4. Increase fats
Increase omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats; reduce omega-6 and saturated fats and avoid trans fats. One of the key reasons why metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and diabetes cause unpleasant symptoms and knock-on diseases is because they switch your whole system toward inflammation. Inflammation is often experienced as pain, redness or swelling, but it can also be happening in your system, causing hidden problems, such as inflamed and blocked arteries, that eventually lead to a heart attack. Reducing inflammation is absolutely vital, because it helps you get out of the vicious cycle of metabolic syndrome. Inflammation promotes insulin insensitivity, feeding back into worsening diabetes.
Meat and dairy products such as cheese are high in saturated fats and tend to increase inflammation and make matters worse, so I encourage you to go for the many natural anti-inflammatory compounds found in food, ranging from spices like turmeric to fruits such as olives. Beans are high in plant sterols, which help to switch off inflammation and normalise cholesterol levels, but the most potent of them all are the omega-3 fats found in oily fish. (The best vegetarian source of omega-3’s are chia seeds, a superfood, full of good-quality protein, soluble fibres and anti- oxidants as well.)
One of the best measures of inflammation in your system is something called C-reactive protein (CRP), which can be measured in the blood.
5. Increase your intake of antioxidants
Foods with strong colours, such as blue-berries, tomatoes, mustard and broccoli, have the most antioxidants, and these will help to reduce inflammation. Some, like red grapes, however, are also high in sugar, so you need to be a bit selective. You can measure the total antioxidant power of a food by its ‘ORAC’ rating (ORAC stands for oxygen radical absorption capacity).
6. Eat liver-friendly foods
Antioxidants and certain foods, such as broccoli and red onions, are especially important because they help to support the liver’s ability to work optimally. The liver has to work very hard converting excess glucose into fat, and a sluggish liver often lies behind the complications of diabetes. It’s your liver, not your pancreas, that has a hard time if you have diabetes. Foods that support liver function include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, rocket, watercress and mustard.
I have written a book on exactly how to support the liver’s detoxification process. It’s called The 9-Day Liver Detox.
7. Take daily exercise
This is a must if you have diabetes or insulin resistance. Exercise does so much more than burn calories. It actually lowers insulin, helps to stabilise your blood sugar level, and it helps you to burn fat and build muscle. Resistance exercise, such as using weights – which is the kind that helps build muscle – makes your body more sensitive to insulin. Also, simply moving after a meal, such as a ten-minute brisk walk, actually helps get glucose out of the blood into the cells that need it, such as the brain and muscle cells.
8. Reduce your stress and improve your sleep
You might think this is easy to say but the good news is that it is going to happen naturally when you follow my low-GL diet, from my book, and take the supplements I recommend. This is because stress isn’t just caused by things outside yourself that challenge you, it’s also caused by changes in your blood sugar. If your cells are starved of sugar (in the case of advanced diabetes) or if your blood sugar level rebounds are too low, your body makes stress hormones called cortisol. By stabilising your blood sugar level so that you never get blood sugar lows you’ll naturally feel less stressed and you’ll sleep better as a result.
9. Change what and how you drink
The biggest single increase in sugar consumption has come from drinks, many of which are loaded with high levels of fructose. These, and drinks with glucose, are the worst. Nothing is better for you than water or herb teas. A little tea and coffee is not a problem. Combining a coffee with a carbohydrate snack can send your blood sugar level three times as high. Also, if you are in the habit of adding sugar and lots of milk, a latte perhaps, this becomes a deadly combination. Milk actually promotes high insulin levels, even though it is low in carbohydrate. If you must have coffee, drink it on its own, ideally black or with a dash of milk and unsweetened. Then wait 30 minutes before you eat anything. Lemon tea would be a much better choice, but ginger and cinnamon tea is best. I also drink red bush (rooibos) chai tea because red bush is high in antioxidants and the chai spices include ginger and cinnamon.
10. Take supplements twice a day, every day
I know you’ve probably heard that if you eat a well-balanced diet you will get all the nutrients you need, but this really is completely untrue. Firstly, there are many nutrients you just cannot get enough of from eating food, and these include vitamins C, D and B12.
Vitamin D reverses insulin resistance and reduces your diabetes risk. Much more important than this is the fact that in order to ‘tip’ your body back towards good health you need much larger amounts of nutrients than you’ll need once you are healthy. Chromium is an example. The ideal intake for someone with diabetes is 600 mcg a day – that’s 10 times what you need if you are healthy with no insulin resistance.
Vitamin C and the B vitamins are vital for turning sugar into energy rather than fat. Vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid are vital for a process called methylation, which is essential for making fully functioning insulin, as well as vital neurotransmitters such as adrenalin and serotonin that keep you motivated and in a good mood. A lack of these B vitamins raises the level of homocysteine in your blood. Homocysteine is an amino acid found naturally in the blood.
As you have seen, there are many factors that contribute to your metabolism overheating, leading to poor blood sugar control, insulin resistance and inflammation. These ‘systemic’ changes have a knock-on effect, increasing your chances of a wide range of common health problems. But they also go one layer deeper – they actually reprogramme your genes toward disease and premature ageing.
TAKE A SPOONFUL OF CINNAMON
A spoonful of cinnamon a day does help keep diabetes at bay. The active ingredient in cinnamon, MCHP, mimics the action of the hor- mone insulin, which removes excess sugar from the bloodstream. Cinnamon also appears to reduce blood cholesterol and fat levels and decrease blood pressure. I certainly recom- mend you make a daily teaspoon of cinnamon part of your reverse-diabetes programme. I also recommend that you add 150 mg of cin- namon extract.
