Do you feel exhausted all the time? Are you overweight? Do you have too much belly fat? Do you suffer from diabetes, have serious blood sugar and insulin imbalances, monitor your blood sugar all the time, or have elevated cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels? Do you fear for your health? If so, you may find this remarkable story of one of my patient’s very interesting.
The Widespread Decline of Health
Cannot Be Stopped by Treating the Symptoms
Without Attacking the Root Causes of the Problem
One evening, after a lecture in New York City, a man approached me about becoming my patient. He was rotund, with a round, ruddy face, a booming voice, and a gentle manner. Everything about him was large – his appetite, his belly, and his heart.
Sam was nearly 60 years old, and his love of everything big was waning as he felt the encroachment of death. As we talked, he described years of feeding his fat, drinking a pint of heavy whipping cream every night before bed to keep his weight up.
In the end, the big presence that Sam’s 300-plus pound corpus gave him was not worth the infirmities he suffered. He was diabetic. His insulin was over 200 – normal is less than 20. He also had dangerous cholesterol levels, angina, sleep apnea, a sluggish thyroid, and he was doggedly fatigued, short of breath at nearly every step, had nasal congestion, swollen legs, dry skin, and yeast grew all over his body.
Sam may sound like a hopeless case, but the truth is that everything Sam had done to his body he did himself and could undo. I told him that if he did everything I suggested he would lose weight, feel better, and all his symptoms would go away.
Enthusiastic, though somewhat skeptical, he left my office determined. Three months later when I spoke to him again, he lost 30 pounds, had more energy, his nasal congestion was gone, his fluid-filled, swollen legs were better, and all of his cravings were gone – he never felt hungry, and he found the program I prescribed to him easy to follow.
Fourteen months later I saw him again and repeated his blood tests. I was shocked when he weighed in. He had lost 110 pounds without being on a strict deprivation diet. He simply changed his eating and his lifestyle. His diabetes was cured. His blood sugar dropped from 130 to 74 (greater than 126 fasting denotes diabetes). His HDL and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides were normal without any medication. And he was exercising vigorously three to four times a week.
After a lifetime of uncontrollable appetites, Sam finally found balance and health without suffering. Yes, he changed his diet and lifestyle, but he was able to continue taking pleasure in food. Most importantly, he looked and felt twenty years younger.
Now, I know Sam’s story is extreme. You may or may not be suffering from problems as severe as those he faced. Even so, I’m sure you can relate to some of what Sam experienced if you are overweight, have high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, have problems with your blood sugar, or have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
You may feel twenty years older than you are, and, deep down, you may even be terrified by the possibility of additional health complications like heart disease, stroke, dementia, nerve damage, blindness, amputation, or even cancer. Like so many others who suffer from these conditions, you just want to live a normal life and get back some of your energy and vitality. You want to turn back the clock and reverse your diabetes.
You can do that. I know most people are skeptical when a doctor tells them they can reverse diabetes, but you can have the same experience Sam had, and you don’t have to suffer or starve to make that happen.
Many names, one disease – defining diabesity
You may be among millions of people who are suffering from a health problem that is now epidemic in our country. Your doctor might have diagnosed you with one of many seemingly different diseases. He may have said you have: Insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, syndrome X, adult onset diabetes, type 2 diabetes.
What he likely didn’t tell you is that all of these conditions are basically the same thing – just with varying degrees of severity. But the underlying causes of all of these conditions are the same. And because they are all the same condition, the treatment for all of them is also the same.
That is why I have set aside these conventional diagnoses in place of a new name that more accurately defines the health problems you may suffer from. That term is “diabesity.” (i) Diabesity is the condition of metabolic imbalance and disease that ranges all the way from mild blood sugar imbalance to full blown diabetes.
Whether you are suffering from a little extra weight around the middle or you have been diagnosed with insulin resistance, or even type 2 diabetes, the fundamental underlying biological causes of all of these conditions are the same. This is what I’ve discovered in over 20 years seeing thousands of patients.
