The fact these improvements can happen independently of weight loss should also signify a shift in how we conceptualize both obesity and diabetes, according to Peter Billings, the Seattle bariatric surgeon who operated on Benari. Billings, a nearly 20-year veteran in the field, has started to perform surgery on other lower-BMI patients similar to Benari, though they often pay out of pocket.
Chronically high blood glucose levels are known to damage nerves, so keeping blood glucose levels close to the normal, nondiabetic range can greatly reduce neuropathic pain. (Sometimes, however, if nerve damage has caused numbness in the feet, legs, hands, or arms, improving blood glucose control can cause pain in these areas as the nerves start to heal and regain function. The pain is usually temporary.)
Insulin serves as a “key” to open your cells, to allow the glucose to enter -- and allow you to use the glucose for energy. Without insulin, there is no “key.” So, the sugar stays -- and builds up-- in the blood. The result: the body’s cells starve from the lack of glucose. And, if left untreated, the high level of “blood sugar” can damage eyes, kidneys, nerves, and the heart, and can also lead to coma and death.
While there is a strong genetic component to developing this form of diabetes, there are other risk factors - the most significant of which is obesity. There is a direct relationship between the degree of obesity and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and this holds true in children as well as adults. It is estimated that the chance to develop diabetes doubles for every 20% increase over desirable body weight.
The NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Diseases and Kidney Diseases says it, “currently supports studies that are working toward obtaining FDA licensure to reclassify islet allo-transplantation as therapeutic. In other countries, such as Canada and Scandinavia, islet allo-transplantation is no longer considered experimental and is an accepted therapy in certain patients.” It adds that “Some patient advocates and islet researchers feel that islet allo-transplantation is close to having a therapeutic label.”
In this diabetes-related complication, an uncooperative stomach is slow to move food into the intestine, and does so unpredictably. The symptoms of gastroparesis include upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, bloating, lack of appetite, and reflux, the flowing backward of stomach contents into the esophagus. Wild, unexplained swings in blood glucose are another clue that you may have gastroparesis. For example, blood glucose may go low if food isn’t absorbed until after mealtime insulin takes effect; later, blood glucose levels may spike, when the stomach finally ushers food into the intestine and there’s not enough remaining insulin on board.
Dr. Steven Lin is a dentist who focusses on the mouth-body connection. Through ancestral nutrition, the oral and gut microbiome, and epigenetics, his programs aim to prevent chronic dental and systemic disease. His book 'The Dental Diet', will be released on January 18'. To receive free updates on functional oral health from Dr. Lin, subscribe to his newsletter below.
The gastric bypass that Benari got, for instance, resculpts the digestive system. Surgeons seal off a large part of the stomach using staples, leaving behind a small upper pouch, while rerouting part of the small intestine to the new pouch, bypassing the rest. The net result is that less food can fit in the stomach, and there’s much less time for that food to be turned into calories before it exits the body. The vertical sleeve gastrectomy, the most popular surgery in recent years, only tinkers with the stomach, using staples to turn it into a small banana-shaped organ. (There are less permanent procedures, such as the lap band, but these have fallen out of favor due to their ineffectiveness).
Insulin is a type of hormone made up of 45 amino acids, and it is important for signaling to the body’s cells to pick up excess sugar from the bloodstream. Normally, whenever you decide to drown yourself in a Big Gulp from 7-Eleven, the sugars in the soda will be absorbed through your stomach directly into your bloodstream. Insulin is pumped out by the pancreas, which acts as a signal that gives the thumbs up to your muscles and fat cells to throw a sweet rager with the soda you just dumped into your body. Everyone has a good time – until the party ends.
Type 2 diabetes was also previously referred to as non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), or adult-onset diabetes mellitus (AODM). In type 2 diabetes, patients can still produce insulin, but do so relatively inadequately for their body's needs, particularly in the face of insulin resistance as discussed above. In many cases this actually means the pancreas produces larger than normal quantities of insulin. A major feature of type 2 diabetes is a lack of sensitivity to insulin by the cells of the body (particularly fat and muscle cells).
Travis and Ardell found a kindred spirit in Bill Hettler, a staff physician at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Influenced by their work, Hettler founded the annual National Wellness Conference at Stevens Point, now in its 35th year. The conference lent valuable academic prestige to the wellness movement. It also caught the attention of Tom Dickey, who was working with the New York publisher Rodney Friedman in the early 1980s to set up a monthly newsletter on health, based at the University of California, Berkeley. Friedman wanted the publication to compete with the Harvard Medical School Health Letter, and Dickey suggested using wellness in the title as a contrast. In 1984, the Berkeley Wellness Letter was born.
Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant that helps turn glucose into fuel for the body. It effectively improves insulin sensitivity and reduces symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, such as weakness, pain and numbness that’s caused by nerve damage. Although we make alpha lipoic acid and it can be found in some food sources, like broccoli, spinach and tomatoes, taking an ALA supplement will increase the amount that circulates in your body, which can be extremely beneficial when trying to reverse diabetes naturally. (17)
Findings from the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) and the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) have clearly shown that aggressive and intensive control of elevated levels of blood sugar in patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes decreases the complications of nephropathy, neuropathy, retinopathy, and may reduce the occurrence and severity of large blood vessel diseases. Aggressive control with intensive therapy means achieving fasting glucose levels between 70-120 mg/dl; glucose levels of less than 160 mg/dl after meals; and a near normal hemoglobin A1c levels (see below).
I bring this up because sleep apnea increases a person’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Also, sleep-disordered breathing is also related to proper nutrition throughout life. And perhaps most importantly, the first line of defense in catching sleep-disordered breathing in patients early, are dentists. This is another area where dentists must get involved if we want to tackle the issue of pervasive type 2 diabetes with any success.
Take good care of your feet. Check your feet every day. If you no longer can feel pain in your feet, you might not notice a foot injury. Instead, use your eyes to look for problems. Use a mirror to see the bottoms of your feet. Use your hands to feel for hot or cold spots, bumps or dry skin. Look for sores, cuts or breaks in the skin. Also check for corns, calluses, blisters, red areas, swelling, ingrown toenails and toenail infections. If it's hard for you to see or reach your feet, get help from a family member or foot doctor.
"Secondary" diabetes refers to elevated blood sugar levels from another medical condition. Secondary diabetes may develop when the pancreatic tissue responsible for the production of insulin is destroyed by disease, such as chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas by toxins like excessive alcohol), trauma, or surgical removal of the pancreas.
According to Christine Sullivan, founder of Real Help for Chronic Pain, an online pain management program, “Chronic pain is almost never merely a physical thing. We can see from brain mapping that chronic pain uses very different nerve paths from acute pain. In fact, the brain maps of chronic pain look just like the brain maps of intense emotions like anger, or sadness, or fear.”
A women gets her blood glucose levels checked at a pop-up clinic in Mexico City’s neighborhood of La Roma by Dr. Eduardo Juarez Oliveros. The clinic was set up by the Association Mexica de Diabetes (AMD) in partnership with Direct Relief. The clinic is aimed at serving populations in the city displaced by the earthquake, especially those with diabetes. (Photo by Meghan Dhaliwal for Direct Relief)
Benari doesn’t want to remain an outlier, though. And perhaps surprisingly, many doctors and surgeons are starting to agree that surgery should be considered more than a last-resort remedy for weight loss. Instead, it should be seen as a crucial aspect of diabetes care, and quite possibly the best tool we have against the chronic, often worsening condition.