FOOD and Thought by Susan Jane Smith B.Sc.

          Have you been watching “Supersize v Superskinny” – a tv programme on British television?  It shows the extremes of being obese and underweight.  I have had milder versions of both body images so I have found it very useful in making me review even further my thoughts about food. 
          I think I am finally getting my act together, but as with the ‘Food and Thought’ chapter in my book ‘Emotional Health for Emotional Wealth’,  I am issuing a disclaimer for this blog.  Whatever I say here is about my own personal experiences and observations and in no way does it represent advice or a recommendation.  You need to check out your own eating issues with your own medical doctor.
          Seven years ago I was diagnosed as diabetic (type 2) and put on insulin injections immediately.  Traumatic.  I should have realised it could become a possibility as there is a strong family history of diabetes in my father’s family, but I had not given it a thought.
          Recently, on the internet, I came across a concept that was new to me:  that diabetes could be reversed!  I read all that I could, including an excellent book by a pharmacist Suzy Cohen RPh ‘Diabetes without Drugs’.  Also ‘Natural Solutions forDiabetes’ by Pat Harper RD and Richard Laliberte with Dr. William A Petit Jr MD.  They gave me hope. 
          I have a bad case of insulin resistance and that means that whether the insulin is injected (or created by my body) my cells don’t open up properly and allow my body to use the insulin the way other people’s bodies do.  My body just layers the excess insulin down as fat.  I have always felt like an inadequate person because my body did that. I kept getting fatter and needing more insulin injected and it was a horrible spiral.  I decided enough was enough.  There has to be a better way.
          I discovered that doing 20 minutes of exercise after a meal means that my body will be more insulin sensitive and more likely to use up some of the insulin.  No doctor ever explained that to me.  I had never heard about insulin sensitivity.  Now, I won’t pretend that I do the 20 minutes after each meal, but I can at least see the sense of that if insulin resistance is an issue for you. 
           Stress is also a factor in weight gain and thus yoga and meditation can help your body and mind so worth a try.  Sleep is equally important so maybe the old phrase “Early to bed, early to rise, makes you healthy, wealthy and wise” has merit!
          I set up a meeting with my diabetes nurse specialist and doctor.  I said I wanted to come off insulin completely and presented a care plan of my proposed ways of managing my blood glucose and health.  I am now in the middle of a three month trial. 
          I declined the use of Metformin as a medical aid since it upsets my stomach and I don’t like what I found out about other diabetes drugs by reading about them on the internet. 
          The information I found on the internet was that if you can lose 10% of your body weight you may be able to reverse diabetes. I have now lost 9 lbs in 3 weeks, but what is even better is that as soon as I stopped injecting the insulin I felt twenty years younger.  Gone was the fear of hypos but it was more than that – my whole body feels normal again.
          Now I have to admit my blood glucose is right on the upper limits of what is acceptable which I understand to be 11.1 and over that you are in serious trouble. Diabetics  need to get glucose down to under 7 units.  I do still test my blood glucose daily mainly because I am curious about what my body is doing!  Everyone is different so just because this might work for me it does not mean that it will work for you.
          Nevertheless, I thought I would share the things I have been learning about, as it might interest you to do more research into this for yourself.
          I have found “The Plate Approach” in the book ‘Natural Solutions for Diabetes’ the easiest piece of information about diet I have ever read (and I have read virtually everything on the market).  You simply put your dinner plate in front of you, fill one side with green veg, carrots and those kind of healthy vegetables.  Then you have a quarter of your plate as a protein and the last quarter as starch.  Obviously, you don’t go out and buy extra large plates!
          Another tv programme has influenced my thinking and that is “The Men Who Made Us Fat” – I was horrified that the food and drink industry seem to, in my opinion, be more interested in their profits than our health!  Did you know that?  I naively didn’t even think that anyone would produce food that was not good for us to eat, let alone put it on store shelves. 
Pure, white and deadly
          If I have understood the information correctly the food and drink industry in the 1970’s changed from using sugar (beet or cane) to using corn syrup which was cheaper.  The significant part of this is that corn syrup is fructose so you might not recognise it as sugar on a food label. My understanding is that the importance of avoiding fructose is that it suppresses leptin and thus your brain thinks it is starving so it drives you to eat more and more and more.... This means you lay down more fat if you eat products with fructose/corn syrup in them.  Check all this out for yourself – don’t just take my word for it.  Everyone needs to take responsibility for what they put in their mouth.  Do a Google search of leptin. Does this explain the obesity problem in the USA and UK?
