Type 1 or 2? The first step is UNDERSTANDING.
The core of this article is an excerpt from my book, The Secret Science of Weight Loss. The rest is based on information in that book. Here’s the latest science, the real cause of “insulin resistance”, and the real solutions to the problem of diabetes and obesity.
Understanding a problem is the first step in fixing the problem. And whether you suffer from Type 1 (“insulin-dependent”) or Type 2 (“adult-onset") diabetes, true understanding requires knowing the cause.
Let’s start there. (As we’ll see, the Type 2 disease is no longer considered an “adult” problem compared to Type 1. Type 1 used to be considered something acquired from birth. But lately, adults have been developing the problem in middle age. When you understand the cause of those problems, you understand why.)
Note: This article contains Amazon affiliate links.
Looking for a Cause
Type 2 diabetes used to be called “adult-onset”. That condition is definitely reversible. Type 1(“insulin-dependent”) diabetes has been emerging much later in life than it used to, so it is no longer considered a childhood disease. (Why? That is the right question to ask.)
True understanding doesn’t mean having something you think is a remedy. without understanding the cause the problem and how the proposed remedy affects it. Witchdoctors and bloodletters do that. They all had “remedies” they swore by. Drug companies, unfortunately, are following a similar path for a whole class of chronic “lifestyle” diseases that include diabetes.
Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to diseases like malaria, diphtheria, and typhoid — diseases that are caused by an actual, identifiable bug, medical science has the answers. We know they do, because we understand how those diseases are caused, we know that the remedies work, and we know how they work.
Diabetes is different. Medical science is great at coming up with names for things. It’s not so great at identifying the underlying cause of conditions that aren’t immediate and obvious, like a flesh wound, or diseases that are caused by a (harder to identify) toxin, bacteria, or virus.
But with drugs and surgery as the only arrows in their quiver, modern medicine keeps trying to apply those remedies to the relatively new diseases of modern civilization. In the process, it has found new and better ways to kill stuff (radiation and chemotherapy, for example), but it has had little real impact on the diseases.
At best, modern medicine seeks to “manage” such conditions. The word “cure” isn’t even in the vocabulary. The reason: Without an understanding of the underlying cause, and without the ability to address that cause, there is no other option.
“Diabetes” is a great example. There are two diseases. Because they have similar symptoms, they have the same name. But the causes (though possibly overlapping) turn out to be radically different. In other words, there are actually two diseases.
Reversing Type 2 Diabetes is definitely possible. We’ll deal with that one first. Reversing Type 1 is a trickier proposition, but it may still be possible.
TYPE 2 (“adult-onset”) DIABETES
The cause of this condition is (now) well known and understood. But the only form of continuing education for most doctors consists of visits from drug company representatives and events those companies host. So many are still lagging behind the curve.
That form of education is great for conditions that drugs can actually fix. But it leaves doctors facing an elephant-sized chronic disease like diabetes with the medical equivalent of a BB gun.
The fact of the matter is that Type 2 diabetes is the product of a modern lifestyle that has gotten out of hand. Understanding the process by which it came about is the key to reversing the condition.
The fact of the matter is this:
Anyone who thinks they can continue eating as they have been, continue living as they have been, and take a drug to fix the problem is sadly — and tragically — mistaken.
To understand why that statement is true, we need to understand the problem of “Type 2 Diabetes”, and we need to understand just where medical science has gotten onto the wrong foot.
Let’s get into that.
The Nature of (Medical) Science
Science is great at coming up with names for things. After all, the first step in understanding something is giving it a name, right? Yes! So Step #1 is identifying a condition and giving it a label. Step #2 is understanding it. But if you have a name for it you must already understand it, right?
Not so fast! Step #2 doesn’t follow automatically from Step #1. It is entirely possible to have names for things we do not understand, and cannot explain. “Gravity”, for example. We know it’s there, but we have no idea how it works. None.
Modern medicine is a rich source of similar examples. We have names for all kinds of “diseases”. But when you ask your doctor what causes them, don’t be surprised if you are met with “we don’t really know”, or a blank stare.
Having a name for a condition makes people believe the cause is known and the treatment understood, but that belief is not necessarily valid. At times, in fact, it is completely unfounded.
What’s in a Name?
A simple example: Rosacea. I had it. The name literally means “reddish skin” — a sub-surface inflammation of some kind that turns the skin red. It’s a great name. But that’s all it is.
I went to a dermatology specialist. I was given an antibiotic cream. The rosacea got worse, spreading around the edges. The larger the area I covered, the wider the rosacea got. Where the cream went, the skin was fine. But the rosacea didn’t go away. And if I stopped using the cream, the rosacea came right back — only by now, it was covering a much larger area!
I went back to the doctor, explained the situation, and asked, “What am I up against here? What causes this?” The response: “We don’t know. But if that didn’t work, I’ll give you a stronger antibiotic.” I backed away, slowly making the sign of the cross. “No, thanks”.
You see, I like my remedies to be based on understanding. That “standard” medical refrain is as old as bloodletting: “It didn’t work? Let’s do more!”. As if.
