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Stress and Diabetes

Stress results when something causes your body to behave as if it were under attack. Sources of stress can be physical, like injury or illness. Or they can be mental, like problems in your marriage, job, health, or finances.

When stress occurs, the body prepares to take action. This preparation is called the fight-or-flight response. In the fight-or-flight response, levels of many hormones shoot up. Their net effect is to make a lot of stored energy - glucose and fat - available to cells. These cells are then primed to help the body get away from danger.

In people who have diabetes, the fight-or-flight response does not work well. Insulin is not always able to let the extra energy into the cells, so glucose piles up in the blood.

Many sources of stress are not short-term threats. For example, it can take many months to recover from surgery. Stress hormones that are designed to deal with short-term danger stay turned on for a long time. As a result, long-term stress can cause long-term high blood glucose levels.

Many long-term sources of stress are mental. Your mind sometimes reacts to a nondangerous event as if it were a real threat. Like physical stress, mental stress can be short term - from taking a test to getting stuck in a traffic jam. It can also be long term: from working for a demanding boss to taking care of an aging parent. In mental stress, the body pumps out hormones to no avail. Neither fighting nor fleeing is any help when the "enemy" is your own mind.
How Stress Affects Diabetes

In people with diabetes, stress can alter blood glucose levels. It does this in two ways. First, people under stress may not take good care of themselves. They may drink more alcohol or exercise less. They may forget, or not have time, to check their glucose levels or plan good meals. Second, stress hormones may also alter blood glucose levels directly.

Scientists have studied the effects of stress on glucose levels in animals and people. Diabetic mice under physical or mental stress have elevated glucose levels. The effects in people with type 1 diabetes are more mixed. While most people's glucose levels go up with mental stress, others' glucose levels can go down. In people with type 2 diabetes, mental stress often raises blood glucose levels.

Physical stress, such as illness or injury, causes higher blood glucose levels in people with either type of diabetes.

For some people with diabetes, controlling stress with relaxation therapy seems to help. It is more likely to help people with type 2 diabetes than people with type 1 diabetes. This difference makes sense. Stress blocks the body from releasing insulin in people with type 2 diabetes, so cutting stress may be more helpful for these people. People with type 1 diabetes don't make insulin, so stress reduction doesn't have this effect. Reducing stress can help people with type 1 diabetes take better care of themselves.

Some people with type 2 diabetes may also be more sensitive to some of the stress hormones. Relaxing can help by blunting this sensitivity.

It's easy to find out whether mental stress affects your glucose control. Before checking your glucose levels, write down a number rating your mental stress level on a scale of 1 to 10. Then write down your glucose level next to it. After a week or two, look for a pattern. Drawing a graph may help you see trends better. Do high stress levels often occur with high glucose levels, and low stress levels with low glucose levels? If so, stress may affect your glucose control.
Stress and Personality

You have some control over your reaction to stress. You can learn to relax and reverse the body's hormonal response to stress. And, of course, you may be able to change your life to relieve sources of stress.

Something else that affects people's responses to stress is coping style. Coping style is how a person deals with stress. For example, some people have a problem-solving attitude. They say to themselves, "What can I do about this problem?"  They try to change their situation to get rid of the stress.

Other people talk themselves into accepting the problem as okay. They say to themselves, "This problem really isn't so bad after all."

These two methods of coping are usually helpful.  People who use them tend to have less blood glucose elevation in response to mental stress.
Learning to Relax

There are many ways to help yourself relax:

    * Breathing exercises. Sit or lie down and uncross your legs and arms. Take in a deep breath. Then push out as much air as you can. Breathe in and out again, this time relaxing your muscles on purpose while breathing out. Keep breathing and relaxing for 5 to 20 minutes at a time. Do the breathing exercises at least once a day.
    * Progressive relaxation therapy. In this technique, which you can learn in a clinic or from an audio tape, you tense muscles, then relax them.
    * Exercise. Another way to relax your body is by moving it through a wide range of motion. Three ways to loosen up through movement are circling, stretching, and shaking parts of your body. To make this exercise more fun, move with music.
    * Replace bad thoughts with good ones. Each time you notice a bad thought, purposefully think of something that makes you happy or proud. Or memorize a poem, prayer, or quote and use it to replace a bad thought.
    * Whatever method you choose to relax, practice it. Just as it takes weeks or months of practice to learn a new sport, it takes practice to learn relaxation.

