The popularity of the matcha green tea has increased lately, with the availability of lattes, desserts, teas, and matcha shots in different places from coffee shops to health stores. Drinking matcha is not a fad, it’s one of the longest standing cultures of the Japanese people.
What is Matcha?
Just like green tea, matcha is made from the chlorophyll-rich young leaves of the Camellia sinesis plant. However, it is cultivated differently as farmers cover the tea plants one month to harvest to avoid direct sunlight. That helps boost chlorophyll content, gives the plant a darker green hue, and increases the production of amino acids. After the harvest, the veins and stems are removed, and the leaves are steamed, dried, and ground into a fine green powder known as matcha.
The matcha tea offers unparalleled nutrition and is an easy way to enjoy powerful health benefits. Here, we give you three benefits of adding matcha green tea to your everyday diet.
High in antioxidants
Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemical compounds that reduce cell damage, protects against UV radiation, prevent life-threatening maladies, and aging. Even though there are other foods lauded for their antioxidant properties, matcha is unparalleled in comparison. The antioxidants produced by matcha green tea are five times more than the content produced by any other food. Furthermore, on that note, match tea is loaded with a catechin known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg), which is the most potent and beneficial type of antioxidants. EGCg has powerful anti-cancer properties. Also, they help prevent damage to the liver and kidneys.
Heart disease is one of the leading cause of death globally. The nutrient profile in matcha green tea may help protect against heart disease and stroke. Matcha tea helps prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol which is one of the key factors that increase the risk of heart disease. This reduces the levels of bad LDL cholesterol, including triglycerides while at the same time exhibiting higher levels of good HDL cholesterol. Therefore, adding matcha tea to your diet will help protect against disease and keep your heart healthy, giving you a longer life.
Improves cognitive performance
Matcha tea is rich in a rare amino acid known as L-Theanine, which acts upon the brains functioning, promoting a state of relaxation and alertness. While L-Theanine is common in all black and green teas, the content of this amino acid in matcha tea is five times more. Drinking matcha helps promote better concentration, enhanced mood, and improved memory without drowsiness.
Best of all, the matcha green tea is easy to prepare. But first, the powder should be added directly to boiling water as it will have a ‘grassy’ taste. The best way is to boil water, and let it sit to 175 degrees F. Sift the powder into a glass bowl and slowly add the hot water. Whisk until frothy and well mixed. Enjoy your drink and give your day a burst of health benefits and extra flavor.
If you are not a tea drinker there are other ways to reap the benefits of Matcha Green Tea by using the powder in different recipes. Get your download of two great recipes we thought you might like to try:
Green Tea Cupcakes & Green Tea cookies. Try them today!
Remember the suggestion of 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables?
While eating 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables is good if you currently are not eating daily fruits and vegetables, and sadly many fall short of this guideline, eating 10 servings will be even better for your heart!
Eating 10 portions of fruits and vegetables per day was tied to a:
· Reduced risk of heart disease by 24 percent
· Reduced risk of stroke by 33 percent.
· Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease by 28 percent.
· Reduced risk of cancer by 13 percent.
· Reduction in premature death by 31 percent.
Some fruits and vegetables are better than others. For example, apples and pears; citrus fruits; salads and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and chicory; and cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower may all help in the prevention of heart disease, stroke, and possible early death.
Research also shows that green vegetables, such as spinach or green beans; yellow vegetables, such as peppers and carrots; and cruciferous vegetables may help reduce cancer risk.
The whole package of beneficial nutrients you obtain by eating fruits and vegetables is crucial to your health. It is why it is important to eat whole plant foods to get the benefit, instead of taking antioxidants or vitamin supplements.
10 servings a day may seem like a lot, especially for people who don’t like the texture, taste or smell of vegetables and fruits, but there are some great ways to try and work them into your daily routine. It may take some planning, but with daily focus it should be able to become a habit.
One idea is to not rely on just eating vegetables at dinner. Try and shoot for three or four servings of vegetables with both lunch and dinner, and one or two servings of vegetables and fruit with breakfast and snacks.
