According to the American Diabetes Association ( ADA ), diabetes is the fifth deadliest disease in the United States. More than 18 million Americans have diabetes. Diabetes can be life-threatening, as diabetics have 4-6 times the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke.
In addition, there are over 40 million people in the United States who are in a “pre-diabetes” or “metabolic syndrome” stage. They are insulin- resistant but their blood sugar levels have not yet reached diabetic status.
While these statistics are dramatic, there are avenues for treatment that have shown some significant success, particularly in the area of naturopathic medicine. Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Ariz., is one of a handful of accredited, four-year academic institutions in the United States teaching students to become naturopathic physicians. A strong emphasis has been on teaching future physicians to treat diabetes patients with complementary medical techniques as a more integrative approach to their patients overall treatment regimen.
Dr. Mona Morstein, Chair of Nutrition at SCNM and Supervising Physician at Southwest Naturopathic Medical Center, the out-patient medical clinic of the medical school has found significant results and benefits from a naturopathic treatment regimen for diabetes through a comprehensive, yet individualized course of treatment for her diabetic patients, no matter which type of diabetes they have.
Part of that treatment includes a low carbohydrate diet. A great deal of evidence-based research supports the use of such a dietary program, even though it is contrary to what the ADA suggests. Dr. Morstein also prescribes various nutrients and anti-oxidants as a result of medical studies having shown that diabetics are lacking in a number of vital nutrients. Further, the research has shown that the problematic progression of their diabetes is considerably slowed by antioxidants. Dr. Morstein uses various botanical medicines to help decrease insulin resistance and sugar cravings, which has the added benefit of aiding in weight loss. Treatment can also include diagnosing and addressing imbalances in other hormones such as cortisol and testosterone. Aerobic exercise and weight lifting are necessary for the patient to regularly engage in and, if need be, stress relaxation and counseling become part of the overall regimen.
The naturopathic treatment regimen has shown other significant benefits, with the reduction and oftentimes elimination of oral hypoglycemics and blood pressure medicines as patients become healthier. For those Type I diabetics that require insulin, a unique way of prescribing the insulin is prescribed which enables the blood sugar levels to be very tightly controlled without causing frightening low blood sugar episodes.
Success has also been demonstrated in lowering patients hemoglobin A1C levels.
Medical studies have proven that lower A1C numbers significantly decrease the risk of diabetics, developing cardiovascular disease, and eye, kidney and nerve damage. Dr. Morstein remarks, "It's very rewarding working with people with diabetes and see them able to reduce or remove some of their medications, and significantly lower their A1Cs. They're very pleased and I know I've helped them lower their risk for developing diabetic complications in the future."
Southwest Naturopathic Medical Center is conducting leading edge efforts and work in the treatment of diabetes and the results are healthier, leaner patients who taking less medications and having more positive health outlooks for the future.