6 March, 2007
Diabetes: The Echo Effect
Over the years, I've talked about various aspects of diabetes, but
never actually devoted an entire newsletter to the subject. Yes,
high fructose corn syrup, starches, and added sugars are a problem,
but they only scratch the surface of the issue.
The Diabetes Echo Effect
Type 2 diabetes is not like any other disease. Most diseases such
as cancer and MS are linear. In other words, you get the disease
and it progresses in a straight line, from point A to point B. It
may have regressions and remissions in which it backs up on its
linear path for a bit, but then it picks up steam and once again
proceeds on down the same track to its ultimate conclusion. Diabetes
does not do that.
Diabetes actually follows multiple, mutually reinforcing paths
-- an echo effect if you will, with each echo reinforcing and amplifying
all the other echoes, or "effects". This distinction is
of vital importance because it mandates multiple points of intervention
if you wish to reverse diabetes and not just slow its progression.
Reversing Diabetes Begins with Understanding Insulin
Despite long intervals between meals and the erratic intake of high
glycemic carbohydrates, blood sugar levels normally remain within
a narrow range. In most humans, this range is from about 70-110
mg per dl. (Note: a blood sugar reading of 100 equates to about
1/5 of an ounce of sugar (5 g) total in the bloodstream of an average
165 lb (75 kg) male. That's it: 1/5 of an ounce.
The body's mechanisms for restoring normal blood glucose levels
when it drops outside of its range (either low or high) are extremely
efficient and effective.
High blood sugar levels are regulated by the hormone insulin, which
is produced by beta cells in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas.
These cells are extremely sensitive to variations in blood glucose
levels and, under normal circumstances, respond with extraordinary
speed to any variation.
When you eat high glycemic foods, you suddenly increase the amount
of sugar in your blood. This increase triggers the beta cells in
the pancreas to release insulin, which travels in the blood to cells
throughout the body, where it facilitates the uptake of sugar in
the individual cells so that it can be quickly converted to energy.
If you eat too much sugar, insulin tells the body to store the excess
sugar as glycogen in the liver (and also, to a lesser degree, in
muscle tissue). When the glucose levels come down to acceptable
levels, this triggers the beta cells in the pancreas to stop the
production and release of insulin, which allows the process to stabilize.
When blood glucose levels drop too low, however, the hormone glucagon
is released from alpha cells (located in the pancreas), which triggers
the release of sugar stored in the liver as glycogen; thus, once
again bringing blood sugar levels back to normal. One important
note: release of insulin is strongly inhibited by the stress hormone,
noradrenaline, which is why blood sugar levels increase so dramatically
The Initial "Sound": Insulin Resistance
On the surface of the cells of your body sit insulin receptors.
These little "lock and key" chemical gateways act like
little doors that open and close to regulate the inflow of blood
sugar. After many years of consuming a high-glycemic diet, these
cells become damaged by exposure to so much insulin that their "doors"
begin to malfunction and shut down.
As a result, the fat cells, muscle cells, and liver cells of the
body become resistant to insulin so that normal amounts of insulin
are no longer adequate to produce a normal response. The cells require
ever and ever greater quantities of insulin to achieve even the
most minimal response. Insulin resistance in fat cells results in
the breakdown of stored triglycerides, which elevates free fatty
acids in the blood. Insulin resistance in muscle cells reduces glucose
uptake which keeps sugar levels high in the blood, and insulin resistance
in liver cells reduces glucose storage, which also raises blood
The First Diabetic Echo: Increased Production of Insulin
To continue the "door analogy" we started above -- with
fewer doors open, as we mentioned, your body needs to produce ever
more insulin to "push" the glucose into the cells. More
insulin causes even more doors to close and as this vicious cycle
continues, a condition called "insulin resistance" sets
This is a primary cause and effect response by your body. If normal
insulin levels are not enough to make the cells behave properly,
the beta cells in your pancreas continue to sense high levels of
glucose in the blood; they thus go into overdrive to pump out ever
greater quantities of insulin in an attempt to bring blood sugar
levels back to normal. In most cases, this extra insulin is enough
to bring things back under control -- for a time -- but with two
significant side effects:
- It puts undue stress on the beta cells in the pancreas. They
can only operate in overdrive for a limited period of time before
they burn out. At that point, not only can they no longer produce
sufficient levels of insulin even under prodding, they have effectively
lost all ability to produce insulin under any conditions. They
are burnt out.
The increased insulin comes with a whole host of its own side
effects. See Echo Three below.
The Second Diabetic Echo: High Sugar Damage
Too much sugar in the blood leads to increased thirst in the body's
attempt to get rid of the extra sugar. This leads to increased urination
and starts putting an extra burden on your kidneys. Too much sugar
causes the small blood vessels throughout the body to narrow as
your body tries to abate the damage caused to organs by minimizing
the ability of the excess sugar to reach them. The higher the blood
sugar level, the more the small blood vessels narrow. The blood
vessels thus carry less blood, and circulation is impaired. Poor
circulation in turn results in complications such as: kidney disease,
poor wound healing, and foot and eye problems. This sugar imbalance
also alters fat metabolism, increasing the risk that cholesterol-laden
plaque will build up in the large blood vessels. Finally, sugar
also sticks to proteins, in effect
carmelizing them, causing their structural and functional properties
to be changed. It is a primary reason that wounds don't heal since
they have trouble making quality collagen, the connective tissue
that is the major structural protein in the body.
The bottom line is that people who have diabetes are at considerable
risk of multiple "complications."