Another great idea is spending time immediately after grocery shopping to do some quick cooking and chopping of vegetables and fruits and putting serving portions in plastic bags or containers.
Also, remember that little trick they suggest for getting kids to eat their vegetables? Hiding the veggies in their food? Well, you just might have to do that to yourself if you can’t get yourself to eat your fruit and vegetables. So, make a pasta dish, and toss in some berries, broccoli or spinach. Instead of flavoring with dressings and dips use fruits and vegetables. Freezing fruit is also a great way to enjoy a cold treat and reap the nutritional benefits. Have you tried cauliflower rice? Another great way to substitute with a vegetable instead of a carb.
And even though both fruits and vegetables are important in your diet, try and go lighter on the fruit and heavier on the vegetables because of the higher sugar content and calories in fruit.
No matter what new fad diet comes out, or whether there is a new superfood of the month , fruits and vegetables are undeniably a part of a healthy diet, so getting as much as you can in your diet will lead to you living a longer life.
In a world of a near future of self-driving cars & Artificial intelligence, we are also learning more and more things about our bodies.
Here comes in your Microbiota.
Your Microbiota which consists of Bacteria and Microbes makes up about 3 pounds of your body weight (that is about the same as what your brain weighs). Microbes are bacteria and other tiny critters not visible to the naked eye but numbering in the trillions – and are busy in your body. Most of these microbes benefit you while others have the potential to cause harm.
With the newest discoveries in research of our bodies, we now realize that the Microbiota performs functions that could impact the functioning of our bodies, many which we don’t even know of yet.
One that we do know is that a disruption of the normal human gut microbiota is associated with many different health conditions, such as asthma, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer, among others. Scientists are still trying to figure out what role the microbiota plays in these conditions, but what is clear is that is it wise to do your best to support a healthy microbiota.
So first, starting with your gut Microbiota, eating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt with “good bacteria” may be the first way that comes to mind or shaping the makeup of your gut microbiota. The only problem is that probiotics are not a one-size-fits-all. Certain benefits associated with probiotics, such as supporting immunity or easing constipation which are specific to certain strains of bacteria.
Another great way to “Influence” your gut microbiota is by changing what you “feed” the bacteria and research has shown the diversity of the gut microbiota matters. For example, the diet consumed by most in the U.S. consuming a typical Western diet, is usually low in fiber and high in processed foods is generally less diverse than in people in other areas of the country who have more fiber intake.
Studies are now showing that the more fiber you consume, especially if from a wide range of plant foods, the more diverse your gut microbiota will be, and as noted previously, the healthier your gut microbiota the less likely you will suffer from health conditions such as allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and others.
Researchers suggest trying to eat more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. When it comes to vegetables it is best to eat the rainbow – getting a variety of colorful plant foods.
Other tip is to focus on eating whole plant foods rather than purchasing supplements or other special food products.
Here are a few really great fruits and vegetables specifically with prebiotics:
So how can you insure your Microbiota is functioning at its Best?
Make Healthy eating a habit
What you eat day in and day out is what impacts your microbiota most.
Eat a wide variety of plant foods
Challenge yourself to try fruits and vegetables you’ve never tried before. Check what is in season for best flavor and availability and pick up something different every time you shop.
Choose whole grains instead of refined grains
The higher fiber content of whole grains supports the gut microbiota, among other digestive benefits.
Meet your Fiber quota
On average, women should strive for at least 25 grams of dietary fiber a day; men, 38 grams. Increase intake gradually by eating more whole plant foods (vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes), and drink plenty of water.
I particularly want to focus on trying those vegetables I have never tried before. I challenge you to pick up a new vegetable your next trip to the supermarket. If you have an internet connection you should be able to easily find some kind of recipe to make with whatever vegetable you decide to try.
A compassionate doctor. An early, insightful diagnosis. Effective drugs and treatments that work, with minimal side effects. You deserve all this – and more – from your health care system.