          You could also ask your doctor to test your leptin levels!  And, ask about leptin resistence.  My understanding is it’s indicated by not being able to reduce your weight no matter how hard you try.  Leptin resistence slows the metabolism as the brain thinks it is malnourished and apparently the natural fixers for this are vanadium and resveratrol, but you need to look into that for yourself.  Do the doctors have a way of reversing leptin resistence?
          The other major chemical that I recommend you do a Google search about is alloxan.  I was horrified that we are not told about this kind of thing.  The food and drink industry do not need to tell us when a product contains alloxan as it is a by-product not an ingredient, yet it is in all white flour, white sugar and table salt. My understanding is it gets in our food as a result of the chlorine bleach used to make wheat white!   That means that it is not only in white bread but in anything made from it like cakes, biscuits, etc.  The list goes on and on.  Same with sugar and salt.
          My understanding is that alloxan is used to kill the pancreatic function of laboratory animals so that diabetes drugs can be tested on them.  Whilst as an animal rights person I hate this thought it is even more worrying that alloxan might, just might, have an effect on the human pancreas and yet we are not even talking about it!
          Until I read about alloxan I was still occasionally eating white bread, cakes, biscuits etc.  I stopped immediately and have absolutely no desire to put something in my mouth that might have alloxan in with its potential to impair my already compromised pancreas.
          Now I became a vegetarian a decade ago because I didn't want the death of any animal on my conscience.  What that means with regard to food is that my diet is already full of beans, brown rice, lentils, chickpeas,  oatmeal, etc.  I switched from butter to a soy product called Pure to reduce my saturated fats.  I use extra virgin olive oil, advocados, almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds as well as fresh fruit and vegetables.  I eat marmite to help my B12 levels and just as a backup I do take daily multi-vitamins.
          My understanding is that free radicals destroy the DNA within our beta cells leading to those cells dying and disease occurring.  That is why it is important to boost antioxidants to counteract this damage.  Ask your doctor if this is accurate and ask about vitamin C, & E and alpha lipoic acid’s ability to reduce the damage and thus help the pancreas to try to repair itself.
          Aloe vera juice and green tea might impact on my metabolism and help to manage my blood glucose.
          Ok, by now, you might be thinking that I am a bit of a health nut.  Well I have become more so because I have found that I feel better by starting to try to eat healthier and actually think about what I am putting in my mouth and its impact on my body.  This has stopped being just about looking better if I am more slender.
          I eat a lot of soy bean products as a vegetarian anyway, but I have now included lecithin granules into my meals as it's said they help breakdown fat and may help cholesterol levels. My understanding (from the “Lecithin Book” Carlson Wade 1998) is that it helps cells with nutrient absorption and contains choline which is a micronutrient for cell wall formation and it helps nutrients pass through to be used by the cells.  I didn’t do this at school – did you?  Should our teenagers be learning about this so that future generations get a better start in life?
          I am using chromium to support the maintenance of normal blood glucose concentrations. Check out what The Mayo Clinic website says about using cinnamon, flaxseed, ginseng, glucomannan, guar gum and magnesium.
          Soy is considered a ‘complete’ protein according to The Mayo Clinic website as it has amino acids in correct proportions and is an antioxidant which helps deal with the oxidation process that can damage cell DNA.  I am not any kind of expert – I’m just reading about this kind of thinking that had not been part of my upbringing.  Did you know about all of this?
          I love nuts and now feel I can justify the cost of walnuts as they have arginine in them which also helps blood glucose and cholesterol levels, according to the literature.  I make my breakfast porridge with almond milk – finally available in the supermarkets.  I still like cows’ milk in my tea, but have resigned myself to using either lacto-free or skimmed milk.
          This leads on to the question of whether people have food sensitivities.  I can say every time I cut out wheat and other gluten products I feel better.  I can say the same for cutting out cheddar cheese and dairy products.  Look into this for yourself.
          I never knew that there are goals for good health (see The Mayo Clinic website) – talk to your GP:-
Total cholesterol below 5.2 mmol/l

