Functional Medicine’s Answer To Managing Diabetes
Cardiovascular Health Supplements, Functional Medicine’s Answer To Managing Diabetes

Functional Medicine’s Answer To Managing Diabetes

This Is Part 2 Of Our Diabetes Series: Click Here For Part 1

We’ve detailed the toll that diabetes can take on your health and the economy, and how crucial it is to do everything possible to prevent and manage it.

That’s where Functional Medicine, a patient-centered approach to health that gets to the root cause of illnesses, plays a primary role.

In the case of managing diabetes — a chronic condition that develops from continued exposure to excess sugar and refined carbohydrate intake — and pre-diabetes, Functional Medicine emphasizes modifiable lifestyle factors as a foundational step in preventing and redirecting disease processes.

Diet and activity, for instance, are paramount. It’s important to note the word “diet” in Functional Medicine doesn’t refer to calorie reduction — it’s about everything that we eat and drink.

Some of the basics of diet recommendations include:

  1. Modifying the AMOUNTS that we consume. Caloric intake needs to match physical activity. Someone who works in an office setting will generally require fewer calories than someone who is a laborer. Many of the meals we consume in a restaurant setting actually equate to 1.5 to 3 full meals, before including appetizers or dessert.
  2. Modifying WHAT we consume. As a general rule, the more natural and less processed a food is, the better. I like to use the example of raw carrots vs. carrot cake. This is fairly obvious, but if a food comes in a box and can sit on a shelf for months, it went through too much processing.
  3. Limit refined carbohydrates. This essentially repeats #2, but it’s worth repeating. “Carbs” are often broadly categorized, but again, the carbs obtained from eating an apple are much different from those in apple pie.
  4. I am a huge fan of Intermittent Fasting (IF), which is an approach that most people can easily utilize. I have patients on IF who are insulin-dependent diabetics, patients who proclaim they “cannot diet” and patients with a history of an eating disorder. Most people benefit greatly from “structure.”
  5. Beware of high-calorie drinks, especially those marketed as healthy or sports drinks — they’re often simply a vehicle for high doses of sugar.
  6. Ensure adequate protein intake. This is an extensive topic but you can check out the protein series of articles in our Learning Centre blog. Here’s Part 1, for instance.
  7. Do not be afraid of fat. Most “fat-free” foods are actually much higher in refined carbohydrates and therefore higher in calories than the “regular” variety.

The benefits of physical activity are nearly limitless. Many people don’t realize that exercise has potent anti-inflammatory properties. Exercise, of course, burns calories to help maintain a normal balance of energy intake vs. energy expenditure. It also helps regulate and maintain normal insulin-glucose response to food intake. The Learning Centre blog has numerous articles, including this one, on the important role physical activity plays in health.

As with IF, exercise is accessible to a wide population of people, no matter their physical fitness level, work schedules or socioeconomic standing.

I am not talking about completing a full 26.2-mile marathon. Chair-based yoga, for instance, can actually give a very vigorous and healthful workout, and be employed (enjoyed, even) by someone with balance or stamina issues. Walking, of course, is a fantastic, accessible form of exercise that doesn’t have to involve putting out any money.

Resistance or weight training is also incredibly important, and can be done using minimal equipment, even if it means holding a can of soup in each hand. You do not need an extensive set of weights, designer workout clothing or a fitness club. A gym membership or a trainer can be very valuable, but are definitely not requirements. Start with one pushup or two bicep curls, or a few squats and increase the number of repetitions, sets and range of activity from there. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step!

Many people react to stress, or even happiness, by turning to food. They tend to eat quickly and in an uncontrolled way, and usually that results in too many calories. So, try to remember to take a deep breath and stretch that vagus nerve — which is closely involved with the digestive process — to calm yourself before you reach for that doughnut or bag of chips, then re-evaluate if you really want or need that food fix. Stretching the vagus, which is the longest nerve in the body, involves taking a deep, abdominal breath, to help move us from the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system to the parasympathetic (feed, relaxed) nervous system.

Our next article in this Diabetes series will discuss readily available nutraceutical interventions.