But the reality can be far different: Your doctor’s appointment may be shorter than a television commercial break; your physician may interrupt you and have no interest in listening to you; in the hospital, the doctors and nurses who care for you may forget to wash their hands – raising your risk for a hospital-acquired infection; and you may receive prescriptions that cause unwanted side effects or that interact with other medications and remedies you’re taking. Like any service industry, there are many terrific doctors and hospitals, but plenty of mediocre ones, too, and, on any given day, someone is going to make a mistake.
But there is the other side of the health-care equation. As patients, we don’t always hold up our end of the bargain. Studies show that half of us don’t take prescription drugs as directed, and many of us skip them entirely. One in three of us are reluctant to ask questions. And many of us withhold important information from the doctor, either intentionally of without giving it a second thought. In the end we are ultimately responsible for our health. You need to be the CEO of your healthcare.
Your first step in making sure you receive top quality health care? Believe that you deserve it. Your second step? Follow these strategies to get the care you need – and deserve.
The first thing to focus on is getting doctor visits that work. Here are the strategies to achieve this.
Study up before your visit
Research your medical condition and concerns by reading reputable web sites. Generally, government health web sites and those maintained by medical associations, large nonprofit groups dedicated to a single medical condition, and university medical centers have the most trustworthy, up-to-date medical information. Make notes and create questions. You shouldn’t try to diagnose your symptoms or self-prescribe your remedies. It’s still up to your doctor to do that.
Make a list of questions, and then prioritize them
Doing this you will feel more confident when talking with your doctor – and you’ll get the answers and information you need. In one review if 33 office visit studies, researchers found that people who brought checklists even got more time with their doctors.
Feel intimidated? Try asking your spouse or other relative or friend to play doctor while you voice your health concerns, and ask every question on your list, out loud. The best time to do this is in the hours just before your appointment.
Bring a family member along
Another person who knows about your health and your concerns can help you listen carefully, take notes, ask the right questions, and even help you make important decisions during a doctor’s appointment.
Carry a tape recorder
Replaying an audio tape of your visit could assist you in better understanding instructions and information that you may have missed or not fully understood at the time. Just let the doctor know you are recording for that purpose.
Bring in your current medications
Toss all your prescription drugs as well as herbal supplements, vitamins, and over-the-counter remedies and bring them all in a shopping bag with you to your appointment. This will help your doctor understand if you’re experiencing any problems with drug interactions or if you’re taking any drugs you really don’t need.
Be sure your doctor knows these three important things about you:
Finally, evaluate your doctor. You are not obligated to stay with a certain physician if you don’t feel they are a good match for you. Patients who don’t trust their doctors simply don’t get well as quickly, studies show, probably because they’re less motivated to follow their advice and treatments. Ask to see another doctor in the same practice, or ask friends and family for recommendations for a new doctor.
If you have COPD chances are good that your doctor has prescribed various medications and programs to help you cope. But there are simple lifestyle improvements you can make to battle back against the disease.
Ventilate your indoor spaces
High levels of indoor air pollution caused by smoking, indoor fires, and indoor toxins can significantly exacerbate COPD symptoms, say researchers from Aberdeen, Scotland. The scientists measured concentrations of indoor air pollutants in the homes of 148 people with COPD. They found that indoor air pollution levels were up to four times the levels that experts say is acceptable. The higher the levels of indoor air pollution, the worse the individual’s COPD. As expected, the highest pollution levels were found in homes in which someone smoked.
Get at least 20 minutes a day of moderately intense exercise
It could be riding a stationary bicycle, briskly walking, or swimming. Not only will this improve your breathing capabilities but, chances are, you’ll fell sharper mentally afterward. That’s what researchers from Ohio State University found when they evaluated the effects of just one session of exercise on 58 adults, half with COPD and half healthy. The COPD group was able to process and retain information better than before they exercised, while the healthy subjects didn’t show any improvement. The improvements in the COPD group was probably due to the fact that the exercise increased their lung capacity- sending more oxygen to their brains. The healthy group already had good lung capacity; a 20 minute exercise session wasn’t going to affect that much for them. A follow up study in which participants were tracked for a year found that those who continued exercising maintained their cognitive gains, while those who didn’t lost physical, cognitive, and psychological functioning.
