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Based on Stanley Burroughs’ 1940s book “The Master Cleanser,” the Master Cleanse is both a detox plan and a weight loss diet. The cleanse is a modified fast that requires you to drink a lemonade-like beverage made from purified water, organic lemons, cayenne pepper and grade B maple syrup. Although Burroughs dedicated a section in “The Master Cleanser” specifically to diabetics, his advice is unsafe by current medical standards.
- Master Cleanse Basics
- Burroughs and Diabetes
- Is It Safe?
- Diabetes and Weight Loss
- This disease can feel limiting, but do not let it limit you. — me
- Cleanse Questions:
- Detoxing for Diabetes: My 10-Day Jumpstart to Better Health
- Lowdown on Detox: Diabetes Buster or Buzzkill?
- Diabetes Detox!
- 7 Day Clean Eating Menu for a Person Living with Diabetes
- Day 1:
- Day 2:
- Day 3:
- Does Detox Reverse Diabetes?
- Diabetes Forecast
- Liver Function Impacts Health in Diabetes: Are you loving your liver?
Master Cleanse Basics
On the Master Cleanse, you would drink six to 12 glasses of the lemonade daily; each glass contains about 100 calories, almost all from maple syrup — pure sugar. In addition to the lemonade, you would perform a salt-water flush every morning and drink a laxative tea in the evening. No food is allowed, although you are encouraged to drink water when you are hungry. According to Susan Moores, R.D., the master cleanse can cause blood sugar problems, specifically hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.
Burroughs and Diabetes
Burroughs says the Master Cleanse can be modified for diabetics by using molasses instead of maple syrup at the beginning of the diet. Burroughs says “the molasses supplies the necessary elements for the pancreas to produce insulin.” He recommends starting with small amounts of molasses, and reducing insulin intake until you are consuming 2 tbsp. of molasses in each glass, at which time Burroughs says you should be able to stop taking additional insulin altogether. After you’ve stopped taking your insulin, Burroughs says, replace the 2 tbsp. of molasses with 2 tbsp. of maple syrup.
Is It Safe?
The Master Cleanse is a dangerous fad diet for anyone, but especially bad for diabetics. Burroughs’ advice is medically unsound and very dangerous. Do not change your insulin dose, and never just stop taking insulin — especially while living on a very low-calorie diet of sugar water. The master cleanse is nutrient deficient, and lacks protein, fiber and healthy fat. If you have diabetes and go on the diet, you would experience hypoglycemia, including such symptoms as dizziness, the shakes, anxiety, mood swings, fatigue, headache and hunger.
Diabetes and Weight Loss
Losing weight can improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin, helping to ease symptoms of Type 2 diabetes. But weight lost on the master cleanse is mostly water weight, and will be quickly regained when you start to eat normally again. The master cleanse does not teach you how to eat a healthy balanced diet, does not encourage exercise and is not a sustainable way of life. Although maintaining a healthy body weight can reduce your risk of other serious health problems, making long-term healthy lifestyle changes is a safer way to reach your goal weight. Consult your doctor before embarking on any diet, particularly if you have diabetes or another major illness.
The holidays are over. You survived Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s… Perhaps you indulged yourself a bit too much and now your waistband is a smidge too tight. Or maybe you just feel tired and bloated from too much rich, fatty food and holiday spirits. Perhaps your blood glucose levels are running higher than usual.
It’s not a surprise that New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on losing weight, getting healthier, and feeling better. And like most people, you want the weight off yesterday and you want to feel better now! So, even though, deep inside, you know that the smart, sensible way to lose weight and gain more energy is by taking it slow and steady, some of those quick weight-loss plans seem pretty tempting. Maybe what’s caught your attention is a “detox” diet. What can it hurt, you ask?
In this case, “detox” doesn’t mean checking into a rehab facility to wean yourself off alcohol. What “detox” refers to, in the dieting world at least, is a dietary detoxification plan. This is a temporary dieting plan (as are most diets) that involves following a regimen (usually pretty extreme) in order to cleanse your body of “toxic” substances such as pesticides, chemicals, additives, pollutants…or food that just isn’t very good for you. Sometimes people “detox” in order to clear their minds, sharpen their focus, or lose weight quickly.
There are different detox regimens, some harsher than others. Most of them are very-low-calorie liquid diets. Some detox plans aim to clean you out with the use of fiber supplements, enemas, or herbal teas that act as laxatives. And some plans have you fast for a few days, after which you gradually add back food. There’s no shortage of detox plans, either, so you can take your pick. Just Google “detox diet.” Or, check yourself into a spa and get pampered while you purge your system of bad things (of course, be prepared to pay a hefty sum, too.).
Some detox plans last a few days, other last may last a few weeks. One of the more popular detox plans is “Master Cleanse.” If you’re a fan of Beyoncé, you might recall that she did the “Master Cleanse” in order to slim down for the film Dreamgirls. “Master Cleanse” consists of drinking at least two liters each day of the following concoction: lemon juice, maple syrup (the real stuff), and cayenne pepper. Oh, and don’t forget the laxative tea and salt water flushes. The premise of this plan, as with many detox plans, is to flush out toxins, clean out your colon, and provide just enough calories (from the maple syrup) so that you don’t pass out.
