Diabetes is the most rapidly-growing disease diagnosed in the United States. According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that 180 million people worldwide currently have diabetes. It is estimated that by 2030, this number will have more than doubled. In American alone, 1.5 million people are diagnosed with diabetes on an annual basis. It is estimated that 84.1 million Americans over the age of 18 are currently dealing with pre-diabetes. Characterized by high blood sugar, high insulin, increased belly fat, and decreased muscle mass, diabetes is a disease that slowly (in some cases rapidly) decreases someone's quality of life and eventually causes death or makes it more likely for the sufferer to develop heart disease or die of a heart attack. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, diabetes increases the risk of death (from anything else) by 1.8 times. They also report that diabetes increases the risk of dying from cancer by 1.25 times, the risk of dying from a vascular incident (heart attack, stroke, etc.) by 2.32 times.
Why is diabetes so closely linked with increased mortality? When we eat, our body has to break our food down to glucose, which it can use as energy. Glucose has to get into our cells for energy usage--this is the job of insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas to move glucose into our cells so our bodies have the fuel they need to function. Diabetes develops when there is an abundance of glucose in our bloodstream on a consistent basis (eating too much sugar or foods that easily convert to sugar (grain and dairy) without enough protein and fat). Glucose in our bloodstream triggers insulin production, but if the body is constantly in a state in which blood glucose levels are high, insulin production in essence burns out........the body is no longer able to produce the proper insulin levels to keep up with glucose in the blood stream. Blood sugar remains high which leads to cellular damage (inflammation), hardened arteries, and damage globally within the body.
The medical community offers the answers of medication and some ideas for dietary changes, but in essence, their rates of success in helping someone deal with diabetes, or increasing their chances of healing from diabetes are very low. Patients often come to us frustrated, feeling very ill, or wanting answers to change their situation and have received very little help in improving their situation. Often they have been told to use artificial sweeteners, which studies have shown have terrible side-effects in terms of decreasing the good bacteria in the gut and increasing inflammation. This is not a path of success. My MD friends have confided in me that they do not have the time or the training to help a diabetic improve their situation long-term.
This is where 8 Weeks to Wellness comes into play. 8 Weeks to Wellness is a holistic system designed to help someone improve how they move, think, and eat in order to change their lifestyle, improve their quality of life, as well as prevent and heal disease. So, what are 7 ways that 8 Weeks to Wellness changes diabetes?
1. Drs. Scott and Leah Hahn, D.C., who manage one of the two Colorado 8 Weeks to Wellness Centers at Body In Balance Wellness Center in Golden, have access to, read, and interpret advanced blood work to determine the proper program for someone dealing with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Patients coming to Body In Balance may bring blood work ordered by their doctor that has fasting blood sugar, a standard cholesterol panel, as well as Hemoglobin A1c (HgA1c). Drs. Scott and Leah will often order additional blood work that includes fasting insulin, inflammatory factors such as hs-CRP and homocysteine. Especially for someone with pre-diabetes, fasting insulin combined with fasting blood sugar and HgA1c allows the doctors to know how advanced the diabetes is and/or how fast it is progressing. If insulin is increasing, but blood sugar looks only slightly elevated, diabetes is imminent if action isn't taken. Inflammatory factors like homocysteine and hs-CRP demonstrate increased risk of heart disease. All of this taken into account can determine what lifestyle factors need to be shifted in order for a patient to heal.
2. In terms of changing diabetes, implementing a diet with an anti-inflammatory approach is key. Eating poor quality food packed with preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and low nutrient levels may lead to weight loss, but can cause incredible damage to an already weakened body. At Body In Balance, our doctors and nutrition coaches make sure our patients with diabetes are educated on an approach to eating that will actually help their cells heal, shift their blood sugar/insulin response, as well as give them energy! This includes lots of vegetables, quality sources of protein, some fruit, and plenty of healthy sources of fats. Research on the results of the typical dietary guidelines used for the 8WW program include stabilizing blood sugar, decreasing triglycerides by 75%, increasing HDL (good) cholesterol, improving weight loss, as well as waist circumference (losing inches off of the waist).
Our doctors use medical-grade nutritional supplements customized for the patient's blood work. In this way, the doctors can provide high levels of nutrients that support stabilizing blood sugar, building muscle mass, shifting blood work (decreasing triglycerides, cholesterol, and fasting blood sugar), and decreasing inflammation. Because the doctors use blood work before and after the 8 Weeks to Wellness program, they can see the improvements (most often drastic) in blood work values (numbers do not lie).
3. Stress plays a significant role in the development and management of diabetes, as well as the healing process. When we experience stress, our bodies produce cortisol, which increases blood sugar. When people deal with chronic stress and cortisol levels remain high for extended time periods, blood sugar is typically elevated, weight gain occurs around the middle (dangerous visceral fat) and sleep is affected. This combination can lead to chronic inflammation and diabetes (as well as uncomfortable weight gain). In order for someone to prevent, heal, or deal with diabetes, better strategies for stress management must be implemented (and become habit). As I have told so many patients, we cannot always control the stress in our lives, but we can change how our bodies (and minds) deal with the stress. Meditation and mindfulness practices are an important component to the 8WW program. These practices are implemented gradually until they become a patient's new way of being. In combination, gentle Network Spinal Analysis adjustments, therapeutic massage as well as consistent exercise (both tailored to the patient's needs) are also combined into a patient's individualized program. The combination of these practices allows for consistent stress relief. With the combination of meditation, patients learn strategies for managing and improving their stress levels long-term.