It’s like going to an auto mechanic with a knock in your engine: “We don’t know what causes it, but we know that putting sawdust in the engine makes it stop.” No thank you!
Now, I could live with the fact that the rosacea remedy didn’t work. But the fact was, they were ready to prescribe internal antibiotics (which can create a lot of harm) without understanding what it was they were trying to “cure”, Now that was scary.
I eventually got it under control, with daily moisturizing and My Secret Magic Hair Tonic, but that’s another story. The point is that having a name doesn’t mean having any real understanding. And that is especially the case with names that are misleading.
The label “diabetes” represents a condition that is (generally) not understood. But it gets worse.
Labels like “insulin resistance” are stated as the cause of diabetes, and “leptin resistance” as the cause of obesity. Those labels are worse. The labels themselves are misleading. They are wrong. Dead wrong. And you pay the price for the lack of understanding.
Diabetes and obesity are interrelated conditions. Understanding their real cause is the key to creating an effective treatment. But those misleading labels have doctors and drug companies going down the wrong path.
Let’s talk about them.
The Problem of “Leptin Resistance”
As Dr. Lustig points out so well in his lecture, Fat Chance, Fructose 2.0, leptin is the signal that fat cells send to your brain. Leptin says (or is trying to say), “We have plenty of fuel onboard. Don’t take in any more. Go run around the block for a while and burn some off”.
In other words, leptin turns off your hunger and makes you want to be active.
When your brain doesn’t see leptin, it thinks you’re starving. You become lethargic. You become ravenously, uncontrollably hungry. You must eat, to survive. That’s all your body knows, and there is no arguing with it.
A doctor may well find plenty of leptin in your bloodstream. But for some reason, your brain isn’t seeing it. The diagnosis: “leptin resistance”.
But as Dr. Lustig also points out, the leptin receptors in the brain are also insulin receptors. So if there is excess insulin, the leptin isn’t seen. “Leptin resistance” in other words, could be a case of insulin overload.
But is it? Let’s examine that question next.
The Problems of “Insulin Resistance” & Diabetes
Right now, diabetes and related complications are a major drain on the medical system in this country. The rates have been going up for decades, and have reached epidemic proportions. In a word, the problem is huge.
But why have they kept going up? Despite medical intervention. As Dr. Jason Fung points out in his New Paradigm of Insulin Resistance video, if our treatments aren’t working, it’s a sign that our paradigm is wrong.
In this case, what’s wrong is the idea of “insulin resistance” — the notion that our fat-burning cells have somehow become resistant to insulin. How do we know we have “insulin resistance”? Because measurements show us that excess insulin is present in the bloodstream.
In cases of diabetes and obesity, then, we already know there is excess insulin. So much for “leptin resistance”. We now know the real cause of that condition.
But the insulin doesn’t seem to be working. What’s causing the “insulin “resistance”?
As Dr. Fung points out, the fat-burning cells aren’t taking in sugar because they’re already stuffed. They don’t need anymore, and can’t use anymore, so they stop taking sugar out of the bloodstream. (We know that paradigm is correct because, when we treat diabetes with that model, we invariably reverse the problem, until it disappears entirely.)
In the meantime, what’s a body to do when the cells are stuffed with sugar and there is yet more in the bloodstream?
Excess sugar is toxic. It destroys things. So it must be taken out of the bloodstream. If the fat-burning cells aren’t doing it, then the excess sugar must be stored in fat cells. When all of the fat cells are full, more are created. That’s how obesity starts.
Creating new cells takes time, however. So the excess sugar circulates for a while, wreaking havoc. That’s how diabetes starts.
The Sad Situation
Of course, there are unusual physiological conditions in which “insulin resistance” or “leptin resistance” actually exist. But such situations are extremely rare.
For everyone else — virtually all of us — the situation is this:
- There is no such thing as leptin resistance. There is only insulin overload.
- There is no such thing as insulin resistance. There is only sugar overload.
- We don’t have a diabetes problem, we have a sugar problem.
Returning to Dr. Lustig’s lecture, he quite rightly points out (& demonstrates) that sugar is both toxic and addictive. And he points out that similar substances like alcohol and tobacco are off-limits to kids and well regulated. But sugar? We’ll give a kid of mountain of sugar in a soda without thinking twice. In the process, we set them up for a lifetime of diabetes and obesity.
(He also points out that while caffeine is addictive, it is not toxic. So, as he says, “Keep your hands off my coffee”. I’m with him there. But returning to the matter at hand…)
Ever notice how fat kids are these days? Sugar is why. But sugar isn’t the only problem. Simple starches like those breads you eat at every meal may not look like sugar, but they break down in seconds and become sugar when you eat them.
So here we are as a society, gulled into believing that we MUST eat three meals a day and that snacks are okay. And most every single one of those meals and snacks contains bread and sugar.
It’s no wonder we have a problem.
Let’s talk about how to fix it.
