Author of The Blood Sugar Solution --The UltraHealthy Program for Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Feeling Great Now! (watch video introduction http://vimeo.com/37379483)
Your book is titled The Blood Sugar Solution (www.bloodsugarsolution). Why is blood sugar an important issue?
Correcting a blood sugar imbalance is not only the secret to losing weight but will also prevent heart disease, stroke, dementia and cancer. Blood sugar imbalance is the root of diabesity, the term I use to describe the continuum of health problems ranging from mild insulin resistance and overweight to obesity and diabetes, which is the single biggest global health epidemic of our time and is at the root of most chronic diseases.
Diabesity affects over 1.7 billion people worldwide and is one of the leading causes of premature death. In the United States one in two people are either diabetic or pre-diabetic. Diabesity is almost entirely caused by environmental and lifestyle factors, which means that it is almost 100 percent preventable and curable. While the title is The Blood Sugar Solution, the book is about much more than blood sugar. It is about getting to the very root of the problem and providing a solution on a biological, personal, social and economic level.
Should people be concerned about blood sugar even if they are not obese or diabetic?
Even if you have perfectly normal blood sugar, you may be sitting on a hidden time bomb of disease which prevents you from losing weight and living a long healthy life.
In fact, Insulin resistance is the major cause of aging and death in the developed and most of the developing world. Everyone should be concerned about this issue: Chronic lifestyle-preventable and treatable diseases kills 50 million people a year. And, one in three children born today will have diabetes.
Why has diabetes become an epidemic in the United States?
Diabetes is almost entirely induced by environmental and lifestyle factors. While there are some predisposing genes, those genes only get turned on under conditions of poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, stress, and exposure to environmental toxins. In the last 100 years our environment has changed more than in all of previous human history. Environmental toxins interfere with blood sugar and cholesterol metabolism and cause insulin resistance. From 1983 to 2008, the number of people in the world with diabetes increased seven-fold, from 35 to 240 million. In just three years, from 2008 to 2011, an additional 110 million people became diabetics.
What is diabesity and how do you prevent it?
Diabesity is a more comprehensive term to describe the continuum from optimal blood sugar balance towards insulin resistance and full-blown diabetes.
Diabesity is prevented by our lifestyle choices: how we eat, how much we exercise, how we manage stress, our exposure to environmental and food-based toxins. Whole, real, fresh food that you cook yourself is the most potent medicine you can use to prevent, treat and reverse diabesity. Decreasing inflammation in the body by reducing stress, increasing exercise and balancing nutritional deficiencies all help to reverse diabesity.
Can someone have diabesity if they are not overweight?
Yes, while the word diabesity is made up of the concepts of obesity and diabetes, even those who aren’t overweight can have this problem. This describes the “skinny fat” people. They are “under lean” (not enough muscle) instead of “overweight” and have a little extra weight around the middle or belly fat. What is difficult about diabesity is that there are no national screening recommendations, no treatment guidelines, no approved medications and no reimbursement to health care providers for diagnosing and training anything other than full-blown diabetes.
What are ways to treat and reverse diabesity?
Our nutrient-poor, calorie rich diet is the main factor driving the epidemic of diabesity. It has led to a nation of overfed but undernourished people. Therefore, proper nutrition is the first step in treating and reversing diabesity.
To heal from diabesity, or overcome any chronic illness, it is important to rebalance the seven key systems outlined in my book:
Enhance Energy Metabolism
Soothe Your Mind
What is insulin resistance and is there a way to prevent or treat it?
Insulin resistance is the real biologic cause of the obesity and diabetes epidemic that impacts more than 100 million Americans and over one billion people worldwide. It is the single most important phenomenon that leads to rapid and premature aging and all its resultant diseases, including heart disease, stroke, dementia and cancer.
Insulin Resistance occurs when your cells slowly become resistant or numb to the effects of insulin and need more and more of it to keep your blood sugar levels balanced.
The best way to prevent insulin resistance is through diet. When your diet is full of empty calories and an abundance of quickly absorbed sugars, liquid cells and refined carbohydrates, your body will react by becoming resistant to insulin.
How does one identify insulin resistance?
One of the biggest problems is that doctors don’t often catch insulin resistance in the early stages. The first sign of insulin resistance is a high insulin level but unfortunately most doctors never test this. Therefore, most people do not know that they are suffering from insulin resistance (pre-diabetes) until they become diabetic and symptoms manifest.
Symptoms may include weight gain around the belly, swings in blood pressure that make you feel anxious, irritable, tired and can even cause palpitations and panic attacks.
I recommend early testing for anyone who has a family history of type 2 diabetes, belly fat or increased waist size or abnormal cholesterol.
What are steps one can take to optimize their nutrition and balance their blood sugar?
Diet and lifestyle are the keys to healthy living. My book elaborates on this in numerous ways by breaking down the various symptoms and exploring the seven systems.
If you focus on creating health rather than treating disease, the disease often takes care of itself.
I firmly believe that healthy food equals healthy relationships equals healthy world.
You have noted the link between environmental toxins, obesity and diabetes, as well as many chronic and inflammatory diseases. Can you suggest some ways that we can avoid or limit daily exposure to environmental toxins?
Decorate your home with houseplants- they detoxify the air.
Clean heating systems and monitor them for release of carbon monoxide, the most common cause of death by poisoning in America.
Look for non-toxic household products (especially drain and oven cleaners, dishwashing detergent, furniture oils and waxes, carpet cleaners).
Don’t “nuke” your food. The microwave produces more AGEs in the food and creates more oxidative stress, inflammation and diabesity. Warming may be ok, but no cooking in the microwave!
Avoid water from plastic bottles, which contain phthalates. Filter your tap water or drink water from glass or stainless steel bottles.