Other Ways to Reduce Mental Stress

You may be able to get rid of some stresses of life. If traffic upsets you, for example, maybe you can find a new route to work or leave home early enough to miss the traffic jams. If your job drives you crazy, apply for a transfer if you can, or possibly discuss with your boss how to improve things. As a last resort, you can look for another job. If you are at odds with a friend or relative, you can make the first move to patch things up. For such problems, feeling stressed may be a sign that changes are called for.

Some sources of stress are never going to go away, no matter what you do. Having diabetes is one of those. Still, there are ways to reduce the stresses of living with diabetes. Support groups can help. Knowing other people in the same situation helps you feel less alone. You can also learn other people's hints for coping with problems. Making friends in a support group can lighten the burden of diabetes-related stresses.

There are other ways to fight stress as well. Sometimes adding positive things to your life can help. You can start an exercise program or join a sports team. You can take dance lessons or join a dancing club. You can start a new hobby or learn a new craft. You can volunteer at a hospital or charity.

Dealing directly with diabetes-related stress can also help. Think about the aspects of life with diabetes that are the most stressful for you. It might be taking your medication, or checking your blood glucose levels regularly, or exercising, or eating as you should.

You can get help with any of these issues. Ask a member of your diabetes team for a referral. Sometimes stress can be so severe that you feel overwhelmed. Then, counseling or psychotherapy might help.  Talking with a therapist may help you come to grips with your problems. You may learn new ways of coping or new ways of changing your behavior.


What Natural Remedies Have You Tried?

I personally have tried the cinnamon. And, it does seem to be helping. I have been putting 1/2 a teaspoon or more on my cereal in the morning.

I have also been taking garlic for several years. So, I don't really know if it has helped with the diabetes or not.

I plan to start taking chromium with the next week. I have taken it before and it did help me lose weight. So, we'll see if it helps with the diabetes as well.

How about you? What natural remedies have you tried? How did they work? Where did you find them?

By Marcia Zimmerman, M.Ed., C.N.

A highly refined diet that contains too few micronutrients has been recognized as the dominant factor in the rising incidence of diabetes and other insulin related conditions. Among the missing micronutrients, chromium has the greatest impact on insulin response. Until recently, few physicians recognized the importance of supplementing chromium in the management of diabetes. However, research at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has revealed that chromium plays an important role in amplifying insulin response in diabetics.

The Role of Insulin

A hormone whose primary role is modifying the body's response to carbohydrates, proteins and fats, insulin is produced in the pancreas. Following a meal the pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream, as glucose, or blood sugar, levels from the digested meal begin to rise, Glucose is the primary fuel for energy production within all body tissues including the brain. But it can't get into cells without the help of insulin. A hormone that binds to special receptors on cell membranes, insulin facilitates the cellular uptake of glucose. The more sugar that enters the blood, the more insulin that is required to transport it into cells. Eating refined carbohydrates and sugary foods quickly raises glucose levels making these foods particularly troublesome for anyone with a blood sugar imbalance such as diabetes.

A Vital Micronutrient

While glucose transport is the primary role of insulin, chromium's main function is increasing insulin's efficiency in regulating blood sugar levels. But this hormone produces much more complex and far-reaching effects. These include the transport of amino acids and electrolytes into cells, several enzymatic activities and cellular growth. Numerous studies show that chromium alters lipoprotein abnormalities (unhealthy LDL and HDL levels) that are believed to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Chromium supplementation also appears useful in treating obesity in other research, increasing lean muscle mass and improving athletic performance.

While chromium is an essential nutrient for humans, even healthy adults may be deficient. "Often 50 percent or more of the subjects in various studies improve following chromium supplementation," according to the results of studies led by Walter Metz, PhD, the USDA researcher who identified chromium as the essential component of glucose tolerance factor (GTF). The body needs GTF to metabolize sugar. Scientists have found that eating foods high in simple sugars stimulate chromium loss through the urine. In addition, refined carbohydrates are devoid of chromium and other important trace minerals. Besides the prevalence of these foods today, a stressful lifestyle, traumatic experiences and heavy exercise deplete the body of chromium. In addition, chromium binds with transferin, a transporter of iron in the body, so high levels can deplete chromium, resulting in a form of diabetes.