Reversing (T2) Diabetes (book excerpt)
As Dr. Jason Fung explains in his New Paradigm of Insulin Resistance video, the actual cause of “insulin resistance” are cells that are so full of sugar they can’t, or won’t, take any more.
And he rightly points out that if our understanding was correct, our cures would be showing progress. But they’re not. Instead, diabetes and obesity have been increasing at an astonishing rate for the last several decades.
On the other hand, consider malaria. We treat it with quinine. People get better. We reduce mosquito populations. Incidents of the disease diminish. Both results are signs that our understanding of the problem — our paradigm — is correct.
But if our current treatments are completely failing, as the drugs-for-diabetes approach has been doing for so long, then (as Dr. Fung says) it is a sign that our paradigm is wrong.
The bottom line is this: If you think you can keep eating as you have been, keep living as you have been, and just take a drug to solve the problem, you are sadly — and tragically — mistaken.
The real solution starts with Intermittent Fasting, to reverse decades of sugar accumulation in the cells, and to begin breaking the sugar addiction. Then add light activity to extend the fasting period and to burn off even more stored sugar (and fat). Finally, progress to a Natural Keto diet. Find a way of eating that works for you, and you can put an end to your sugar addiction.
And there is a supplement that can help. The wonder herb Gymnema is known in India as the “destroyer of sugar”. It is remarkably effective for turning off sugar cravings. (Learn more about Gymnema in the “Supplements” section of the book. But be sure to work with your doctor if you’re taking insulin or any diabetic medications.)
But note that, as great as that herb is, it is only an aid. It is not a cure. To reverse diabetes, you still need to take action.
My take on things is this: You can spend your money in the healthy foods store now, or spend it in the hospital later. You can take supplements to make up for the inadequacies of American foods, or you can take drugs to treat the maladies they induce. You can live long and healthy by taking action. Or you can choose the alternative. The choice is yours. (I know which one I choose!)
The good news is that you’ll eat less on an Intermittent Fasting and Natural Keto program — probably a lot less, so you can spend the same amount of money and enjoy healthier, better-tasting food. And when you factor in what you save in drugs and doctor bills, plus the improved quality of life, you come out way ahead.
TYPE 1 DIABETES
Back in the day, the “known wisdom” was that Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) began in childhood. It had no real cause that anyone understood, so it was assumed to be genetic. How things have changed! These days, it is regarded as an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.
This article on symptoms and causes summarizes it nicely:
Type 1 diabetes occurs when your immune system, the body’s system for fighting infection, attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. Scientists think type 1 diabetes is caused by genes and environmental factors, such as viruses, that might trigger the disease.
That’s a decent understanding, as far as it goes. It goes a little deeper than it used to (it’s not just an irreversible childhood condition), but it’s still far of where it needs to go.
The question we should be asking is, “What causes the immune system to suddenly start attacking itself, after years (or even decades) of peaceful co-existence?” (The failure to even look for an underlying is one area in which the medical profession has broken down, in my opinion. For more, see What’s Wrong with Doctors?, and the companion piece, Using Doctors Wisely)
As with most autoimmune disorders, the answer, I believe, lies in the gut.
When a person is gluten intolerant, the intestinal wall erodes over time. As it does, tiny holes are formed. Those holes allow foreign molecules into the body — molecules of a size that can only be a virus, as far as the body is concerned. So the immune system gears up to attack them.
Modern strains of wheat have made that problem much more prevalent than it used to be. (For more, see What’s Wrong with Wheat?) So it’s happening to more and more people.
Once it happens, you’re in an involuntary game of Russian Roulette. Depending on which molecules get in, and which body parts they’re similar to, you may develop any one of a number of “autoimmune diseases”.
Such diseases almost always have dietary triggers — things you eat that make the condition flare up. The trigger may well MSG (often disguised as “natural flavors”) or one of the hundreds of other chemicals in American packaged foods and fast foods.
A contributing factor might be the wrongly named “insulin resistance” that comes from a diet overloaded with sugars and grains, as discussed in the section on the Type 2 condition. It is possible that “pancreas fatigue” occurs as a result, and that the overtaxed cells are therefore weaker and more prone to self-destruct — as weak cells generally do, so they can be replaced by the body. (This part is pure speculation, but it’s worth considering.
Drugs may well be needed in the short term to manage the condition. Eliminating the triggers is the next step. But the most important step for long-term health is to eliminate wheat from your diet. Then up your intake of L-glutamine to help the intestinal tract heal.
Will those actions work to reverse the condition? Time will tell. And if you’re already taking insulin to treat it, you’ll need to work with your doctor to manage the dosage, when and if things begin to improve.
But hopefully, by now, you have gleaned some real insight into and understanding of the nature of the problem.
Eric Armstrong describes himself as The Lazy Health Nut. He is always looking for the fastest, easiest, and most efficient way to get fit, lose weight, and develop athletic skills. (Such pursuits do take time and effort. But let’s not waste energy in the process!) He’s the author of The Secret Science of Weight Loss and other books.
Learn more: About Eric (lazy health nut)