How Diabetics Respond to a Vegan/Plant-based Diet

26 December 2012

When we look at the basic diets of people from around the world we find certain populations tend to be slim and have very little diabetes. Good examples are Japan and China, whose traditional diets were based primarily on rice and other carbohydrate-rich foods. But now, with the introduction of a “Western” diet, which includes an overabundance of animal products (meat, dairy, etc.) everything changed and obesity and diabetes (along with heart disease and other ailments) came roaring in. A strong plant-based diet reverses this scenario. People lose weight, cholesterol drops dramatically, and diabetes improves – and in many cases is reversed.

Physiologically, if you could follow a glucose molecule in your bloodstream, you’d quickly see that it and all the other glucose molecules are headed for the muscle cells. Glucose is what powers your muscles, along with most of the rest of your body. Now, if you could inspect your muscles’ tissues closely, you’d observe that globules of fat have taken up residence there. In medical terms those tiny droplets of fat are referred to as intramyocellular lipids (IMCLs), and they interfere with insulin’s ability to carry glucose into the cells. Once you begin to make the change to a plant-based diet, eliminating animal products and other fatty foods from your diet, those IMCLs begin to dissipate and health is generally restored.

A vegan or plant-based diet has many other advantages too. Most importantly perhaps is how good it for the heart, and how it lowers bad cholesterol (LDL) more than any other dietary approach. Many of the complications of diabetes relate directly to the heart and blood vessels, so there is much to be said for eliminating animal products and cholesterol producing fats from of your diet. A strong plant-based diet also helps bring down high blood pressure. And your kidneys will function much easier because avoiding animal proteins help maintain proper kidney function.

Many studies have shown that the overall nutritional response of the body is greatly improved on a vegan/plant-based diet compared to a meat/dairy-based diet. Fiber and vitamin intake increase, while fat and bad cholesterol go down. No need to worry about protein, you’ll get all you need from vegetables, beans and grains, plus you’ll find plenty of calcium and iron in green leafy vegetables and beans.

And now, a few words about Dr. Gabriel Cousens…

Gabriel Cousens runs the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in Arizona, USA, where he has been treating type 2 diabetes for several decades now. In order to spread the word, his center created a documentary called Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days (92 minutes, 2009). Six patients with diabetes were tracked for 30 days as they lived at the Tree of Life Center. They followed Dr. Cousens’ diet guidelines and daily exercise routines. Within days, all patients improved dramatically. All of them continued with their lifestyle changes beyond these 30 days. The documentary is uplifting because each patient showed remarkable improvement in health and spirit.

Gabriel Cousens stands out from other doctors who advocate plant based diets in two respects: he is highly spiritual and he advocates far more raw food than others. His writings tend to emphasize his personal experiences with treating patients instead of medical studies. He has written articles like Peace through a Sattvik Diet and Perspectives on Dairy where he explains why he advocates avoidance of dairy in the modern world even though it is advocated by ancient sattvik food guidelines. His response to Dr Mercola is a lengthy article showcasing his personal life journey and his personal experiences in treating patients for over 30 years. In addition, his spiritual leanings and writing style greatly appeal to like minded individuals.

*A few notes of caution for diabetics changing over to a plant-based diet.

Beginning this kind of diet, some people find that their blood sugars go up for the first few days. If you are very insulin resistant, it will take a little time for that to improve as those fat droplets gradually disappear from your muscle cells. Your blood sugars should soon start to improve noticeably.

Be sure to let your health-care provider know about your diet change. If you are on insulin or a sulfonylurea, you may well end up with symptoms of hypoglycemia, which is a sign that you have improved to the point that your drugs are now too strong for you. Work with your health-care provider to reduce (or eliminate) your medications when the time is right.

For people with type 1 diabetes, I would recommend the same diet changes. A plant-based menu will minimize the likelihood of cardiovascular and renal complications and may help you reduce your medications. It will not, however, eliminate the need for insulin for people with type 1 diabetes.

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