It’s not a new discovery that diabetes and inflammation coexist. What is new is the realization that most victims of inflammatory disorders are so busy dealing with their pain, compromised mobility and diluted quality of life they don’t consider checking their blood sugar levels with their health provider, especially their A1c—the average of your blood sugar over a three-month period, which is a best indicator of life-style so appropriate modifications can be made.
A study by esteemed researchers in Sweden identified how to reduce inflammation while also reducing blood sugar because more and more the two disorders are connected1, those discoveries and more follow.
Anatomy of the Vicious Cycle
According to the esteemed researcher, Dr. Richard K. Bernstein, the following equation is the vicious cycle of blood sugar and inflammation:
Inheritance + inflammation + fat in the blood feeding the liver = insulin resistance = elevated serum insulin levels = fat cells to build even more abdominal fat = rise in triglycerides in he liver’s blood supply = enhanced inflammation = increased insulin levels due to increased resistance to insulin.
Fat is Fat, or Is It?
When researchers like Bernstein write about fat, he’s not referring to fat we eat—he’s referring to the fat circulating in our blood that comes from eating carbohydrates as well as from existing body fat. Inflammation, he believes, is tied to the underlying cause of insulin resistance and here’s the methodology:
- The immune system brings more red and white blood cells to the area when it detects an assault of inflammation.
- It opens blood vessel walls so more fluid can come out into the infected or injured parts.
- It brings healing substances like cholesterol to the area to make “patches” for damaged areas and help new cells grow. That’s fine for an infected finger, but imagine that process going on day after day in your kidneys, eyes, or your coronary arteries!
Once the invader—inflammation in this case–is defeated, the system should cool down, right? Not always. The active immune cells originally called in to help should go home, leaving just a few guards to watch for the next attack; but that doesn’t always happen. When there’s no cool-down, the tissues stay hot and swollen—resulting in a breakdown of the blood vessel walls that can become blocked.
All too often the inflammation becomes chronic—reigniting a continually burning fire in your body causing a multitude of disorders from the damage. Researcher Mario Kratz, PhD, believes a chronic low-grade inflammation plays a role in ALL major diseases—heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, arthritis/fibromyalgia/generalized inflammation, and certain cancers. Additionally, he confirms from his findings that inflammation causes insulin—resistance the main cause of type 2 diabetes.
Inflammation is also believed to be the main cause of diabetes complications. We KNOW diabetes injures blood vessels, causing damage through the whole body. But how exactly does diabetes do that? It seems high blood sugar levels trigger inflammation, which is what actually damages the blood vessels.
Researchers now believe that small irritations caused by high glucose or high blood pressure specifically bring the immune system defense teams “to the rescue.” As a consequence of these actions, plaques form like bandages to heal existing damage. In addition, even more health depleting, is when the inflammation continues because the plaques break down and move through the system, causing bigger trouble if they restrict or block the flow. According to a cardiovascular expert at Harvard, Peter Libby, MD, “It isn’t just sludge caking up on the vessel walls, there is an inflammatory response”—making the plaques susceptible to actually rupturing. When that occurs, the organs are damaged or outright destroyed! Chronic inflammation is what will likely kill you if you have heart disease and/or diabetes.
Origins of Inflammation
By now you’re asking, “Where does it come from?” There are many unknowns in medicine but what we do know is that inflammation is caused by environmental chemicals, excessive chronic stress, infections, allergies (food and environmental), high glucose levels, excessive abdominal fat, high carbohydrate foods, sugar, high blood pressure, and unhealthy unnatural food. What’s also important to keep in mind is that too little or too much physical activity can also promote inflammation—another reminder that everything in life needs to be in balance in order to achieve and maintain wellness. The question still perplexing scientists is, which came first, the inflammation or the fat?
Emotional or physical stresses are known to cause inflammation. When stressed, the body prepares for damage by cranking up inflammatory responses—chronic stress definitely leads to chronic inflammation, period.
Oral inflammation like that caused by periodontal infection or a bacterial infection from let’s say decay under a crown or in a root canal, responds to localized treatment—sometimes. But generalized, or systemic, inflammation also sabotages overall defenses, especially those with diabetes. Therefore, if you have an inflammatory disorder, don’t forget to consider what’s going on in your mouth!
Specific Dietary Saboteurs
Nutrition expert Shereen Jegtvig, confirms that processed and refined foods like white flours, sugars, and high-fat meats increase the potential for inflammation in your body as well as sabotaging your ability to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
Reducing/Eliminating the Fire Within
Most experts focus on dietary modifications and specific supplementation to reduce or completely eliminate the fire of inflammation, as I’ve written about extensively for the past 25 years. According to researchers, and through my personal and clinical experiences, omega-3 fatty acids are the best inflammation coolers because the body uses omega-3s to produce chemicals called resolvins and protectins, which work to “resolve” and “protect” our cells by calming inflammatory cells.
