Herbal medicine and diabetes mellitus
The cause and symptoms of diabetes mellitus
Diabetes mellitus like most degenerative and metabolic diseases that are commonly seen in the elderly, have been on the increase especially in less developed nations of the world. One very important reason why this is so is because improved technology and medical diagnostic devices have been improved upon. It is therefore possible to accurately and precisely make diagnosis of these diseases. This has also come at a time when practitioners and stakeholders all over the world are getting more and more interested in and are applying herbal medicine in the treatment of the various kinds of diseases. As Time goes on and the impact of herbal medicine becomes more noticeable, no doubt, there will be a decrease in the incidence of these diseases.
Diabetes Mellitus (DM) is a metabolic disorder caused by failure of insulin to pump glucose into the cells of the body. The failure can be at the level of the cells where the cells do not respond to insulin by opening the door through which glucose passes into the cells. Insulin failure can also be due to complete or partial failure of the beta cells of the pancreas to produce insulin. The result will be total lack of insulin or not enough in circulation.
There are mainly two types of diabetes: Type 1 DM, which used to be known, as juvenile onset diabetes is common among young children. It is due to an autoimmune disorder whereby the immune system of an individual attacks and destroys the beta cells of the pancreas of the same individual. In this type of diabetes, there is no insulin in circulation at all and the individual must receive a short of insulin daily for life. Like the name implies, this type of diabetes is commonly seen among young children.
Type 2 DM, used to be known as adult onset diabetes mellitus and it affects mainly adults. It is a disorder that is associated with partial failure of the function of insulin. In this type of DM, the patients are not dependent on insulin. The orthodox medical practitioners treat them with drugs. This is the focus of our discussion and in alternative medicine; patients have done well with lifestyle and diet changes, exercise and natural supplements and now herbal medicine.
As I mentioned earlier, insulin, a hormone produced and secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas, it is responsible for moving glucose in the blood circulation into the cells either for energy production or storage as fat. What this means is that after every carbohydrate meal and the glucose level in the blood begins to rise, insulin production and release also start to increase. This insulin drives the glucose above the normal blood level of insulin into the cells. When that is done and the level of glucose in the blood returns to normal, insulin secretion stops.
Now, our meals in this part of the world are a high carbohydrate and high fat diet. The carbohydrate portion of what we eat is mainly starchy foods that have high glycaemic indices.
The glycaemic index of a nutrient is the rate at which such a nutrient is absorbed into the blood (or the rate at which a nutrient appears in the blood) and causes the release of insulin. These starchy nutrients with high glycaemic indices being the main stay of our diet cause a sudden release of insulin into the circulation. I am talking of foods such as white flour products, polished rice, pasta, yam, potatoes etc. These types of food cause what is known as an insulin spike or surge. This is the sudden outpouring of insulin into the circulation in response to the sudden increase of glucose. This will, in a short period of time, move all the glucose into the cells. When this is done, the individual begins to feel hungry and reaches for a soft drink and a snack, both of which will stimulate another insulin spike.
This is repeated all day long for several weeks, months and even years until there comes a time when the cells no longer respond appropriately to the insulin; response begins to diminish. As it happens, the level of glucose in the blood will continue to rise and force the beta cells of the pancreas to secrete more insulin to try and drive the glucose into the cells. As this goes on, the level of insulin reaches an all-time high, a condition that is known as hyperinsulinaemia. There are very high levels of insulin in the circulation, which effectively regulate the blood glucose level. This is the disorder that is referred to as INSULIN RESISTANCE.