Stop using creams, sun block and cosmetics that contain paraben, petrochemicals, lead or other toxins. Drugs and chemicals are absorbed through your skin. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin.
How is your model and approach to health and wellness different than conventional medicine?
My approach to medicine is neither integrative nor alternative; it is the future of medicine. I believe in treating the whole system, not the symptom. Therefore, my method applies new discoveries in biology about how we really get sick and how we can create health.
People around the world are embracing this approach because it is a systems-based, patient-centered method to prevent and treat disease and promote health.
I want to provide Americans with the tools to take back their health by understanding all of the influences on their bodies which are at the root of illness.
You are known for saying that “what is at the end of the fork is more important than the bottom of the pill bottle.” Can you explain what that really means?
Food is singlehandedly the most powerful medicine available to heal chronic disease, which will account for over 50 million deaths.
To this end, all we need to do is eat our medicine and think of our grocery store as our pharmacy. The Chinese have known this for centuries. The world for eating in Chinese is comprised of two characters: chi fan, or eat rice. The word for taking medicine is chi yao, or eat medicine. The ancient culinary traditions of China created meals for pleasure as well as healing. Studies have shown that even in advanced type 2 diabetes, cells can recover and diabetes can be reversed in just ONE week by dramatic changes in diet (very low glycemic, low calorie plant based diet). Diet can be more powerful than any medicine.
You emphasize that good nutrition is one of the keys to UltraWellness. What are the staples of the modern diet that we typically eat but should avoid?
Sugars in any form whatsoever, all flour products (even gluten-free), all processed food and all gluten and dairy. Eliminating these foods from your diet is the basic foundation of the 6 week program laid out in my book. Once you avoid these foods, I promise you will discover a whole new world of mother nature’s magnificent food pantry that will delight your senses, stimulate your palate, and leave you feeling clear and healthy, not to mention automatically thinner.
We are all familiar with the modern day food pyramid and the new “my plate” but your approach to nutrition is different. Were you to create the perfect plate for your average American, what would it look like?
Composing the perfect meal is an essential life skill. When you put food on your plate it should look like this:
On half of your plate, put low-starch vegetables. (You can refill this part as much as you want).
On one quarter of your plate, put some protein (fish, chicken, eggs, shrimp, meat or beans).
On the other quarter, add either ½ cup of whole grains (ideally brown or black rice or quinoa) or ½ cup of starchy vegetables such as sweet potato or winter squash.
Buying fresh, organic food can be very expensive, which is a challenge in this economy. Can you suggest any tips for eating well without spending a lot of money?
Search out cheaper sources of fresh, whole foods in your neighborhood, think about joining your local food co-op, join a community-supported agriculture program, develop a repertoire of cheap, easy-to-prepare meals, create a “pot luck club” at work.
You have been called a “wholistic” doctor, rather than holistic. What exactly does that mean?
I take care of patients with a “whole list” of problems and it is important to look at how everything is connected. When the seven systems are out of balance, illness occurs, whether its weight gain, diabetes, heart disease or cancer.
The key is not to treat each symptom separately but to look for and treat the fundamental underlying causes.
In your book you lay out a six-week program in your book but can you break it down for us?
My six-week action plan will slowly and systematically integrate change into your diet and lifestyle. Along the way I will teach you the information and skills that you can use for the rest of your life to reinvent your lifestyle and be healthy and happy.
Week 1: Nutrition Basics for Everyone
Week 2: Optimize Metabolism with Nutritional Supplements
Week 3: Relax Your Mind, Heal Your Body
Week 4: Fun and Smarter Exercise
Week 5: Live Clean and Green
Week 6: Personalize the Program
The nutrition recommendation in Week 1-how, when, and what to eat- and the supplements outlined in Week 2 are designed to work together to heal diabesity. My six week program also provides additional quizzes to help determine if other nutritional supplements are needed as well as tips and suggested methods to guide you throughout the program. Supplementary quizzes accompany each week to tailor the program to your specific needs.
In your book you provide the UltraWellness Quiz. What is UltraWellness and how does one achieve it?
There are seven keys to achieving UltraWellness, centering on the systems I outlined: Boosting Nutrition, Reducing Inflammation, Regulating Hormones, Optimizing Digestive Health, Maximizing Detoxification, Enhancing Energy and Metabolism and Soothing the Mind. By connecting these dots, I provide a way to get our bodies to work the way they were designed.
Our lifestyle and environment interact with our genes to create the imbalances or balances that are the real determinants of disease or poor health. By adjusting everyday lifestyle practices people can increase their own health and wellness achieve UltraWellness.
Much of what you talk about is related to dietary changes. What role do you feel that other lifestyle changes such as sleep and exercise play?
Lifestyle choices including sleep and exercise are NECESSARY. In fact, lack of exercise creates low-grade inflammation in the body. And regular exercise dramatically reduces inflammation, which is why exercise is so critical to the reversal and treatment of diabesity. I believe that there are a few “ingredients” needed to make a healthy human- real, whole, fresh food, nutrients (vitamins and minerals), light, water, air, sleep, movement, rhythm, love, connection, meaning and purpose.
You’ve been around the world as a leading lecturer and many have seen you on national news programs; why do you think the public and media is so interested in your unconventional method?
My method personalizes the road to wellness to each individual. I am not just looking at the condition and treating it but determining the hidden cause that is driving the condition. At the heart of my process is a simple set of questions that, when answered honestly, provide a window into the real causes of suffering and illness. Additionally, I’ve identified the problem, the solution and the action steps and made this accessible to people across the globe. By giving them the knowledge and tools necessary to understand and heal themselves I’m empowering people to take back their health.