Diabetes | Treatments | Indraganga | Naturopathy


Diabetes: The facts

We, at Indraganga, have accumulated fairly good evidence about the causes of diabetes mellitus. Every cell in your body needs sugar for energy, and sugar enters the cells through the action of insulin. When sugar can’t enter cells, it accumulates in the blood. Type 1 diabetes usually appears in childhood, and is caused by the body’s inability to produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes is different. Either the cells are insensitive to insulin, or the body does not make enough to lower blood sugar – or it may be a combination of both effects. Type 2 diabetes is predominantly a disease of older adults.

At Indraganga our focus is mainly on Type 2 diabetes, the most common form (>90% of cases) of the disease, and the type of diabetes that many naturopaths claim to treat. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic illness that is managed with a specific goal – reducing the complications of the disease. Diabetes can lead to cardiovascular disease (e.g., heart attacks), cerebrovascular disease (e.g., strokes), eye disease causing blindness, kidney disease leading to kidney failure and dialysis, and nerve disease leading to problems like foot ulcers that can eventually lead to amputations. The risks of these outcomes are reduced by managing blood sugar levels. Evidence shows that those with diabetes can have fewer complications if they can control blood sugars effectively. There are three main lifestyle components to managing diabetes before turning to medication, and they are the cornerstones of treatment:

Dietary changes
Regular exercise
Weight control

Indraganga’s Clinical Practice Guidelines:

1. On reducing the risk of diabetes:

• Intensive and structured lifestyle modification that results in loss of approximately 5% of initial body weight can reduce the risk of progression from impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance to type 2 diabetes by almost 60%.

• Randomized controlled trials have shown that individuals at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes can significantly decrease the rate of diabetes onset with particular interventions. These include intensive lifestyle modification programs that have been shown to be very effective (58% reduction after 3 years).

2. On exercise:

• Exercise is an important part of the diabetes management plan. Regular exercise has been shown to improve blood glucose control, reduce cardiovascular risk factors, contribute to weight loss, and improve well-being. Furthermore, regular exercise may prevent type 2 diabetes in high-risk individuals.

• Moderate to high levels of physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness are associated with substantially lower morbidity and mortality in men and women with and without diabetes. A structured program of lifestyle modification that includes moderate weight loss and regular physical activity should be implemented to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in individuals with [impaired glucose tolerance].

3. On Diet:

• Reduced caloric intake to achieve and maintain a healthier body weight should be a treatment goal for people with diabetes who are overweight or obese. The macronutrient distribution is flexible within recommended ranges and will depend on individual treatment goals and preferences.

• It is the position of the ADA that there is not a one-size-fits-all eating pattern for individuals with diabetes. The ADA also recognizes the integral role of nutrition therapy in overall diabetes management and recommends that each person with diabetes be actively engaged in self-management, education, and treatment planning with his or her health care provider, which includes the collaborative development of an individualized eating plan.

Indraganga naturopaths offer a variety of services to persons with diabetes, ranging from what appears to be sensible and evidence-based, but can also include unproven and even possibly harmful approaches. There is no evidence to suggest that any services that are uniquely “naturopathic” have any established role in the treatment of diabetes: What’s good is not unique, and what is unique is not good. With no clear practice standards, persons with diabetes appear just as likely to be given sensible advice on the management of diabetes as they are to get bad advice, and to be sold products and services with no proven value. In light of the unreliability and inconsistency in the way that naturopaths manage diabetes, it would seem prudent to discuss any advice offered by a naturopath with a health professional, preferably one that specializes in diabetes, before making any decisions based on that advice.

Naturopaths are alternative medicine practitioners who claim to provide primary care, like medical doctors. Among naturopaths, it’s regularly claimed that naturopathy offers something that “conventional” medicine does not: Naturopaths are described as “doctors plus”, using unconventional approaches to coax the body to “heal itself” with methods that are claimed to be safer and more effective than conventional drugs and medical interventions. Here’s one example:

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