LDL below 1.8 mmol/l

HDL above 1.5 mmol

Triglycerides (stored in fat cells) below 1.3 mmol/l

          No matter how young or old you are it is apparently never too late to get your health on course!
          What’s your thinking about food consumption?  Well, I suggest you check out the work of Paul McKenna and his CD’s to change your thinking about food.  It has helped me.
          I’m far from perfect and finally in my 60’s I am taking my health more seriously.  Take a look at what I said in my book ‘Emotional Health for Emotional Wealth’ as I used to comfort eat as a way of coping with life -and it does not work!

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Unknown said…
You have done some great research on this. Although I don't have diabetes, I fluctuate between being a healthy size and being overweight. I too have spent a great deal of time researching much of this. Wonderful and informative post.
CallyPhillips said…
Yes Susan, very interesting information. Diet is so important in physical and mental health. I have ulcerative colitis and managing my diet is vitally important to stay in remission. What's irritating about it though is that my 'condition' means that most of the food that is considered 'healthy' is really bad for me in any quantity. (which many people find impossible to comprehend!) Nuts. Green vegetables. Citrus fruit. Berries. Seeds. Whole grain anything...and anything with much insoluble fibre in it... all these can trigger off an 'episode' which lands me in bed for a month at best (hospital at worst). But it's not just the food itself, its how the body metabolises it and also the impact of cortisol imbalance. The impact of 'good bacteria' is that my immune system goes into overdrive, so you won't catch me taking that 'good bacteria' drinking stuff. And last winter a couple of ill timed satsumas sent me to bed for weeks.
What's interesting to me also is that it's my belief my 'condition' was brought on by traumatic mental stress (as a child) and it's taken many years to work out the root cause of how to balance out the physical stress which is my body's way of coping with the mental stress... BUT it's possible. I have gone for years where doctors have said they can't believe I even have the condition I am so well, (then they do colonoscopy's and are reconvinced again!) and recently a dietician told me I had the best diet/lifestyle of anyone they saw (but I do have to be really really careful with fibre and so a lot of the 'good' stuff and NEVER touch the obviously BAD processed food to keep in this state) The point is, there's a lot beneath the surface of many physical conditions and we all owe it to ourselves to learn about our own health needs both physical and mental. For me, the reduction of stress was as vital as the diet - but I have managed to get the kind of balance that is the envy of many so while I've paid a high price in many ways, I've also gained a lot from having to take a more sanguine attitude and learning how to live a 'good life'. And not rely on the medical profession which is not designed for 'unique' conditions - every immune system is unique - and certainly don't trust food producers! I grow as much of my own as possible. Which has its own mental and physical health benefits (except at the moment where I have the mini stress that potato blight will strike my maincrop!) So thanks for that post. We should all talk about food/health and the relationship between physical and mental health a lot more openly.
madwippitt said…
This was interesting - my mum has diabetes, so I'll read this out to her.
julia jones said…
Poor Susan, poor Cally - both coping without us others even realising. You must have great self- discipline. Best of luck
Kathleen Jones said…
Go for it Susan! I am full of admiration for the way you've chosen to take control of your own body and health in this way. so many of us just hand ourselves over to the medics without questioning what the drugs they prescribe are doing to us. Often we know our bodies better than they do.
and then there's the scandal of what's in our food to make the purveyors rich regardless of what it does to us and our children.
It all needed saying. I do hope you manage to beat your diabetes into submission.
Dennis Hamley said…
Susan, what an amazing blog. Respect! The eating problems that you - and Cally - have make me squirm inside. I realise just how lucky I am to be pretty well omnivorous and how wrong it is to assume that everybody else is too, You've opened my eyes to conditions which I knew existed but never, until recently, really empathised with. I've been mentoring a new writer and her first young adult novel about anorexia (it's just been taken on by a very good agent). Knowing that there is autogiographical experience in it - described in pretty stark clarity, I may say) my salute to all those who can't just let their stomachs get along on their own is heartfelt.
CallyPhillips said…
There was a really interesting programme on THE GUT last night on BBC 4 (I mention it because it will be on iplayer) I've had most of the proceedures the guy went through (not the nasal tubes) and this morning wrote an article on it (not for AE you can be happy to know!) It's just a shame they only showed a 'healthy' gut because believe me the unhealthy ones don't look anything like that and if people saw the difference they might understand a bit more! If you've ever had a mouth ulcer, imagine having that in your stomach/bowel constantly and you get a bit of an idea! Sorry Dennis, hope that wasn't too gruesome for you - believe me there are many more gruesome stories one can tell!
CallyPhillips said…
There was a really interesting programme on THE GUT last night on BBC 4 (I mention it because it will be on iplayer) I've had most of the proceedures the guy went through (not the nasal tubes) and this morning wrote an article on it (not for AE you can be happy to know!) It's just a shame they only showed a 'healthy' gut because believe me the unhealthy ones don't look anything like that and if people saw the difference they might understand a bit more! If you've ever had a mouth ulcer, imagine having that in your stomach/bowel constantly and you get a bit of an idea! Sorry Dennis, hope that wasn't too gruesome for you - believe me there are many more gruesome stories one can tell!
Susan Price said…
Sue knows how much I sympathise with her - but I now feel enormous sympathy for you, Cally, I have two friends, sisters. One has Irritable Bowel, and the other has Crohn's Disease, which means that lengths of her gut are constantly ulcerating.
I can only admire how the two of them go on with their art, studies, jobs while nearly always being ill, exhausted and weak. They always have to think about what they eat.
It's a cliche, but we truly are lucky if we have good health that we can simply ignore.
Great post Susan. With 5 uncles who turned diabetic in later life, i turns in my family so I'm being very careful to avoid it in the first place. Rosemary,
Unknown said…
All your personal experience with diabetes including what's helped you has created a really helpful post.
Thanks also for the info about alloxan - I didn't know about that.
A friend of mine totally stabilized her blood glucose on the 5:2 diet (even when she turned it into a 6:1 diet LOL her blood sugars were still much better than before). Also there's a very interesting documentary "Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 days" which you can buy on the internet.

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