Specific Findings

Dr. Anderson followed 180 men and women with Type II diabetes. Researchers divided the subjects into three groups, each receiving twice daily doses of either 200 mcg or 500 mcg of chromium or a placebo. The patients were allowed to continue with their usual diet and medications. At the end of two months, those who took 1,000 mcg of chromium daily showed significant improvement in insulin response, the number if insulin receptors, and levels of blood lipids (fats and cholesterol)0. It took four months the group taking 400 mcg chromium daily to improve as much as the higher dosage group. However, all the patients taking chromium showed measurable improvement in their diabetes-related symptoms.

 Dr. Anderson says a minimum of 200 mcg of chromium daily is needed for at least three months to have a noticeable effect on insulin response. While noting that lower doses (around the government-recommended daily 80 mcg) might fill the nutritional needs of healthy individuals, his research suggests that this dosage is far too low to have therapeutic effects. No toxicity has been reported with high doses of supplemental chromium. But anyone with diabetes who uses insulin should consult with a healthcare provider about chromium supplements, since the insulin dosage may have to be adjusted.

Using Chromium

Who benefits from this valuable mineral and how much do they need?

Healthy individuals: at least 80 mcg per day

Anyone with diabetes or hypoglycemia: at least 200 mcg two to three times daily (check with cardiovascular disease: at least 200 mcg twice a day)

Anyone with cardiovascular disease: at least 200 mcg twice a day

Those who exercise regularly or are under stress: 200 mcg per day, minimum

Pregnant and nursing women: 200 mcg daily

Chromium polynicotinate, chromium picolinate and GTF chromium yeast are all useful. Chromium chloride may not be as effective for older adults. Food sources include brown rice and other whole grains, brewer's yeast, dried beans, corn and mushrooms; red clover, nettles, wild yam and horsetail are some herbal sources. §

Selected Sources
? The Chromium Connection by Betty Kamen, PhD ($12.95, Nutrition Encounter, 1996)  ? Chromium, Exercise and Body Composition by Harshita Koble and Stella Volpe, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 2000  ? "Chromium in the Prevention and Control of Diabetes" by Richard A. Anderson, PhD, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 1998  ? "Chromium, Glucose Intolerance and Diabetes" by Richard A. Anderson, PhD, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 1998  ? "Diet and Exercise Are Found to Cut Diabetes by Over Half" by Kenneth Chang, New York Times, 8/9/01  Insulin, Glucose Intolerance and Diabetes..." by Richard A. Anderson, Biological Trace Element Research, 2001 


Another article on Inulin

This article actually mentions benefits of this type of fiber for Type 2 Diabetes.


What is inulin? Fiber!

by Karen Rysavy

Inulin is not at all related to insulin, but it is closely related to something called fructo-oligosaccharide, which is much more easily referred to FOS. Inulin and FOS are both considered fructans, a type of carbohydrate found in plants. In a nutshell, they are pure fiber, the kind that few among us get enough of.

Plants use fructans to store energy. Inulin and FOS can be found in approximately 1/3 of all plants worldwide but is concentrated mostly in the roots of certain plants and herbs that have earned a reputation for being "good for you." High concentrations of inulin and FOS are found in dandelion, chicory, and burdock roots as well as in jicama, garlic, onions, asparagus, leeks, and Jerusalem artichokes. They can also be found in some grains, legumes, and fruits, as well as synthesized from sucrose, but the main source used for obtaining inulin/FOS for commercial use is chicory root.