ANTIOXIDANT NUTRIENTS IN SUPPLEMENT FORM
The following nutrients help to reverse your risk of diabetes or reduce your risk if you have metabolic syndrome:
Vitamin C is extremely important to supplement and to eat, if you have diabetes. And having a high level of vitamin C in your blood, consistent with that achieved by supplementing and eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, reduces your risk of diabetes by 62%. To reach the optimal level of vitamin C in your blood for diabetes reduction you will need to supplement 1 000 mg a day and eat lots of fruit and vegetables.
Vitamin E on its own, although good for you, doesn’t appear to reduce diabetes risk, but when taken with vitamin C it helps to keep the arteries and kidneys healthy in those with diabetes. One trial gave people with diabetes vitamins C and E plus chromium, as well as counselling in behaviour modification, which included a low-fat diet, exercise and giving up smoking. The incidence of cardiovascular problems halved, compared to those receiving conventional medical treatment. It’s worth supplementing 100 mg of vitamin E, so look for a multivitamin that provides this, along with vitamin C and chromium.
Co-enzyme Q10 recycles spent vitamin E to return it to its active antioxidant form. Take 90 mg per day to help speed up your recovery. This is especially helpful if you have cardiovascular disease, and essential if you are taking statins because these cholesterol-lowering drugs knock out CoQ10.
Alpha lipoic acid is a vital antioxidant that helps vitamin C to work efficiently, recycling it back to antioxidant status once it’s disarmed a harmful oxidant. When your blood sugar levels are high it increases both glycation and oxidation that damage tissues such as the arteries, kidneys, nerves and eyes. Alpha lipoic acid protects you from that damage and it is important for people with type-1 or type-2 diabetes to minimise the damage caused by sugar.
Glutathione is the body’s most important antioxidant, but people with diabetes don’t make enough of it. Supplementing glutathione [or the amino acids from which it is formed – N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) and glycine] helps to restore normal levels, thereby reducing inflammation. Supplement with 500 mg of either glutathione or NAC to help speed up your recovery. The combination of NAC and lipoic acid is very effective in raising glutathione levels; whey protein, rich in these amino acids, also helps boost glutathione.
Resveratrol and anthocyanidins are the purple colours in berries and red grapes. Anthocyanidins reactivate glutathione, so if you take these two together you get a much more substantial antioxidant effect.
Zinc is a vital antioxidant mineral, but also, together with magnesium, it is essential for insulin production and function. Both these minerals help to turn sugar into energy, and help insulin to work properly. Zinc is found in abundance in nuts and seeds, as well as seafood. I recommend supplementing at least 10 mg a day, as well as eating these foods on a daily basis.
Magnesium levels tend to be low in people with diabetes, and the lower the magnesium the higher the insulin levels. Magnesium is found in nuts, seeds, lentils, beans and green leafy vegetables, and it is perhaps the most commonly deficient mineral in the modern diet. I recommend 500 mg a day.
Milk thistle, containing the active nutrient silymarin, is particularly helpful for diabetes. It’s worth supplementing even if you don’t have any liver-related issues because it makes you more sensitive to insulin. There have been three good studies giving people with diabetes milk thistle supplements of 500 to 600 mg a day (250 mg twice a day). I recommend you start with 200 mg twice a day of milk thistle extract standardised to give at least 70% silymarin.
Gymnema sylvestre is an ancient Indian herb called gurmur, which means ‘the sugar destroyer’. It’s renowned for reducing cravings for sweet foods, so it is potentially useful if you are a sugar addict. There have been two good studies showing that both blood glucose levels and glycosylated haemoglobin levels decrease with daily supplements of 400 mg a day, usually taking 200 mg twice a day, standardised to contain at least 24% gymnemic acid, which is the active ingredient.
NATURAL SUPPORT FOR WEIGHT CONTROL FROM CHROMIUM, HCA AND 5-HTP
Although chromium and cinnamon are my favourites for stabilising blood sugar levels, if your goal is to lose weight my three favourite natural remedies are chromium, an extract of tamarind called HCA and the amino acid derivative 5-HTP. Unlike stimulant drugs and herbs, which work against the body’s natural design, these work with it, helping to reduce hunger and carbohydrate cravings, and are therefore an additional extra, speeding up the process of weight loss, if that is your goal.
Chromium – the mineral that makes insulin work better
For insulin to work properly it has to attach to an insulin receptor. Chromium not only increases the number of insulin receptors present but it also helps insulin bind more strongly to its receptor – thereby improving its overall effectiveness. The result is improved glucose transport into muscle, fat and liver tissue, and therefore better glucose control.
The best effects were seen with chromium picolinate (which is much better absorbed than cheaper forms of inorganic chromium, such as chromium chloride) in doses of 400 to 1 000 mcg per day.
HCA – tamarind’s secret ingredient
The nutrient HCA is extracted from the dried rind of the tamarind fruit (Garcinia cambogia), which you may know from Indian and other Eastern cuisines. HCA works by slowing down the enzyme that converts sugar into fat.
I recommend taking HCA, especially during the first three months of following my low-GI diet if you need to lose weight. You need at least 750 mg a day for an effect. I recommend a dose of 50 to 200 mg, starting with 100 mg a day.
One word of caution: If you are on diabetes medication, your need is likely to become less as your blood sugar level stabilises once you start following the recommendation in this article.
Holford P. Say No to Diabetes. 2011. Piatkus: London.