that I could not get rid of. I went to my doctor and two different dermotologists who gave me creams for my dermatitis. None of them could give me a reason for the rashes so I started to do my own research and realized it was probably candida. If I didn’t break my sugar addiction, I was heading for diabetes which runs in the family along with heart disease. So, I gave up sugar and gluten. My blood sugar level is better and best of all the rashes disappeared almost immediately. I now follow a mostly raw diet with green smoothies which by the way have eliminated my allergies completely after living with them for over 25 years. It’s like a miracle. I now have a clearer vision of my paradise and I’m heading straight for it.

  12. Kris said on May 20, 2012

    I love your thoughts on bringing sweetness into your life by means other than eating sweets. Life is full of sweet moments, we just need to make them happen. Can’t wait to share with the love of my life. Cheers!

  13. I began having blood sugar problems after having my thyroid removed in 2005 as a result of thyroid cancer. I never knew the actual blood sugar levels but I could feel it. I got the metallic taste in my mouth and became quite lethargic. I have since learned to control it and am now following the “CSD” advice and am feeling much better. I have done a lot of research on the effects of acidity on the body and know that if I want to live a long life I have to manage this. Moving toward a more green diet and consuming less animal food and sugar has made the difference in how I feel. And I love your attitude about finding sweetness in other ways. I’m going out to work in my veggie garden now!!

  14. I began having blood sugar problems after having my thyroid removed in 2005 as a result of thyroid cancer. I never knew the actual blood sugar levels but I could feel it. I got the metallic taste in my mouth and became quite lethargic. I have since learned to control it and am now following the “CSD” advice and am feeling much better. I have done a lot of research on the effects of acidity on the body and know that if I want to live a long life I have to manage this. Moving toward a more green diet and consuming less animal food and sugar has made the difference in how I feel. And I love your attitude about finding sweetness in other ways. I’m going out to work in my veggie garden now!!

  15. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate your
    efforts and I will be waiting for your next post thank you once
    again.