Inulin and FOS are highly effective "prebiotics" not easily digested by humans. In the upper colon, they pretty much pass right through (some of that "bulk" Granny was always encouraging you to eat!), and in the lower colon, they are digested just enough to help promote the growth of healthy bacteria such as Lactobacillus bifidobacteria. It is during this partial digestion that they can ferment and cause gassiness, however, so it is recommended that you consume these substances with some bit of caution until you know how they will affect you as an individual. Human and animal research suggests that up to ten grams per day should be easily tolerated by most people and could provide the following benefits:

- may increase calcium and magnesium absorption

- may improve fat metabolism and function of the gastrointestinal tract

- satisfies (is filling) like a starchy food, but does not affect blood sugar levels the same way

- may lower fasting blood sugar in type 2 diabetics

- may lower cholesterol levels

- may even help protect against colorectal cancer and some infectious bowel diseases

In the preparation of commercial foods, inulin and FOS improve "mouth feel" while significantly increasing fiber content and lowering calories -- all good things for dieters! They have a neutral, slightly sweet flavor and are typically used to improve the creaminess, stability and overall taste and texture of both low-fat and low-carb foods. You can find these fibers added to breakfast bars (such as Atkins Advantage), yogurts (such as Stonyfield Farms), beverages, chocolate (such as Eat Well Be Well) candies, pasta (such as Dreamfields), ice cream, and all manner of low-calorie and sugar-free or reduced-sugar baked goods. Now Foods includes inulin in several different supplements (although the FDA classifies it as a food ingredient, not an additive or supplement.)


My Communities

I maintain 6 LJ Communities

diabetes_nat A Natural Approach to Diabetes
pagandrumcircle For those pagans who like to drum or listen to drums, etc.
celtic_fiddle For those interested in celtic music and fiddles
kitchwitchbooks Reviews of books that are of interest to Kitchen/Green/Hedge/Cottage Witches
witchy_recipes Recipes of interest to pagans
crafts_n_pagans Crafts for pagans

Please feel free to join any or all of them. I look forward to talking with you. :)

x-posted to all of the above communities

Inulin: The 'In' Fiber

By Mark Anthony, Ph.D., Contributing Editor

Wellness Foods, FoodProcessing.com

Fiber is the forgotten carbohydrate. Inulin, naturally derived food fiber, may just change all that.
Mention the word carbohydrate at a party and you’ll likely get into a discussion about low-carb diets. Talk will rarely drift to fiber. We don’t think of dietary fiber as a carbohydrate. But for the most part dietary fibers are made of the very same building blocks as the sugars and starches currently in the health news limelight. They’re just put together differently. For example, cellulose, the most dominant carbohydrate on the planet, consists of chains of glucose molecules — as does the starch of rice or potatoes. The difference is the bonds linking the glucose molecules together in cellulose cannot be severed by our digestive enzymes. So while starch is systematically disassembled in the small intestines to provide energy, cellulose remains untouched and passes to the large intestines where it provides necessary bulk.

Most of us have heard of cellulose, even if under the epithet “fiber” instead of “carbohydrate.” However, there’s another ubiquitous carbohydrate fiber we rarely hear about — inulin — and it’s about to become more familiar. Inulin is the star in a class of compounds called fructans, plant storage carbohydrates made of chains of fructose rather than glucose units. Like cellulose, inulin resists digestion because of the bonds holding the sugar molecules together.

Its unique properties make inulin unlike cellulose. Consisting of relatively short chains of sugar molecules, inulin acts as a soluble fiber providing the type of bulk that aids the body’s absorption of calcium and magnesium in the small intestine. In the large intestine, inulin is broken down by beneficial bacterial through fermentation to yield short chain fatty acids. These beneficial products are believed to aid in the prevention of colorectal cancer.

Inulin has been a healthful part of our diet for thousands of years. It occurs naturally in over 36,000 plants, including many common foods such as bananas, wheat, asparagus, onions, garlic, leeks and Jerusalem artichokes. (One of the most abundant sources is chicory, the roots of which have been ground and used as coffee substitutes for decades.) As we process more foods, we lose the many beneficial properties inherent in this unique carbohydrate. To compensate for this loss, and with an eye toward adding greater health benefits to our modern cuisine, food manufactures embarked on a new food frontier: the creation of “functional” foods — food compounds added to the diet which provide two or more nutritional benefits.

