What do greens have to do with diabetes? Think antioxidants. Get your green power from dark green veggies or Greens + by Genuine Health to help prevent and treat diabetes.
Puzzled about the connection between greens and diabetes? Isn’t diabetes a chronic inflammatory disease that deals mainly with blood sugar levels? The answer is yes. But my 11 years of science and medicine education and my fascination with nutrition and naturopathic treatments have led me to connect some new dots in this area.
THE GREEN FACTOR
Greens are chock-full of antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals and thus reduce inflammation. They are also packed with vitamins and minerals, which are essential for healthy metabolism. But another equally important aspect of greens is that they are alkaline and thus make our blood and our body basic (i.e. alkaline).
Our bodies are constantly fighting excessive acidity. This is a normal by-product of our metabolism and it is primarily the role of the kidneys to neutralize this excess acidity by producing about two pounds of bicarbonate each day. This excess acidity must be neutralized for three main reasons:
1. Our cells only function at the optimal pH of 7.2-7.4.
2. Excessive acidity “liquefies” bones— leaching calcium— which leads to osteoporosis and eventually bond fractures.
3. Acidity leads to cellular damage which, in turn, leads to inflammation and triggers a chain of reactions that are the cause of many chronic inflammatory diseases — including diabetes.
CELLS, OXYGEN & ACID
But this is not how greens and diabetes are linked. Diabetes is characterized by the inability of cells to absorb sugar from blood. This leads to too much sugar in the blood vessels, which is toxic to the inner lining of small arteries. This initiates cellular damage of the cells lining the inner surface, which initiates the inflammation that leads to the accumulation of fats, cholesterol, inflammatory cells and blood clotting at the site of damage. Eventually, the blood vessel gets clogged and the organ that is normally supplied by this vessel starts to die (e.g., a heart attack).
But it takes a while to clog the small arteries completely. It takes a few years at least, although in a full-blown diabetic without insulin control, it may take as little as one year. The organ supplied by this vessel receives progressively less blood (and thus less oxygen and nutrients) as the blood vessel gets progressively clogged up and narrows. This triggers cells to go from “aerobic” to “anaerobic” metabolism. In simpler terms, the cells switch from burning energy molecules (like sugar, fat or protein) with the help of oxygen to a mode that does not use oxygen. The problem with the latter is that the by-product is lactic acid. This metabolic pathway is necessary when muscles need more energy than can be supplied by pathways that use oxygen. Unfortunately, lactic acid makes muscles hurt (because the acid stimulates nerve endings in muscle) and it makes blood more acidic in general. The consequence is more inflammation, more blockages of small blood vessels, more leaching of calcium from bones and an overall acceleration of diabetic debilitation. In other words, diabetes, like many other chronic inflammatory diseases, is self-perpetuating. Once it gets going, it provides the fuel that makes it burn even more.
Here’s where the greens come in. By neutralizing excess lactic acid, the alkaline greens prevent lactic acid from promoting the blockage of small arteries, further inflammation and calcium leakage from bones. Their antioxidant capability will also help curb inflammation considerably and possibly lead to better insulin response, less insulin resistance and thus a return to a healthy state.
Who wants to live a healthy life that is free of clogged arteries and daily insulin shots? Probably many of us. Try 10 servings of green leafy vegetables or two scoops of greens+ each day.
See you next time.