Pop some Fish oil
Two grams a day should do it. Take half in the morning and half in the evening. When Japanese researchers had 64 people with COPD supplement their diets with about 400 calories a day of an omega-3 rich supplement or one without omega-3 fatty acids for two years, they found numerous indicators of improved lung function in the omega-3 group, with no change in the placebo group. They also found much lower levels of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines in the omega-3 group. Omega-3 fatty acids are potent anti-inflammatories; their ability to quell the inflammation of COPD likely prevented further lung damage during the study.
Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight puts more pressure on your heart and lungs, increasing breathlessness. It also makes it harder to exercise. But being underweight – a common problem as COPD progresses and eating a full meal becomes more difficult – is linked to an increased risk of death. You should aim for a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or 26. If you’re having trouble maintaining your weight:
With increased awareness you have the ability to prevent COPD, so make sure you also read my previous blog for the best ways to prevent COPD.
Who wants to lose the ability to breathe? As with so many other serious health conditions, the answer to that question is determined by how you choose to live each day. Lead a healthy, energized life, and the chances of COPD ever entering your life will be remote.
Here are some specific ways you can prevent COPD from entering your life.
Of course, we can say this enough. Cigarettes are by far the number one cause of COPD. There are so many arguments for quitting, and this is yet another big one.
Stick to smoke free bars and restaurants
Even if you don’t smoke, being around people who do significantly increases your risk of COPD. Chinese researchers estimated that the equivalent of 40 hours per week of such “passive smoking” for five years made people who never smoked nearly 50 percent more likely to develop COPD than those who weren’t around the smoke.
Follow a Mediterranean diet
This approach to eating, with its emphasis on fruits, vegetables, healthy oils, fish, and whole grains, can reduce your risk of COPD by 25 percent. In contrast, following a typical American diet high in refined grains, cured and red meats, desserts, and French Fries increases the risk by 31 percent. Meanwhile, other studies find that diets high in starches and sodium also significantly increase risk of developing COPD. The Mediterranean diet’s anti-inflammatory effects may be one reason for its impact on COPD risks.
Exercise, particularly aerobic exercises like walking, biking, or swimming, help your lungs become more efficient at providing your body with the oxygen it needs. Not only do your heart and lungs benefit by the more robust breathing but so do all the muscles and connective tissues in and around your lungs. If you get winded easily, it’s time to take daily walks and build up your aerobic fitness.
Become a healthy breather
Too many people take lots of small breaths as they go about their business. Rapid breathing also becomes the norm in stressful times. But for better lung health – and overall health, for that matter – learn to breath more deeply and less frequently. Inhale through your nose slowly and fully; your chest and abdomen should move together. If only your chest moves, your breathing is too shallow. Exhaling should take twice as long as inhaling. The more you clear your lungs out with strong exhalations, the healthier and fuller your inhalations, will be! While there’s no agreed upon standard, try to reduce the number of breaths you take in a minute to just six. Deep breathing not only improves lung function but can also lower blood pressure and provide relaxation, even in stressful times.
Are you already suffering from COPD? There is a good chance if you are your doctor has already prescribed you various medications and programs to help you. Come back on Wednesday for some simple lifestyle improvements you can also do to help you manage your COPD.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is called the forgotten killer and is currently the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and the fifth leading cause of death in the world. In Canada, it kills more women than breast cancer. And throughout North America, it’s the only common cause of death still increasing in prevalence. Yet when is the last time you heard of a fundraiser to fight off this forgotten killer?
COPD is a collection of chronic lung diseases, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, that clocks the airways and restricts oxygen flow throughout the body. The condition has long been linked with cigarette smoking, and smoking does remain its top cause. But researchers now know that some cases of COPD are also the result of exposure to dust, fumes, and secondhand smoke; decades of living with asthma; poor diet; and even a wily bacteria that shifts just enough to continually outwit the antibiotics used to vanquish it.
