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If the most recent increase in multiple chronic and acute conditions caused by Covid vaccination are not counted then diabetes is the fastest growing chronic disease in the world. According to the International Diabetes Foundation approximately 10,5% of the adult population (20-79 years old) world wide suffered from diabetes in 2021.1 They expect this figure to grow by about 20% to 643 million by 2030! Even worse, estimates are that for every diagnosed diabetic, there are two people in a pre-diabetic stage. Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation. It is estimated to cause in excess of 2 million deaths a year and that number is rising with the increase in cases. With so many people afflicted by diabetes, the number of diabetic travellers has risen exponentially. In this article we’ll look at how to manage diabetes naturally while travelling, making it easier for diabetics to enjoy their travels and cope while on the road.
Before we look at how to manage diabetes naturally while travelling, let’s look at what diabetes is. Diabetes is caused by the the body’s inability to process glucose (blood sugar) efficiently. Type 1 diabetics cannot produce insulin at all. This is incurable and the only solution is to take insulin daily. Type 2 diabetes is much more common. It is the result of the body producing insufficient insulin and the cells become resistant to it.
Excess sugar in the blood is corrosive to blood vessels, brain cells, kidneys and your eyes. It also feeds infections, cancers and promotes blood clots (it’s estimated that ±80% of diabetics die from cardiovascular disease!2) This excess sugar in the blood comes primarily from what we eat. A diet high in refined carbohydrates, white sugar, white flour & white rice, breads, pastas, breakfast cereals, cakes, sweets, fizzy cooldrinks, etc. causes the blood sugar to rise rapidly. As a protective measure, the body produces hormones to neutralize the sugar, the chief hormone being insulin made by the pancreas. After years of producing massive amounts of insulin daily due to poor diet, the pancreas simply cannot cope any more and produces less and less insulin. The result is Type 2 diabetes. Another factor that comes into play is insulin resistance. As a result of receiving large amounts of insulin daily, the cells become resistant to it. Consequently less is assimilated into the cells when the pancreas does produce insulin.
The following graph shows us how blood sugar spikes after each meal and then plummets as the insulin takes effect. When it falls too low, we get hunger pangs. If we eat high GI foods, this will send the blood sugar skyrocketing again. The body produces more insulin, the blood sugar dips and the process is repeated numerous times day after day. Is it any wonder that the pancreas becomes exhausted and the cells resistant?
Most diabetics suffer from Type 2 diabetes and the good news is that it can be controlled, and even reversed, by lifestyle changes.3 In this study the researchers studied a group of obese adults with metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes. After just three weeks of a healthy diet and moderate exercise, 50% of the subjects showed significant reductions in symptoms. The lead researcher, Christian Roberts of the University of California, Los Angeles, said “The study shows, contrary to common belief, that Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome can be reversed solely through lifestyle changes.” This is just one of many studies4,5,6 showing that lifestyle changes can have significant benefits for diabetics. Another study showed that lifestyle changes were twice as effective as taking medication!7
So what can we do to manage diabetes naturally while travelling? Here are a number of strategies that are effective and easy to implement.
1. Eat as healthily as you can, avoiding processed, fast foods wherever possible. Rather eat wholegrains, oats, fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses (lentils, beans, peas, etc.) fish and lean meats. Snack on nuts and fresh fruit rather than crisps, sweets and cookies. While fresh fruits do contain sugars they also contain fibre which slows the absorption of the sugars. Here’s a link to info on low GI fruits – https://prescriptionhope.com/blog-20-fruits-with-low-glycemic-index/ Remember that if you’re in an area where water quality is suspect, choose fruits that can be peeled, like bananas, citrus, mangoes, pineapples, avocados, etc. Rather than drinking fruit juices, have smoothies. Fruit juices contain all the sugars but no fibre, which helps slow their absorption. If you have to eat high GI food, always include some good quality protein, like cheese or a boiled egg, with the meal. Protein helps to slow the absorption of the sugar and prevent blood spikes.
2. If you can’t get some good quality protein try adding some vinegar to the meal. For example, balsamic vinegar makes a tasty salad dressing. A number of studies8,9 have shown that vinegar also helps to slow the absorption of glucose into the blood. And especially apple cider vinegar has it’s own unique benefits for diabetics.
3. Take a good quality, naturally derived multivitamin that contains chromium daily. Chromium increases the cell’s sensitivity to insulin, helping to overcome insulin resistance.10 An added benefit of a daily multivitamin is that a new study has shown that it can help to prevent the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.11 The investigators estimated that “taking the daily multivitamin slowed cognitive aging by approximately 60%, or the equivalent of 1.8 years over the 3 years of the study”. But it would be best to find a product without too much vitamin A and folic acid. Methylated form like folate is better.
4. Magnesium is another supplement that has been shown to help control blood sugar levels and decrease insulin resistance.12,13,14 The studies showed that between 250 – 600mg a day provided the optimum benefits. Most multivitamins won’t contain this amount, so consider a separate magnesium supplement. For best absorption make sure that the magnesium is chelated.
5. Another way to manage diabetes while travelling is to take a curcumin supplement daily. Curcumin is an ingredient in turmeric, so if you can’t get a curcumin supplement sprinkle some turmeric on your food every day. A review15 of over 200 studies confirmed that “Curcumin could favorably affect most of the leading aspects of diabetes, including insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, and islet apoptosis and necrosis.” The studies used between 200 – 1000mg of curcumin a day, so a supplement containing something in the middle of these figures would seem to be a good idea.
6. You can also add a half teaspoon of cinnamon to your food every day. Or get it as a cinnamon supplement. It provides the same benefits as curcumin. Add it to oats, stews, curries and soups. It’s readily available everywhere and adds flavour to many dishes. According to Drs. Sinatra and Roberts, in their book ‘Reverse Heart Disease Now: Stop Deadly Cardiovascular Plaque Before It’s Too Late’16 “…. cinnamon stimulates circulation and boosts the ability of insulin to metabolize glucose and carry it into cells for energy production.”
7. Ozone therapy can help heal diabetic wounds.17,18,19 If you should injure yourself while travelling, and experience difficulty getting the wound to heal, it might be a good idea to find a clinic that offers ozone treatment. For more on this see https://medicaltravelling.com/blog/ozone-therapy
The bottom line is that there is a lot that a person can do to manage diabetes naturally while travelling. Just being prepared is the first step, so if you run out of medication, or have to eat food that isn’t good for you, you’ll know what to do. It would be safe to take more than one of the above-mentioned supplements daily, the benefits will simply be multiplied. None of these supplements and spices mentioned will interfere with any medication you may already be taking.
The good news is that you don’t only have to use this info while travelling. Lifestyle changes, such as improving your diet and exercising more, as well as the suggestions in this article, can help you treat, and even reverse, your Type 2 diabetes for ever. It will help you prevent the complications that invariably come with diabetes (see the infogram above). The benefits to your health and quality of life will be worth far more than the effort of changing. In the mean time, happy travelling:)
2. Food is Better Medicine than Drugs” pg 133. Patrick Holford & Jerome Burne , 2006
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