The omega-3 fatty acids form the building blocks of many of the body’s natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Fish oil supplements, which are typically produced from salmon oil, are especially rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Although both fatty acids are essential for health, EPA plays a more important role in the body’s defenses against inflammation.
A team of molecular biologists at Cardiff University, Wales, headed by Bruce Caterson, PhD, discovered specifically that fish oils DO reduce inflammation and also inhibit the breakdown of cartilage as in osteoarthritis.
Believing that ONLY supplements can extinguish the fire of inflammation is like using a glass of water to attempt to put out a raging forest fire —yes, it will help…a bit, but without overall management through diet modifications the underlying inflammatory condition will not be extinguished until you change what you ingest overall and expose yourself to environmentally.
Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids…
- cold-water oily fish;
- flax seeds and;
- pumpkin seeds ;
- Other helpful fats (not omega 3) include olive oil, avocado and nuts, rice bran oil, grape seed oil, and walnut oil.
Healthy Protein Sources
Choose protein from organic/free-range lean poultry, fish and other seafood, soy and soy foods such as tofu and tempeh, beans, nuts, seeds, and protein-dense grains like quinoa.
Inflammation-fighting Nutrient Supplements
- A lack of chromium results in diabetes-like symptoms—supplementation shows improvement of insulin function and lower glucose levels.
- Vitamins E and C improve glucose tolerance with the added benefit of lowering levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6. The effect of these vitamins on easing diabetic complications may actually be greater than their glucose-lowering properties.
Foods that “IGNITE” InflammationFoods in the Nightshade Family to AVOID
I’ve written extensively about specific food groups that ignite inflammation, the nightshade genre being the foremost as outlined specifically in my best-selling book, Pain & Inflammation Matters. In addition, specific chemicals added to food do much the same as nightshades but have many other health-depleting side effects, as itemized below.
Food Additives/Preservatives to AVOID
- Tomatoes (all varieties including tomatillos)
- Potatoes (all varieties—white sweet potatoes or orange yams are NOT nightshades and can be eaten)
- Peppers (all varieties including, red, yellow, green, bell, cayenne, paprika)
- Also avoid the following, although not directly nightshades, they contain some of the same chemicals that ignite inflammation: Okra, goji berries, blueberries, huckleberries
Keep in mind that many health-depleting ingredients can be legally hidden in acceptable aliases, read labels!
- Nitrates also known as Nitrites;
- These always contain monosodium glutamate: (MSG) under the aliases: flavors/flavorings, seasonings, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), etc.
If you’re interested in specifics about dangerous food additives and how they contribute not only to inflammation but also to thousands of disorders, read my book, Chemical Cuisine: Do You REALLY Know What You’re Eating? Available on my website. www.gloriagilbere.com
Identify the Key Objective
Your key objective in reducing inflammation, especially as related to diabetes, is to lower glucose levels and improve your insulin function, which in turn, reduces overall inflammation.
Your Personal Firefighter…
Consume more WATER, WATER, WATER! You must have sufficient water in order to put out the fire of inflammation! It is recommended you drink at least half your body weight in ounces (Example: if you weight 160 pounds you need a minimum of 80 ounces of water daily). You can count as water any tea that does not contain caffeine or drinks like lemonade/ limeade if unsweetened or sweetened with a natural herb like Stevia. Remember that if you are physically active or live in tropical or dry hot climates, you MUST increase water intake from the above recommendation.
Inflammation and diabetes are complex syndromes but all can be significantly improved or eliminated through personal dietary and lifestyle choices, Wholistically.
- Lena Jonasson, Hans Guldbrand, Anna K. Lundberg & Fredrik H. Nystrom (2014) Advice to follow a low-carbohydrate diet has a favourable impact on low-grade inflammation in type 2 diabetes compared with advice to follow a low-fat diet, Annals of Medicine, 46:3, 182-187, DOI: 10.3109/07853890.2014.894286
Diabetes & Inflammation—the Vicious Cycle
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Gloria Gilbere, DAHom, PhD
Dr. Gloria Gilbère (CDP, DA Hom, ND, PhD, DSC, EcoErgonomist, Wholistic Rejuvenist, Certified HTMA Practitioner) is Founder/CEO of the Institute for Wholistic Rejuvenation – after 22 years of owning/operating two health clinics in Idaho she relocated her Health Sciences/Research/Cooking Institute division to Cotacachi, Ecuador, S.A.
Her worldwide consulting via phone and Skype continues as does the Institute for Wholistic Rejuvenation in Idaho. Visit her website at www.gloriagilbere.com or call (888.352.8175) to schedule a consultation or register for her post-graduate courses.
NEWS FLASH: Ready to learn more about simple recipes that can give you what I call the Anti-Inflammation Advantage? Download your free 40+ page cookbook The Anti-Inflammation Recipe Sampler at drgloriaskitchen.com/totalhealth/