There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2.  In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system is not functioning properly and attacks the cells that produce insulin.  In type 2 diabetes, cells that respond to insulin become resistant to it.  Insulin allows sugar to enter into cells, so this means that diabetics who are untreated will have elevated blood sugar.  This is an unhealthy state because it causes a wide range of symptoms and can lead to potentially fatal consequences.

The classic symptoms of diabetes are increased thirst, increased hunger, and increased frequency of urination.  Other common symptoms include fatigue, weight changes, eye problems, foot problems, and heart problems.  Sometimes numbness and tingling will occur in limbs. 

Symptoms usually occur earlier in life for type 1 diabetics and tend to progress slowly in type 2 diabetics.  If left untreated, diabetes can lead to heart attacks, strokes, or kidney problems.

As with any disorder, it is important to have symptoms evaluated by a doctor so that an accurate diagnosis can be made. In diabetes, elevated blood sugar is commonly used to support a diagnosis. Your doctor should monitor your blood sugar levels using regular screening tests or if you have risk factors. A family history of diabetes is a risk factor.

The goals of treatment in diabetes include reducing insulin resistance, regulating blood sugar, achieving healthy weight, and preventing complications. Type 1 diabetics are treated with insulin injections.  Type 2 diabetics are commonly treated with medications that help decrease blood sugar levels.  Like all medications, these are accompanied with possible side effects such as diarrhea, pain, nausea, and skin rashes.

Although it is impossible to prevent type 1 diabetes, numerous studies have shown that type 2 diabetes can be prevented and delayed by the use of diet and lifestyle measures. Regular physical activity is one of the most powerful preventative therapies. Weight loss is also extremely important in helping prevent type 2 diabetes.

Naturopathic doctors are well-trained and are able to provide patients with excellent treatment options for diabetes. They utilize modalities such as nutrition, lifestyle counselling, botanical medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, and homeopathy. Many scientific studies have validated the use of naturopathic treatments for helping achieve optimal health for diabetics.

One example of a nutritional treatment is the supplementation of the element chromium. Chromium supplementation has been shown to improve blood sugar levels in diabetics. Studies have shown chromium to be safe and effective, and generally without any significant side effects.  Another example of a therapy used by naturopathic doctors is a herb called gymnema sylvestre.  Studies have shown that gymnema has the ability to decrease blood sugar as well.  Like chromium, the studies using gymnema have not shown any side effects caused by its use.

These are only some of the therapies used by naturopathic doctors for the treatment of diabetes. Treatment plans are individualized because every person experiences diabetes differently. Naturopathic doctors also use various therapies to manage the complications of diabetes. A comprehensive treatment plan that includes diet modification, exercise and other medications is the best way to regulate blood sugar and manage diabetes.