Inulin leads a group of functional foods called fructooligosaccharides and characterized by their chains of two to 60 fructose units linked together like a string of pearls. Inulin is a mixture of these oligosaccharides. Recently food manufacturers learned to manipulate inulin to modify its properties. Inulin is first washed out of ground chicory roots by hot water, then treated with enzymes to break longer fructose chains into smaller pieces. The resultant product, oligofructose, is a mixture of fructose chains from two to seven units long. Chains of fructose can also be built by adding fructose molecules to a seed of sucrose using the process of fermentation. These products or fructooligosaccharides can be built to specified chain lengths.

Carbohydrates such as inulin are considered “prebiotics.” A prebiotic is a nondigestible carbohydrate that stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria naturally residing in the colon. These helpful bacteria are referred to as probiotics. Probiotic bacteria, specifically bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, promote health by inhibiting the growth of harmful pathogens thus reducing the potential for infections. Other potential benefits of prebiotics may include the reduction of the risk of colorectal cancer.

The combined effect of prebiotics and probiotics is called the synbiotic effect. Many foods contain both prebiotics and probiotics. For example, yogurt and cheese contain live lactic acid bacteria plus various fructans—a potent symbiotic combination. Some natural cheeses supply both probiotic bacteria and inulin.

The secondary goal in adding inulin and other nondigestible carbohydrates as functional foods is to meet consumer demands of taste and texture in modern processed foods without adding calories. Shorter chain oligosaccharides can be used to provide sweetness, while longer chain products mimic the mouthfeel of fats. In a weight-conscious modern world, taste and texture of low-calorie foods often gains more followers than long-term health benefits. But if the immediately tangible effects of the addition of this class of functional foods is matched by long-term health gain, all the better for the consumer.


Fructan — naturally occurring carbohydrates containing linked fructose units

Inulin — a naturally occurring fructan

Oligosaccharide — short chains of sugars, usually less than 60 linked sugar molecules

Oligofructose — oligosaccharides consisting of fructose molecules

Prebiotic — a non-digestible food item that stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria existing naturally in the colon

Probiotic — cultures of beneficial bacteria that reside in the healthy colon and tend to suppress inflammatory responses

Synbiotic — the combined beneficial effects of prebiotics and probiotics.


***I posted this article because this is the type of fiber that is in Fibersure (www.fibersure.com). It is a product that comes in a powder and  can be added to any moist food or drink. One heaping teaspoon adds 5 grams of fiber any food. We all know how fiber can help carry carbohydrates through the body and out without being absorbed. Fiber bonds to the carbs and carries them through the intestines. Anything that helps our bodies not absorb the carbs we eat helps us keep our blood glucose levels where they should be.
© David L. Hoffmann B.Sc. (Hons), M.N.I.M.H.

The plant kingdom has many hypoglycemic plants. They have much to contribute to a comprehensive management program of non-insulin dependent diabetes. Insulin dependent will rarely respond well to hypoglycemics, as the Islets of Langerhans are largely incapable of working. Herbs will not replace insulin therapy where it is necessary. Laboratory screenings, similar to those for cytotoxic plants, have demonstrated the reality of plant hypoglycemics. Many hundreds have been documented. Examples from Europe include :

Bilberry (Vaccinium mytillus)
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Goat's Rue (Galega officinalis)
Mulberry Leaves (Morus nigra)
Olive Leaves (Olea europaea)

Interestingly Goat's Rue is also an effective galactagogue, hinting at a possible pituitary or hypothalamus activity. Remember that gentle endocrine stimulation is one of the properties of the bitters, and in some people they can be dramatically effective in lowering blood sugar.

Many plants well known to students of this course have been shown to have experimental hypoglycemic effects to a greater or lesser degree. The mechanisms are not always clear. Listed here are some examples cited in:

Lewis and Elvin-Lewis, (1977). Medical Botany. John Wiley & Sons, New York

Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
Burdock (Arctium lappa)
Cashew (Anacardium occidentale)
Cayenne (Capsicum minimum)
Celery (Apium graveolens)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
Golden Seal (Hydrastis canadensis)
Gravel Root (Eupatorium purpureum)
Oats (Avena sativa)
Peyote (Lophophora williamsii)
Pill bearing Spurge (Euphorbia pilulifera)
Spinach (Spinacia oleracea)

The challenge for the practitioner is the appropriate application of the hypoglycemics. Such remedies can sometimes have a rapid impact on blood sugar levels, but one that varies from patient to patient. Their safe use can only occur when part of a comprehensive diabetes management program that is suitable for that individual. It is essential that very close observation be kept on urine and blood signs. This necessitates skilled practitioner straining the patient. The practicalities of this are beyond what can be adequately covered in this here, and so no protocols involving hypoglycemics will be given.