Researcher also think COPD is more than just a disease of the lungs. In an editorial in the British medical Journal The Lancet, doctors from the Netherlands and Italy suggested that in many people, COPD is part of a cluster of conditions, all related to chronic inflammation in the body. This systemic inflammation is likely responsible for the high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary artery disease, heart failure, and even cancer that tend to exist along with COPD. They recommend that people with at least three of the following be diagnosed with what they call Chronic Systemic Inflammation syndrome, not just a single disease:
Other evidence that COPD is often part of a broader syndrome comes from researchers in Great Britain, who found that people with the disease develop arterial stiffness, or atherosclerosis, far earlier than those without COPD. The researchers also found high levels of inflammatory chemicals in the arteries of people with COPD. All of which adds up to one thing: COPD, whether on its own or part of a cluster of conditions, is scary stuff.
Symptoms of COPD include breathing difficulty, cough, mucus (sputum) production and wheezing. COPD symptoms often don't appear until significant lung damage has occurred, and they usually worsen over time, particularly if smoking exposure continues. For chronic bronchitis, the main symptom is a daily cough and mucus (sputum) production at least three months a year for two consecutive years.
Other signs and symptoms of COPD may include:
People with COPD are also likely to experience episodes called exacerbations, during which their symptoms become worse than usual day-to-day variation and persist for at least several days.
The good news is that COPD is preventable and is treatable. In my next blog I will give you 5 ways to prevent COPD, so come back on Monday to find out what they are.
Are you already struggling with insulin resistance or diabetes? These six tips have been shown to have a wonderfully stabilizing effect on blood sugar levels.
On cereal, low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt, even over fruit. The fragrant herb contains numerous compounds called polyphenolic polymers that improve your cell’s ability to use glucose, enabling them to pull more out of your bloodstream. It doesn’t take much; in one study from the United States Department of Agriculture, less than a ½ teaspoon a day for 40 days significantly reduced blood sugar levels in 60 people with type 2 diabetes.
Switch to Soba
Instead of pasta, ladle you tomato sauce and turkey meatballs over soba noodles, made with buckwheat. Canadian researchers found extracts of the grain reduced blood glucose levels by 12 to 19 percent in diabetic rats, and a similar affect appears to occur with people. You can find soba noodles in the Oriental food section of supermarkets.
Pop some cherries
These sweet-and-sour fruits are filled with powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins that can increase insulin production up to 50 percent, according to animal studies.
Get a good night’s sleep
If you don’t get enough sleep, or you toss and turn all night, don’t be surprised to find your blood sugar levels higher than normal the next day. One study of 161 people with type 2 diabetes found 67 percent had poor sleep quality. Lack of sleep and poor sleep wreaks havoc with a multitude of hormones responsible for metabolizing glucose and regulating appetite, studies find so much so that some researchers suggest our 24/7 society may, in part, be contributing to the current diabetes epidemic.
Try Tai Chi
Researchers from Taiwan had 32 people with type 2 diabetes participate in a 12-week tai chi program. The Ancient Chinese martial art uses a combination of movement and breathing exercises to strengthen the body and mind. After 12 weeks, participants showed a significant decrease in their A1c levels, a marker of glucose levels, over time, and fewer pro-inflammatory chemicals.
Another study, this one from the University of Queensland in Australia, involved 12 people with type 2 diabetes who practiced Qigong and Tai Chi three times a week for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, participants’ blood sugar levels had significantly improved, and they’d lost weight, were sleeping better, and had more energy.
Eat protein with Breakfast
Breakfast is usually an important part of the day to balance blood sugar. If you are not hungry for breakfast, it indicates that you may suffer slow digestion. It can also be a sign that your stress hormones are out of whack. When we skip breakfast, the body increases production of stress hormones and starts to break down muscle for energy. It’s a very stressful situation for the body and wreaks havoc on blood sugar balance for the rest of the day. Focus on fat and protein at breakfast, rather than carbs.
