I am the designated driver of the weekday road, trundling my husband, Clifford, from school to school, as he spreads the secular musical Word of Jazz and good cheer. My driving allows him to sleep between schools, recharging after the huge expenditure of neural energy that’s required to engage preschool-aged children in musical repartee. This habit of catnapping was especially evident prior to March 4th, 2013, which is the date that marks a profound change in our food consumption.
Before I describe our culinary turnaround, let me just state that our present American society has a medical culture that relies on treating symptoms, rather than addressing the underlying causes of physical illness. Following the Labor Day weekend hiatus, and our return from a jaunt up to Lassen County, I’ve been listening to Bay Area news radio all week while driving to the various teaching gigs, and one commercial in particular stands out as a prime example of how Americans and the medical establishment view disease.
The commercial I’m referring to prefaces a medical study to treat PDPN, the acronym for Painful Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy. I’ve never even heard of this condition as a subheading to all things diabetic, and this is after spending almost the last two decades living with and in love with a man who developed Type 2 Diabetes in his late thirties. Yes, he suffered from peripheral neuropathy upon occasion, and probably more than he ever revealed, as Clifford is not a whiner, and someone I would describe as having a high threshold for pain, even of the chronic variety. As a professional musician, I know he’d been experiencing some degree of nerve pain in his fingers, and achy feet, though fortunately he’s been spared the worst of PDPN, known to afflict its sufferers with the sensation of hot coals or tiny poking needles applied to the soles of the feet, the byproduct of nerve destruction caused by persistent high glucose levels in the blood. When all the pain dissipates, the nerves have been so damaged, that pain is often replaced by permanent numbness.
But in this commercial, I noted that the pharmaceutical company is testing out a new patch to treat the pain of PDPN. Why in the world aren’t they inviting each PDPN sufferer to engage in a new way of thinking and eating? Why are there no funded studies in changing the fundamental cause of Type 2 Diabetes, which is the Standard American Diet (SAD)?
There’s a very simple answer. If people do go back to our Paleolithic roots—that is, hunting/gathering, essentially a whole food diet, absent of the grains that arrived in the Neolithic period, when humans began to farm en masse, the SAD would dwindle away, and both the medical establishment and the pharmaceutical corporations would find themselves in dire financial straits. Imagine what they would have to tell their stockholders.
Combine this fact with how Kaiser presents “healthy eating” to patients with Type 2 Diabetes. Clifford asks me to accompany him to every medical appointment, so that I can be made aware of his health status. Some of these appointments have been to registered dieticians, who make no effort at all to educate their patients in a healthy way of eating, which would ultimately lead to healthy living overall, a correction and improvement in the quality of life. In fact, there is no dissent at all about allowing patients to continue to eat wheat, oatmeal, rice and other grain products.
The truth is many of us are biologically incapable of metabolizing the gluten contained in grain products, or can’t handle the sudden “dump” of sugars created by starch when we eat white rice. In Clifford’s genetic lineage, which is Filipino, it is the first generation born in the U.S. who succumb to Type 2 Diabetes and obesity, combining their parents’ culinary love for rice with the SAD, like donuts and white bread—or even so-called whole grain breads, advertised as the healthier alternative.
But ethnic Filipinos, similar to my genetic lineage of Cherokee Indian, never raised fields of wheat, nor oats, and thus, explains the widespread intolerance to gluten, which in turn causes inflammation both in the gut and the joints body-wide. Sometimes the major organ systems are affected by this hidden and stealthy inflammation, and hence, the development of First World diseases like Type 2 Diabetes, which lead to high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
As for rice, when Clifford’s elders lived in the Philippines, everyone walked. They worked outdoors; they spent time in the fields, and rice, though hazardous when combined with the SAD, had little impact on the endocrine system when complemented by mostly whole foods.
My mother-in-law developed Type 2 Diabetes after the age of 65, which can be directly attributable to her love of sweets, such as donuts. The other part, that Mom lived to be 82, gives hats off to her consistent diet of whole foods, and fish. Mom passed away on March 1st, 2013, two weeks before her 83rd birthday, not from Type 2 Diabetes, but from colon cancer, which we believe may have been triggered by over 20 years of working for tech companies like Teledyne and National Semiconductor, where dangerous chemicals are commonly used. Even trace amounts can enter through the skin, and hatch out a deadly disease that requires decades to come to fruition.
