|March 8, 2018||2|
Modern man is lucky to have things he didn’t have just a couple of hundred years ago. Electricity and running water in the home. Appliances that make life easier and more convenient. And technology that helps keep him informed and connected 24/7.
But with the good things come the bad; namely, modern man is plagued with diseases that were not found in our ancestors. Disease like heart disease, obesity, cancer and type 2 diabetes were not found in primitive cultures, but have reached epidemic proportions in the last couple of decades and afflict millions of people worldwide.
Type 2 diabetes, in particular, has become a modern plague, leading to blindness, amputation, kidney failure, and early death, as well as severely decreasing the quality of a person’s life.
The Truth About Sugar and Diabetes
By now most people understand the association between consuming large amounts of refined sugar and carbohydrates (as well as processed foods and fake fats ), and the development of type 2 diabetes. Too much sugar causes blood glucose levels to skyrocket, which causes the pancreas to have to pump out high levels of insulin to process that glucose. Over time, our pancreas gets beat up, and our cells become resistant to insulin, and we must support this natural metabolic process through artificial means, like medications and injected insulin.
But this is only one pathway to diabetes. There is evidence showing the development of type 2 diabetes may also stem from certain types of sugar’s effect on the liver.
“One of the key challenges with the management of NAFLD is that not only are the vast majority of patients with early disease asymptomatic, but a substantial proportion of those with serious liver disease also display either no symptoms or only vague, non-specific ones. Such symptoms, if present, may include fatigue and general lassitude, and a small minority may report abdominal pain in the right upper quadrant.” – Patric Wainwright.
Fructose and Your Liver are Not Friends
When we talk about sugar, we’re actually talking about several different molecules: glucose, galactose, and fructose. Glucose can be metabolized by every cell in the body and, if we don’t get it from our diet, our bodies make it.
Fructose, however, can only be metabolized by the liver, because only the liver has a transporter for it. Athletes can generally eat quite a bit of fructose without having any health issues because their livers turn the fructose into glycogen, a storage form of glucose in the liver. Being very active, athletes would burn through the glycogen making room for more.
But those people who aren’t as active… their livers are perpetually full of glycogen. So, what happens when they consume more fructose (readily found in most processed foods)? The fructose will be turned into fat.
Some of the fat is released from the liver and accounts for blood triglycerides, while much of the fat remains in the liver, causing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. At the exact same time as your liver is getting fat, it is also becoming insulin resistant. This combination causes elevated insulin throughout your body, leading to obesity, metabolic syndrome and other diseases.
After some time, the pancreas becomes unable to secrete sufficient insulin to get all of that glucose into your cells, and eventually, you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
It’s Time to Love Your Liver
Because of the definite links between diabetes and liver disease, it’s important that everyone, particularly those already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, focus on liver health. Overweight individuals, particularly those that carry much of that extra weight around their midsection, have the highest risk for developing liver disease, and they need to be extra diligent.
“People most at risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) are those who are overweight or obese, people living with diabetes, insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome and people who have high cholesterol or triglyceride levels. According to the American Liver Foundation, rapid weight loss and unhealthy eating habits can also contribute to NAFLD.” – Dr. Oz
While there are medications, such as metformin, which can improve insulin signaling in the liver, most of these come with their own set of nasty side effects and aren’t ideal as far as long-term management. There are, of course, natural ways to reduce the amount of fat in the liver.
Regular exercise can significantly reduce the amount of fat in and around the liver, as can calorie control. In a 2011 study from England, participants were restricted to a 600 calories per day. At the end of the study their liver was able to use up the excess fat and started functioning normally again. Other studies confirm the liver’s ability to heal itself when calories are restricted.
Even as a short-term solution, a restricted calorie diet may not be for everyone, so be sure to speak with your diabetes coach before attempting this approach.
As with other natural methodologies, the foods we eat can have significant positive results on combatting disease, and there are some foods that have shown to be effective in detoxing the liver and promoting health.
Grapefruit is high in vitamin C and other powerful antioxidants and increases the cleansing processes of the liver. Consider incorporating a few drops of grapefruit essential oil in your water first thing in the morning.
Green tea is full of plant antioxidants known as catechins, compounds known to assist liver function. While the actual tea offers many health benefits, the green tea extract is much higher in the helpful catechins.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are powerful allies in cleansing the liver. Plus, they’re delicious and versatile because they can be eaten raw, cooked, or juices. Leafy greens can neutralize heavy metals, chemicals and pesticides, allowing your liver to heal and function properly.
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or are overweight, it’s important to understand the connection between your overall health and the health of your liver. If you want to start really loving your liver, the best things you can do are to clean up your diet (cut out excessive sugars and processed foods), incorporate the foods listed above, and get plenty of exercise.