Are you unsure if you are struggling with blood sugar issues? Any time you are experiencing abnormal symptoms you should make a visit to your doctor as well as annual checkups. Some symptoms to specifically watch for are things like feeling hungrier or more fatigue than usual with no obvious reason. Also being thirstier, or peeing more often. Blurred vision can also be a sign for some people. Try and schedule checkups regularly and request to get lab work done at these visits to make sure every is in check.
Once you have diabetes, you become subject to a range of complications as you age with it, including blindness, chronic nerve pain, nerve damage, incontinence, impotence, memory loss and, of course, the biggie: heart disease. If you have diabetes, you’re more likely to have a heart attack than a lifelong smoker – even if you never took a puff yourself. Diabetes is also the strongest predictor of functional decline in older people, that is, handling the day-to-day task of life like walking, dressing, or housecleaning. You’re more likely to be depressed or to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. And it means you’re likely to be in the hospital and require other medical services at twice the rate of people your same age without diabetes.
The answer? Prevent Diabetes!
6 Ways to prevent Diabetes
The good news is that insulin resistance and, in some cases, type 2 diabetes can be reversed through generally healthy living. The following tips have been proven in studies to have particularly strong preventative powers.
Strengthen your muscles
Work out with hand weights, six days a week. It’s the best thing you can do to prevent diabetes! Every time you stress muscles cells with strength training, you increase their need for glucose, thus reducing insulin resistance. The more muscle you build, the more glucose they need. That means more insulin receptors on cells, and less glucose in your bloodstream.
Maintain your level of activity
If you’re using aerobic activities like walking, playing tennis, and bicycling to maintain healthy glucose levels, don’t let up. When you’re young, the boost in insulin sensitivity you get from one bout of aerobic exercise can last up to four days. But once you pass age 40, that boost has a shorter and shorter time span. That makes it crucial that you get some type of activity most every day.
A compound in black, green, and oolong tea called epigallocatechin gallate substantially increases the ability of cells to take in insulin. Just skip the milk; adding just a teaspoon of 2 percent milk reduced that benefit by a third. Also stay away from nondairy creamers and soy milk, which also significantly reduced the benefits.
Get your grains
Whole grains – whether wheat, quinoa, rice, rye, or oats – should be considered diabetes prevention in a plant. Because these grains haven’t been stripped of nutrients containing components and fiber, they pack a powerful nutritional punch. How powerful? A study of nearly 43,000 male health professionals found those who had the greatest amount of whole grains in their diets were 42 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who got the least amount of grains. Whole grains’ benefits likely come from their ability to slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream, thus tempering that post-meal insulin spike. Studies find diets high in fiber naturally improve insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin secretion.
Load up on Magnesium
Found in high amounts in whole grains (yet another reason for that morning bowl of oatmeal), magnesium influences the release and activity of insulin, and plays a role in your body’s ability to use carbohydrates. When blood sugar levels are high, your body loses magnesium. Numerous studies, including two that followed more than 170,000 health professionals for up to 18 years, found that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes was much higher in men and women with low dietary levels of magnesium than in those with high levels. Other good sources include halibut, almonds, cashews, soybeans, and spinach. Just an ounce of almonds or cashews provides 20 percent of your recommended daily intake of magnesium.
When researchers evaluated the diets of 69,554 women ages 38 to 63 over 10 years, they found that every 3-ounce serving of red meat increases the risk of diabetes by 26 percent, with an increased risk of 73 percent for every serving of processed meats (bacon, hot dogs, lunchmeat, and so forth) Lean chicken had no such affect.
If you are already struggling with insulin resistance or diabetes, come back for my next blog post on strategies to stabilize your blood sugar.
If you haven’t heard the word “epidemic” linked to the word “diabetes,” then you’ve clearly chosen to avoid TV news, the newspaper, or even the Internet. For few health stories have gotten so much coverage in the recent years – and validly so – than the growing menace of type 2, or “adult-onset” diabetes.
As the World Health Organization puts it, “Diabetes is a common condition and its frequency is dramatically rising all over the world.” Today at least 171 million people worldwide have the disease, a figure likely to more than double by 2030 as populations age. And just who are these people? Primarily, those “above the age of retirement” according to the World Health Organization. In other words, older people . In fact, one out of five people age 75 and older have diabetes.