4. The health of a patient's spine has to be an important consideration in designing an 8WW program, especially due to the fact that diabetes creates and maintains an inflammatory response in a patient's body. Osteoarthritis, muscular inflammation, and pain are often a reality for a diabetic or pre-diabetic. In order for a patient to heal, movement must become an important part of a diabetic's routine. When we move improperly, we actually cause injury, increase inflammation, and can cause joint damage, increasing pain. When we start a patient with the 8WW program, we analyze the spine for proper and improper patterns of movement through a Functional Movement Screen, use surface Electromyography scans and spinal thermography to analyze patterns of neurological imbalance as well as use Xrays to evaluate structural misalignments, osteoarthritis, and/or spinal issues that need to be healed and/or changed. This type of work is highly researched and also has been shown to improve the patient's quality of life, improve spinal pain, improve the immune system, as well as the patient's handling of emotional stress and self esteem. NSA adjustments decrease the activity of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight, cortisol-increasing physiology) which thereby can decrease blood sugar as well as stress in general. With so many benefits, and such a gentle approach, NSA care is the foundation of success of the 8WW program. When you heal from the inside out, versus just applying external factors, you are creating a foundation of success for truly changing your body, mind, and spirit.
5. So many patients tell the doctors that each day they wake with great intentions to exercise. Their to-do list, life demands, and stress can easily take over, and another day passes without exercise. Whether or not a patient is overweight, blood sugar and overall health are affected by muscle mass in ratio to fat mass. Here is the disturbing piece of information: recent research has shown that the number one factor in determining how you will age is how much muscle mass you have. Think of your stability, mobility, agility, bone health--even how your clothes fit. This all depends on how much muscle mass you have. In terms of diabetes, I have worked with overweight diabetic patients, as well as "skinny fat" diabetic patients. "Skinny fat" diabetic patients refer to people who have a body-mass index in normal ranges (meaning his or her weight compared to his or her height is in a normal range). When this patient's body fat levels are monitored, it is found that for their age, he or she has increased fat on their body and too little muscle. Usually high inflammatory levels accompany this type of physiology. In order to change this scenario, resistance exercise has to be done frequently in order to promote and maintain fat loss. The process of muscle building takes years, but a habit must be created, which can easily be created in 8 weeks. Resistance exercise is what will change the shape of someone's body, will actually decrease inflammation, as well as build muscle and strength. In our programs, resistance exercise is combined with cardiovascular exercise and mobility work. This combination is like magic--it helps to build metabolism, lean body tissue, cardiovascular health, flexibility, and the ability to hike, bike, swim, play tennis--whatever the patients' goals are, without injury.
A huge blind spot in many popular weight loss programs that are highly advertised on TV is their lack of exercise. Without decreasing body fat, increasing muscle health and mass, as well as helping a patient's body heal and function better, the chances of a patient keeping weight off long term, or managing their blood sugar long term, is very low. Many of my diabetic patients that enter into 8WW have done programs like Weight Watchers for many years. These types of programs control calories, but not the quality of food or the amount of exercise a patient performs. This type of program leads to weight loss, but if monitored, it has been found that much of this weight loss is from muscle loss. When the patient returns to some of their "normal" eating practices, they have often lost so much muscle that their metabolism has declined further (muscle burns more calories than fat) and they gain even more weight than when they started their weight loss plan. Exercise is ESSENTIAL.
Most patients starting an 8WW program or any exercise program at our office need CUSTOMIZATION. Patients coming into our office have often not been able to exercise for a long time due to an injury or pain. If we threw a standard exercise program at this patient, they would most likely further injure themselves and have even more lack of motivation to start exercise. At Body In Balance, each patient's exercise program is customized to support the individual's needs, history, movement patterns, spinal health, strengths, and weaknesses. Our doctors communicate with our personal trainers to individualize a patient's work out, meeting an additional requirement for success--variation. Patients who do the same workout on a continual basis do not achieve muscle building or a change in their body's muscle mass. Our bodies adapt, so when a patient can do different workouts each session, working different muscles and increasing the resistance and weights used at each work out, they are able to quickly build muscle mass and change their inflammatory and blood sugar levels leading to long-term success.
6. For a diabetic patient, or any patient wishing to dramatically change his or her health, ACCOUNTABILITY is key. We can have many well-thought-out reasons to why we want to change; we may have all of the knowledge in the world of what we need to do to change, but without strong accountability to make that change, we may never actually do it. With a team of doctors, a health coach, personal trainers, and massage therapists, accountability is at every turn. It has been shown that about 5% of the population can make huge changes regarding their health alone. The other 95% need accountability to accompany their knowledge and reason why they want to change. Body In Balance provides accountability to its patients for success. This is why so many of our patients have gotten their diabetes under control without medications as well as how so many of our pre-diabetics no longer worry about their blood sugar issues--they are gone!
7. There is something to be said for convenience. In order to heal diabetes and pre-diabetes, you must learn to eat better, move better, and think better. Body In Balance does this all in one location--with our chiropractic healing center with doctors highly trained in Network Spinal Analysis, nutrition, blood work, and Functional Movement, as well as our personal trainers, health coach, and massage therapists, we all work as a team to help our patients achieve top-notch health. We just ask that our patients show up with a strong "why"--meaning, why do you want to change? Why do you not want to be diabetic? What will you lose or not be able to achieve if you are diabetic? What are you giving up?
Please know that the Body In Balance team is here to help! We communicate constantly about our patients to provide a team approach to success. Remember, our whole mission is to create "Health by Choice, Not by Chance."
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