In addition, as we mentioned earlier, stress results in the adrenal
glands pumping adrenaline into the bloodstream which increases free
fatty acids in the blood and shuts off the release of insulin. In
obesity, less and less insulin is able to reach the insulin-responsive
muscles. In the end, there is not enough insulin to meet the demand.
Diabetic neuropathy (damage to nerves caused by diabetes) affects
the peripheral nerves, such as those in the feet, hands and legs.
Symptoms include numbness, tingling and pain.
The Third Diabetic Echo: Excess Insulin Damage
Excess sugar is not the only problem associated with diabetes. Excess
insulin is also a killer. Insulin is the master hormone of your
metabolism. When it is out of balance and your insulin levels are
consistently elevated, a long list of deadly complications are created:
- Heart Disease
- Hardening of the Arteries
- Damage to Artery Walls (elevated insulin levels are directly
implicated in the damage done to arterial walls that leads to
- Increased Cholesterol Levels
- Increased Triglycerides
- Elevated Blood Pressure
- Vitamin & Mineral Deficiencies
- Kidney Disease
- Fat Burning Mechanism Turned Off
- Accumulation and Storage of Fat
- Weight Gain -- Obesity
The Fourth Diabetic Echo: Destruction of the Beta Cells
This is the big echo in which all the other echoes get ramped up
to catastrophic levels.
When blood sugar levels rise even slightly above 100 for as little
as two hours, beta cell failure is detectable. People that maintain
blood sugar levels of as little as 110 can lose as much as 40%
of their beta cell capacity in as little as two years.
In other words, the very cells of your body responsible for keeping
blood sugar under control are destroyed by the excess blood sugar
that they are unable to control, which echoes back on the beta cells
in the pancreas, destroying them and thus causing blood sugar levels
to rise even further. This then reverberates through the body once
again, echoing back once more on the pancreas, killing even more
beta cells -- on and on until there are no beta cells left to destroy.
Echo Five: Breakdown of the Body
At a certain point in the process, when your body can no longer
produce any insulin and resists even the insulin you take through
injection, you begin to experience the ravages of diabetes. At that
point, you're looking at:
- Kidney failure
- Heart disease
Summarizing the Diabetic Echo Effect
Let's say you start developing the early signs of diabetes and you
decide to clean up your diet. The problem is that you've already
started the echoes. So although your diet may now have lower amounts
of sugar, your pancreas is compromised so that it can't produce
enough insulin to handle even normal amounts of sugar, and the cells
of your body are now resistant to insulin so that even if your pancreas
weren't damaged, it couldn't produce enough insulin. This means
that sugar levels remain high in your bloodstream even though you've
corrected your diet, and the diabetic damage continues apace.
But it doesn't stop there. Remeber, an entirely separate echo has
also been set in motion. As a result of the higher than normal levels
of sugar and insulin in your blood, you've damaged your kidneys
so that they can no longer fully cleanse your blood of waste. That
means that even if you are able to reestablish normal blood sugar
levels, the toxins not cleared by your kidneys continue to damage
the organs of your body -- including the pancreas and the kidneys,
which means the damage continues apace and eventually your pancreas
and kidneys will fail.
Don't worry. Although the situation may sound grim, it's not hopeless.
It does, however, present the limitations of the medical approach,
and it does show why the Baseline of Health program, which deals
with the whole body all at once, is likely to produce significantly
better results than the medical approach.
So What Can You Do About Diabetes?
Standard medical treatment offers several flawed approaches:
- Drugs like metformin seek to inhibit the absorption of high
glycemic carbohydrates in the intestinal tract and enhance insulin
sensitivity in the body, thereby reducing the need for extra insulin
The major problem with metformin is its effect on the gastrointestinal
system, ranging from a mild loss of appetite to nausea, vomiting,
abdominal discomfort, cramps, flatulence and diarrhea. Many patients
find these symptoms impossible to cope with and discontinue the
tablets within days
Lactic acidosis is a rare but dangerous side effect of metformin.
This is a serious condition where the cells of the body do not
get enough oxygen to survive. It is caused by a build up of lactic
acid in the blood. Most of the cases described have been in people
whose kidneys were not working well (as we've already seen, an
inevitable problem with diabetes).
- Drugs like glyburide work by stimulating the pancreas to release
- Glyburide is so effective that you need to carry glucose
pills with you in case you produce so much insulin that your
blood sugar drops too low and you fall into a diabetic coma.
Although this rarely happens, it is indicative of the larger
problems with glyburide:
* It raises insulin levels so high that your body faces all
of the problems of high insulin levels discussed above.
* It doesn't repair beta cells; it just forces them to work
harder -- thus speeding up the day when they break down and
- Extra insulin in the form of pills or injections cover you
when the beta cells in your pancreas have burned out and can no
longer produce sufficient insulin by themselves or even when stimulated
by drugs such as glyburide -- until, that is, your body's insulin
resistance is so high that no amount of insulin is adequate for
the task at hand. At that point, your body goes into rapid decay.
A Diabetic Alternative: Stopping the Echoes
Obviously, any viable alternative needs to address the problems
that medicines do not. They also need to work "with" the
body so that they can work long term -- not squeeze your body dry
until it eventually breaks down. And finally, any viable alternative
needs to stop all of the echoes -- all of them without exception
-- so that nothing bounces back to retrigger the problems.
With that in mind, in addition to changing your diet (no more sodas
and high glycemic snack food), you will want to explore the following
The bottom line to preventing and reversing diabetes is to do
everything, and do it all at once. Since diabetes is not a single
straight line progression disease, you need to stop every single
"echo" so that no aspect of the disease can reverberate
and start the whole process moving downhill again. You need to stop
it all or it will all start again.