Our household eating habits changed dramatically on March 4th, 2013, three days after Mom’s passing. This was preceded by the extreme metabolic changes Clifford experienced, due to an increase of the pharmaceuticals prescribed by his GP, a doctor of Internal Medicine and Endocrinology, at Kaiser.
By November of 2012, Clifford was being prescribed two oral diabetes medications, an insulin injection at bedtime, and an increase in his two oral medications prescribed for hypertension. The high cholesterol could not be treated, due to Clifford’s allergy to all Statin drugs, and an adverse reaction (chronic headaches) to high doses of Niacin (which solid medical studies suggest do not positively affect cholesterol levels in the blood—so in essence, why the hell suffer while taking a placebo?). I’d like to note for the record that these intolerances to certain medications did not halt his doctor’s aggressive push to prescribe them. Some might think it strange that a research-based corporation such as Kaiser would wind themselves so tightly around the pharmaceutical industry, but that’s been our observation.
Our friend, Galen, a Licensed Acupuncturist in Colorado, asked Clifford if he would be interested in a particular book. Clifford’s response was vaguely, “Yeah, I’ll take a look at it.” Ever wise, Galen sent Clifford the book for his Kindle—this was on March 1st—and within days, he’d read it aloud to me, and we made a swift and drastic change in our food consumption.
I was in the throes of my own agony, though slightly different from Clifford’s diabetic woes. At age 50, and a daily runner, I’d stopped exercising due to chronic pain, especially in my L4 and L5 (lumbar) region, where I have irreversible arthritis. My joints always felt achy, and I was steadily gaining weight, no matter how many calories I consumed, or how many miles I hiked or jogged.
I’d resigned myself to perimenopause, and its assumed side effects. Lo and behold, within the first week of the diet change, I lost 5 pounds—without feeling hungry at all—and Clifford dropped every medication, except for one, an oral diabetes medication, which he cut by 1/4. Often, if he just walks 30 minutes per day, he can almost completely omit medication. In November of 2012, his fasting blood sugar in the morning was 180 to 225 (normal is 99 and under), and promising to rise further, even with all that medication, including the insulin. His blood pressure hadn’t budged at an average of 140/95.
After the food switch, his blood pressure dropped to an average of 110/65, which is about as normal as a person can be without hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes. His blood sugar averages have placed him as “normal.” In tests that measure a three-month average (A1C), Clifford tests at 6.0 (normal is 4.6-6.0). In other words, technically his diabetes is undetectable. This doesn’t equate to being miraculously healed. He still must take medication in a pinch. But it’s quite possible the day will come when he no longer will be a slave to his meds.
Clifford’s doctor didn’t seem too pleased that he had improved without the benefit of Kaiser’s massive pharmaceutical intervention. Doc was still determined to lower his LDL to force it below 100, by medicating him despite the warnings in his Kaiser file and from us that he could not tolerate these medications. When we asked how to lower LDL without medication, she had no advice to offer, except for the meds.
In our current state, we have collectively lost 32 pounds. Clifford shed 4 inches, starting at a 34-inch waist, and now at 30. I have melted from a size 14 to a size 4/6, all without feeling hungry.
If anyone is interested, the book is The Blood Sugar Solution by Dr. Mark Hyman. I’ve never been a walking-talking advertisement for a lifestyle change, though I’ve recommended many a novel. This book, with its interesting case studies on diabetics, and other examples of unhealthy living ruled by the Standard American Diet, enabled us to change our way of thinking and eating, and look at food in a medicinal sense. Believe me, I love to eat, and I’ve lost no food pleasure in this paradigm shift.
Link to Dr. Mark Hyman’s book, “The Blood Sugar Solution” — http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Sugar-Solution-UltraHealthy-Preventing/dp/031612737X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378682199&sr=1-1&keywords=blood+sugar+solution