Herbal preventive work to avoid the various long-term complications maybe undertaken quite safely, even if no attempt is made to deal with insulin levels. Attention should be given to the cardio-vascular system for the reasons discussed above. Heart and vascular tonics are appropriate for long-term use, especially Crataegus spp., Ginkgo biloba, Vacciniummyrtillus.


Diabetes and Yoga

Introduction -
Diabetes mellitus represents a cluster of metabolic diseases characterized by high levels of blood glucose (hyperglycemia). This may be as a result of defects in insulin secretion, insulin action or both.
Insulin is a hormone secreted by beta cells of islets of langerhans, situated in pancreas. The glucagons produced by alfa cells have anti-insulin action. Both in unison keep a constant glucose level in the blood. Insulin also acts as gate keeper, where, only in its presence can the blood glucose enter the body cells and provide fuel and energy to work.
In diabetes, the cellular fuel is thus compromised, while excess of glucose remains in the circulation.

Yoga Related Observations:
Regular practice of yoga does reduce blood sugar levels, the blood pressure, weight, the rate of progression to the complications, and the severity of the complications as well.
The symptoms are also reduced to a great extent, so are number of diabetes related hospital admissions. The quality of life questionnaires do reveal a remarkable improvement in the scores. These finding are uniform for all those who are trying to find effect of yoga on diabetes.

How Yoga works? (Possible mechanisms)
1. Glucagons secretion is enhanced by stress. Yoga effectively reduces stress, thus reducing glucagons and possibly improving insulin action.
2. Weight loss induced by yoga is a well accepted mechanism.
3. Muscular relaxation, development and improved blood supply to muscles might enhance insulin receptor expression on muscles causing increased glucose uptake by muscles and thus reducing blood sugar.
4. Blood pressure plays a great role in development of diabetic and related complications, which is proven to be benefited by yoga. The same holds true for increased cholesterol levels.
5. Yoga reduces adrenaline, noradrenalin and cortisol in blood, which are termed as ‘stress hormones’. This is a likely mechanism of improvement in insulin action.
6. Many yogic postures do produce stretch on the pancreas, which is likely to stimulate the pancreatic function.

In India, we are having many patients controlled only on so called ‘lifestyle modification’ i.e. yoga essentially.
We are also trying to recruit many ‘impaired glucose tolerance’ patients
(Pre-diabetic patients, as suggested by clinical and laboratory evaluations) in our ‘Prevention of Diabetes - Yoga Way Programme’ (PDYW).
We accept that our work is going very slowly due to lack of funds, but we are certain that we will stun the world soon with our results.

--Dr. Sujit Chandratreya


Meditation for Diabetes

 The key to managing diabetes--both type 1 and type 2--is to strengthen your pancreas, which regulates your body's insulin levels. This meditation does that by increasing blood flow to that area. Be forewarned that this meditation requires flexibility.

1. Say the preparation mantra 3 times (see "Center Yourself," page 47).

2. Kneel on a carpeted floor with your buttocks resting on your heels. Cross your hands over your navel and lower your forehead to the floor (your thighs will be at a 60-degree angle to your calves).

3. With your eyes closed, imagine sending energy to your stomach area where your pancreas is located. Breathe long, deep breaths through your nose for 3 minutes.

4. Next, inhale deeply through your nose, hold your breath for 10 seconds, and exhale through your nose. Return to your original posture resting on your heels.

5. Cross your hands over your solar plexus (where your rib cage meets just below your heart) and lean back until your upper body is at a 60-degree angle to the floor.

6. With your eyes closed, focus on sending energy to your pancreas. Breathe long, deep breaths through your nose for 3 minutes.

7. Inhale deeply through your nose, hold your breath for 10 seconds, and exhale through your nose. Return to your original position.

by Dharma Singh Khalsa



Natural Remedies
A Natural Approach to Diabetes

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