Coping with Diabetes
An overall guide: what diabetes is...how to recognize it...some ways to cope with it...and where to find out more about this widespread disease.

Diabetes is the fourth leading cause of death, by disease, in the United States. Because the prevalence of diabetes increases with increasing age, about half of cases are in people aged 55 and older. With early diagnosis and treatment, diabetes can be controlled and many complications can be avoided.
What exactly is diabetes? Diabetes is a disease that affects the body's utilization of food, causing blood-sugar levels to be too high. The two main types of diabetes are insulin-dependent and non-insulin-dependent. People with either type of diabetes are at risk of developing the complications of diabetes: blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, hypertension, and circulatory disorders leading to lower-extremity amputations.
Insulin-dependent (type I) diabetes used to be called juvenile-onset diabetes because it occurs most often in children and young adults. Doctors changed the name after realizing that it could occur at any age. This form of diabetes creates the necessity for daily injections of insulin since the pancreas stops making insulin or makes only a tiny amount.
Non-insulin-dependent (type II) diabetes occurs most often in adults. In this form of diabetes the pancreas produces some insulin, but it is not used effectively.

Warning Signs
Because an estimated 6 million people have non-insulin dependent diabetes and do not know, it is important to be aware of the warning signs. Some complications, such as kidney disease, show no symptoms in the early stages but can be detected through screening tests. Other complications, such as nerve damage, show physical damage but can be slowed if you treat them quickly. The people most at risk for non-insulin-dependent diabetes are over 40, overweight, and have a family history of diabetes. If you fit into this category, you need to be tested for diabetes periodically. But if you experience any of the following symptoms, you should report them to your doctor immediately:

Insulin-dependent (usually occur suddenly)



Non-insulin dependent (usually occur less suddenly)
Prevention and Treatment
The focus of treatment for both type I and type II diabetes is to control blood-sugar levels, which means keeping them in the normal range. Results from the ten-year Diabetes Control and Complications Trial prove that "tight control" of blood-sugar levels can reduce the risk of developing diabetic complications by 60 percent. These benefits were achieved despite the fact that average blood-sugar levels were still about 40 percent above normal, even ofr those people practicing tight control. Both types of diabetes require a diet low in sugar, weight loss if you're overweight, and a regular exercise plan. Type I diabetes requires daily injections of insulin whereas type II diabetes can often be controlled through diet, exercise, and, if necessary, prescribed pills.

Information for this article was obtained from What You Need To Know About Diabetes, 1984 by the American Diabetes Association, Inc.


Hatha Yoga: A Cure for Diabetes?
by Julian Goldstein

Having diabetes for over 28 years has given me some insight. Not until I discovered how to reverse this chronic disease did it become clear to me that I was not a victim of diabetes but rather a victim of my own lack of knowledge of how to properly care for my physical system.
I tripped over a solution by accident after suffering a herniated disc in my lower back. Three doctors said, "Surgery!" A risky alternative in any case, but even more so because of my diabetes. And then I heard that hatha yoga might help my back problem. And it did. But of far greater benefit, performing yoga postures daily for five months completely eliminated my need to take insulin or any other anti-diabetic medication. I had required 75 units of insulin each day. It kept me alive but not healthy. Hatha yoga put me back on the road of good health.
How is it that yoga can reverse diabetes? All diabetics know that daily aerobic exercise helps control blood sugar and improves circulation. But hatha yoga offers something ordinary exercise does not. Among the original 84 hatha yoga postures, certain postures have a therapeutic effect upon various organs and glands and can beneficially affect the pancreas and its functions. Of course, since stress further complicates diabetes, the calmative effects of doing hatha yoga also contribute to the reversal of this so-called chronic incurable disease. Additionally, age is no barrier to doing therapeutic hatha yoga. Though many diabetics find it difficult to maintain a regular exercise regimen as they become older, they are still able to maintain an effective hatha yoga regimen.

Dr. Phulgenda Sinha, Director of the Institute of Yoga in Patna, India, and Washington D.C., and author of Yogic Cures for Chronic Diseases, states, "The yogic treatment restores the normal functioning of the pancreas and other glands of the endocrinal system. When these glands begin to function properly, the individual is fully cured of the diabetic disorder and his health is restored to a normal level." Clinical studies have proven Dr. Sinha's claims for type II diabetes. Further investigation is required for type I.
Is a cure for diabetes too much to hope for? As long as therapeutic hatha yoga can (1) control diabetes at significantly reduced insulin levels for type I diabetics, or (2) control diabetes with significantly reduced levels of medication, or (3) help prevent and heal the ravages of the complications caused by diabetes with our body's own medicines, then isn't that what we're trying to do?

About the author: Julian Goldstein, BS, MS, CYT, is a certified yoga therapist. He publishes a support--group newsletter called Diabetic Backtalk ($24.95 for 6 issues) and is the author of the book, Diabetic Always-Insulin No More! Or Any Other Darn Pills! ($11.95). To order the above, contact Julian Goldstein, 3924 Carpenter Ct., Studio City, CA 91604; 818-762-5990.


A Sweeter Life for People with Diabetes

There was a time when ice cream, cookies, and other sweets were considered off-limits to people with diabetes. But advances in food technology and in understanding the effects of different foods on blood sugar have made sweet foods an acceptable part of the diabetes meal plan.

Intense Sweeteners: Aspartame provides a clean-tasting sweetener that does not affect blood-glucose levels. Although technically considered a nutritive sweetener contributing four calories per gram, aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar, thus very little is needed to achieve a sweet taste. Its caloric contribution is negligible. Today, the sweetener is approved for use in more than 150 product categories.
Other intense sweeteners such as saccharin and acesulfame K, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991, also provide a sweet taste without significantly affecting blood-glucose levels.

Sugar Alcohols: Included in this category are sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol, maltitol syrup, lactitol, isomalt and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates. As a group, sugar alcohols are incompletely absorbed and metabolized and consequently contribute fewer calories than other carbohydrates. Sugar alcohols are found naturally in berries, apples, plums and other foods. They also are produced commercially from carbohydrates.
According to the FDA, foods that contain sugar alcohols but no sugar can be labeled "sugar free." But if the food is not also low in calories, it must bear a statement such as "Not a reduced-calorie food." When consumed in excess, sugar alcohols may produce abdominal gas and discomfort.

Sugar and Diabetes: Modern nutritional management of diabetes recommends up to 55 to 60 percent of calories from carbohydrates. While complex carbohydrates should comprise the majority of carbohydrates, most endocrinologists and other health experts now agree that sugar can be part of a well-balanced diabetes meal plan. However, because everybody reacts differently, it is important to consult with your dietician or physician before incorporating new sweet foods into your diet.

Reprinted with permission from Food Insight.