But let’s be clear: Diabetes is not merely a side effect of aging. Yes, it’s true that as we age, our bodies become less efficient at producing and using glucose and insulin – the two key factors in type 2 diabetes. But this natural decline isn’t enough to cause the disease. Instead, look at the other major lifestyle issues of our time.
But how do you “get” diabetes? By eating too many candy corn? Eating a plateful of Halloween sugar cookies? How does your body get so messed up?
Not too long ago, many people – and doctors – blamed a diet high in sugar as the cause of type 2 diabetes. Today, we know that’s not the real issue (though, yes, eating lots of refined sugar and refined carbohydrates does cause troublesome peaks and valleys in your blood sugar amounts that makes diabetes problems worse). More recently doctors have shown that being overweight is a major risk factor for the disease.
But here’s the breakthrough news, based on an increasing body of evidence: The amount you exercise – not just how much you eat – in large part determines your risk of developing diabetes or its precursor, insulin resistance. Put simply sedentary living, coupled with excess body weight, are the real culprits. And you control both!
To prevent diabetes, then, you need to take action. And the first step is to become educated about the disease.
Understanding Insulin Resistance
To start, there are two types of diabetes. Type 1 starts in childhood and is usually related to a malfunctioning pancreas. It requires a lifetime of careful management, and often, daily insulin injections. Type 2 is far more common, and is the form of diabetes that is rising in epidemic proportions, due in large part to the growing unhealthiness of our daily lives.
Type 2 diabetes usually progresses along a predictable pattern. Before there is diabetes, there is insulin resistance. It works like this. Every time you eat, your body signals “beta” cells in your pancreas that it’s time to pump out the hormone insulin. Insulin’s job is to shepherd the energy extracted from your food – in the form of glucose, commonly called blood sugar – into each living cell of your body.
Insulin does this in a kind of lock-and-key process by fitting into molecules on the surface of cells called insulin receptors. Once “unlocked” the cell does its energy exchange, either pulling in glucose from the bloodstream to use or store, or sending out stored energy – in the form of either fat or glycogen (the stored form of glucose) – to be used by other parts of your body when they have depleted their own energy stores.
Once a cell if filled with fat or glycogen, or if the cell has been inactive for a long time, it moves the insulin receptors deep within, effectively making it impossible for insulin to reach them. But as the cell uses up its energy stores, it becomes thinner, and those insulin receptors move to the cell’s surface again. And the cycle resumes, with the receptors ready to bond with insulin and usher in more glucose to the cell.
But if you’re overweight and/or sedentary, more of those insulin receptors stay hidden within the cell. The result? Glucose and insulin build up in the bloodstream. Those high levels of glucose signal the beta cells in your pancreas to pump out more and more insulin, vainly trying to move that glucose into cells. Eventually, thanks to sheer numbers, some insulin links up with insulin receptors and some glucose gets in. But this process gets more difficult every year, until, finally, your beta cells wear out like an overworked engine. Next thing you know, your body lacks the capacity to make enough insulin to carry energy to all your cells. And that is why many people with diabetes need insulin shots.
The relatively simply relationship between glucose and insulin becomes more complex as you age because of the presence of a second hormone called glucagon. While pancreatic beta cells react to high glucose levels by issuing insulin, their neighbors, alpha cells, react to low glucose levels by issuing glucagon. This hormone gloms onto receptors in the liver, telling it to release glucose into the bloodstream to provide energy for the rest of the body.
The thing is, alpha cells only learn about the state of the blood glucose levels from signals they received from beta cells. In older people with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, communication breaks downs between alpha and beta cells in the pancreas. So even while beta cells are releasing insulin in response to high blood glucose levels, alpha cells are releasing glucagon, stimulating even more glucose to be release into the bloodstream. You can see where this would become a real mess. And this mess is called diabetes.
Whew! That was a long, but important, explanation of how diabetes happens. In my next blog I will return with some strategies to prevent Diabetes so you can prevent this explained “mess” above from happening to you.
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