Diabesity, in its various forms, affects over 1 billion people worldwide. It is a massive global problem, and our current approach to prevention and treatment is obviously not working because millions more are affected every year in a dramatic increase of a condition that was once very rare.
Diabesity is also the leading cause of most chronic diseases in the 21st century. (ii) Those with diabesity are at an increased risk of heart disease (ii), (iv), stroke, dementia (v), cancer (vi), high blood pressure, blindness, and kidney failure. Nervous system damage also affects 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes and can lead to a loss of sensation in the hands and feet, slow digestion of food in the stomach, carpal tunnel syndrome, sexual dysfunction, and other nerve problems.
So this is very real and very serious for those who suffer from the condition. Given all of this, one would think the questions on everyone’s mind would be: Why is this happening? What has caused this diabesity epidemic? Why are our current approaches to treating the problem failing so miserably? And what new approaches could we take for more effective treatment? Few in medicine today are asking these questions, yet their answers are disarmingly simple.
The problems with diabesity treatment – symptoms, not causes
The reason our current approach to treating diabesity fails is that it focuses on treating the symptoms or risk factors of the disease rather than the causes. All of our attention is on treatments that: Lower blood sugar (diabetes drugs and insulin), lower high blood pressure (anti-hypertensive drugs), lower cholesterol (statins), thin the blood (aspirin).
But we never ever ask the most important question: Why is your blood sugar, blood pressure, or blood cholesterol too high, and why is your blood too sticky and likely to clot? Put in another way: What are the root causes of diabesity? Answering that question must be the focus of our diagnosis and treatment of this disease if we are going to solve this global epidemic.
In truth, diabetes, elevated blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol are simply downstream symptoms resulting from problems with our diet, lifestyle, and environmental toxins interacting with our unique genetic susceptibilities. These are the real causes of diabesity. Unfortunately, few are taking the time to treat them.
Using medication or surgery to treat symptoms like imbalanced blood sugar, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and the other complications of diabetes is like mopping up the floor while the sink overflows.
In medicine today, we have a choice. We can continue to mop up this overflow, or we can deal with the source of the problem and turn off the faucet – that is, treat the root causes of the illness. The real solution for diabesity is a comprehensive diet and lifestyle program. Many lifelong health symptoms would evaporate in a matter of weeks or even days in some cases, if these steps were taken by everyone.
Now I’d like to hear from you. Do you believe you can be healed from diabesity? Have you tried conventional medical treatments? How have they worked for you? Are you ready to try a radically new approach that may help you heal once and for all? Let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.
To your good health!
(i) This term was first coined by Shape Up America, former Surgeon General C. Everett Coop’s foundation.
(ii) http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/DDTSTRS/FactSheet.aspx (National Diabetes Fact Sheet 2007)
(iv) Lakka HM, Laaksonen DE, Lakka TA, Niskanen LK, Kumpusalo E, Tuomilehto J, Salonen JT. The metabolic syndrome and total and cardiovascular disease mortality in middle-aged men. JAMA. 2002 Dec 4; 288(21): 2709-16.
(v) Ott A, Stolk RP, van Harskamp F, Pols HA, Hofman A, Breteler MM. Diabetes mellitus and the risk of dementia: The Rotterdam Study. Neurology. 1999 Dec 10; 53(9): 1937-42.
(vi) Key TJ, Spencer EA, Reeves GK. Symposium 1: Overnutrition: consequences and solutions Obesity and cancer risk. Proc Nutr Soc. 2009 Dec 3:1-5.
Mark Hyman, MD is a physician and widely acclaimed book author. He is chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine and serves on the board of directors of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine. He is the founder and medical director of The Ultra Wellness Center in Lenox, Mass.
The articles written by guest contributors are the sole responsibility of the individual writers in terms of factual accuracy and opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher of this blog.