Blood Sugar, the big word for a Type 2 diabetes patient! But really, do they understand what it means and how to regulate it naturally without medication?
We eat food for energy. So, what we eat first becomes blood sugar and then energy, which gives us the bandwidth to do physical and mental activities throughout the day. Therefore, regulating blood sugar is not just important for a diabetic patient but for all major health issues.
The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which is responsible for regulating blood sugar by helping the cells absorb and utilise sugar in the blood (blood sugar). If the pancreas doesn’t function well and produce the necessary insulin, then:
The blood sugar wouldn’t get absorbed by the cells and there will be “excess” sugar in the blood, known as the “high blood sugar state” a diabetic patient suffers from.
The person won’t have enough energy to do things and will have to take more food or insulin to normalise their blood sugar or to “feel right”.
So there are two facets to diabetes:
Whether the pancreas is producing enough insulin or not.
Whether the cells are sensitive to the insulin or not.
If the cells are not sensitive to the insulin, then they are “insulin resistant”.
Why would a cell become resistant to insulin? This is like the story where the boy cries wolf one too many times and people, who have been fooled into coming to his rescue, become resistant when he really needs them. So, when someone eats too much of simple and quick sugars through the day, over the years the body gets tired of the “quick rise” in blood sugar several times in the day and no longer takes the screaming alarms of “high blood sugar” seriously.
The biggest evil, thus, of Type 2 diabetes is “quick and simple” foods that produce quick blood sugar spikes. These are white sugar, refined flours, simple carbohydrates such as potatoes, white bread etc.
Going by the same logic, complex and slow-burning foods are best for a Type 2 diabetic patient such as brown rice, millets, rye, amaranth, etc.
ISN’T RICE BAD FOR TYPE 2 DIABETES?
When I came back from the Kushi Institute in 2005, I was surprised to see that most modern nutritionist in Delhi claimed that all rice was bad for diabetes. At an organic store, I heard a sales lady tell a diabetic patient that even brown rice was bad for diabetes. Brown rice is how rice is received from Mother Earth, the healer, whereas when we take this natural food and polish off all the good stuff, it is white rice. Since white rice is refined, it has become a “quick food” and is not good for the body or diabetes. But brown rice is “slow food” and hence it releases blood sugar slowly when consumed and is good for a Type 2 diabetic patient. The other grain that is associated with healing the pancreas and blood sugar is millets—all kinds—ragi, black millet, pearl millet and foxtail millet.
ARE CARROTS, SWEET POTATOES AND PUMPKINS BAD FOR A DIABETIC?
According to Macrobiotics, carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkins are healthy for a diabetic patient. They contain natural sugar and when you cook them slowly with less water for a long time like 30-40 minutes, they help strengthen the pancreas. By cooking them longer we add “digestive heat” or as they say in Ayurveda “agni” to them and create heat in the stomach and pancreas, thereby increasing fresh circulation and strength to these organs. The way to heal diabetes is to “re-train” the pancreas by eating slow foods.
There are people who have low blood sugar, even though it may not be to the degree that it shows up as diabetes. I have also had low blood sugar and am a direct testimony to what eating a long cooked slow sugar vegetable dish with carrots and pumpkin does to the pancreas and energy levels. In my learning years, whenever I had this dish, I would have more sustained energy and a happier positive mood all day!
THE WHOLE BODY PERSPECTIVE
The Macrobiotic perspective is the “macro-large” perspective, the whole body perspective. It’s not just about the glycaemic index, which is very important, but does not provide the full information for a diabetic patient. Another important factor is which foods heal the organ, which originally undergoes the most damage, the pancreas, which likes naturally sweet vegetables and fibrous whole grains. The pancreas also does not do well with excessive animal proteins, which as per macrobiotics causes a highly contracted pancreas, which is similar to a high stress condition. To release this stress in the body, the person tends to go for highly expansive foods such as sugars, desserts and simple carbs. This extreme contraction and extreme expansion on a daily basis is what ruins the original mechanism and functioning of the pancreas and could be a key reason why people who eat high amounts of animal proteins are prone to blood sugar inconsistency.
The severe weakness in one organ creates an imbalance in all other organs and hence the kidneys and liver don’t function as well, causing the fat metabolism and mineral balance in the body to go off. This is why a diabetic patient is often advised to go on a low oil or oil-free diet. Increasing intake of minerals also helps improve diabetes. Certain foods such as amla, methi seeds, bitter gourd and cinnamon are also good for the pancreas.
TREAT SWEETENERS WITH CAUTION
The only sweetener that a diabetic patient can have is stevia. If the condition is not very severe, they may occasionally have some palm sugar as well. However, jaggery, brown sugar, sugarcane juice, honey and all other refined or quick sugars should be avoided for a diabetic patient. Artificial sweeteners are also not advisable as they weaken the immune function by over-stimulating it with the chemicals present in it. Packaged food containing chemicals in general should be avoided. Neither is alcohol intake advised as it is basically concentrated sugar.
To manage Type 2 diabetes, it is best to consult a professional Macrobiotic Wellness Coach as it can successfully create an intelligent and long-term sustainable system. A coach understands the mind-set of a diabetic patient and how one is different from another.
However, a few tips that can help all persons who have Type 2 diabetes are listed below:
- Eat foods rich in natural fibre.
2. Have high mineral foods and include some sea vegetables either as food or supplement.
3. Avoid all refined simple carbs.
4. Reduce animal proteins and fats in the diet.
5. Eat more meals initially until the blood sugar stabilises.
6. Daily exercise such as yoga, tai chi or pilates strengthen the abdomen area, with specific emphasis on exercises that strengthen the digestion.