While it sounds like a fad diet, “Master Cleanse” has been around for more than 50 years, initially developed to treat ulcers. Will you lose weight on “Master Cleanse”? Sure. Beyoncé lost weight and you likely would, too. The problem, as with most detox plans and other fad diets, is that you’ll regain the weight when you stop detoxing. And you can’t stay on “Master Cleanse” forever without running the risk of doing real harm to yourself. Other detox plans are perhaps less extreme by including fruits and vegetables, along with a lot of juice. It’s no surprise that detox diets have a celebrity following, either. Gwyneth Paltrow, Oprah, and Bill Clinton have all jumped on the detox bandwagon at one point or another.
Detox diets do have their appeal. The idea of cleansing your system and ridding your body of toxins, pollutants, and sludge is often what draws people to these plans. However, what many people don’t realize is that the body has its own built-in “detox” machine in the form of our internal organs. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be around for too long. Our lungs, liver, kidneys, intestines, and immune system are highly efficient at ridding the body of harmful things, whether they be chemicals, fatty foods, or bacteria. Granted, sometimes our detox machines are overwhelmed by harmful substances, but for the most part, we all have a system in place to stay relatively healthy.
Also, there’s little, if any, evidence that detox diets actually do any good. Some people do report feeling better when on a detox diet and that can be attributed to drinking more water, cutting out alcohol, caffeine, fat, and sugar, and even to being in a state of starvation. When someone is starving, he often feels more energetic and euphoric.
Detoxing for a day or even a few days is probably not too harmful…if you’re in good health. However, detox diets aren’t recommended for anyone with chronic conditions, like diabetes, or heart, liver, or kidney disease, or for certain populations, like pregnant women, children or teenagers, and older adults. Short-term side effects of detox diets include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, lightheadedness, and swings in blood glucose levels. Longer-term, and more serious, effects include loss of lean muscle mass, irregular heartbeat, heart or kidney damage, bowel perforation (if enemas are involved), infections, and severe dehydration. So, resist the temptation to detox and remember that any benefits you might derive from it will be very short lived. As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race!
Happy New Year!
This disease can feel limiting, but do not let it limit you. — me
When living with a non-insulin producing (i.e. broken) pancreas, caution is brought into almost every “no caution needed,” average situation.
Going for a light jog? Running into Trader Joe’s for your favorite snack? Ordering your favorite smoothie?–these seem like random, simple, mindless activities. . . but the reality is that simple jog or healthy smoothie could make waves in your entire day.
With type 1 diabetes you must always be “on” and aware of your ever-changing (sometimes dangerous) blood sugar levels. It throws a wrench in almost every ordinary situation and can often leave you feeling hindered and limited in trying things “normal” people try.
Let’s take quick flash back in time to an email between myself & my diabetes educator four years ago… literally right after I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. This was the starting point of me feeling limited with this disease:
I mean, I know diabetics are supposed to avoid juices, but they are good for you! And if I give myself enough insulin (figuring this out would be hard I think) it should be fine right?
E Smith: Hi Whitney,
Juices are very low in fiber, high in sugar. The sugar they contain is quickly absorbed and thus causes a quick blood glucose rise (this is why juice is one of the fast carbs recommended to treat a low BG).
Insulin, although we have “rapid acting” insulin, does not work that quickly.
You would be at increased risk for BG spikes/elevations related to the juice consumption, and then also at increased risk of low sugars since the insulin action does not match the juice digestion/absorption very well.
As you can see, not what you’re looking for.
I was sad, but understood her response.
I accepted my fate and was left day dreaming of this “juicing” adventure everyone was on and loving. I knew I didn’t need a juice cleanse to feel my best, but I was still wanting to give it a try and felt frustrated that this new, life-long disease was already limiting me.
Flash forward four years later, and I have successfully cleansed 3 times with a 3 day juice cleanse! **cue the parting clouds with beaming sun-rays and singing angels**
Before I dive into the gist of my cleansing experience, remember this: if you have type 1 diabetes, you are still required to diligently and mindfully take care of yourself amidst your cleansing process. Any extreme changes in diet will likely result in changes in your insulin (bolus + basal) dosing amount(s). I encourage you to keep a journal, take notes, and log your process. This will help you with mastering your dosing and timing throughout the cleanse (and support you in the future if you choose to do it again).
The biggest pro of the cleanse system that I use, Chef V, is that their juice (i.e. Green Drink) is BLENDED (keeping the fiber) versus JUICED (strips the fiber). This is a huge factor in blood sugar management. Their cleanse contains only 24 grams of sugar per day, versus a standard cold-press juice cleanse contains OVER 180 grams of sugar per day. Pretty crazy huh?
While cold press juicing has many nutritional benefits—especially if you have an overly sensitive digestive system/ illness that inhibits your body from processing fiber—removing the fiber wreaks havoc to blood sugar levels. Stripping the fiber causes the juice to be absorbed into your blood stream very quickly which consequently = increased variability in your blood sugars. **Unstable blood sugar levels can lead to mood swings, energy loss, and extra stress when managing your diabetes.
If you choose to give the Chef V cleanse a try, here is a super quick summary of what to expect in your day:
On each day of the 3 day cleanse, you will have:
4 (16 oz blended) Juices
2 Protein Shakes
1 Detox Soup
16 oz – 48 oz of water between each (greens and shake) interval.
More details can be found HERE.
What were the most noticeable benefits of cleansing? Clearer skin. Zero bloat. Minimized (practically vanished) cravings. I didn’t weight myself but I fit back into a work blazer that I used to have on my “one day” pile. Increased insulin sensitivity (basal was reduced by 2 units). And finally, I love the fact that I felt (mostly) full and nourished the entire time. I didn’t feel too restricted and learned that I am such an emotional eater. It was nice to have a set time for the greens, shakes, and soup. I was focused on my day versus getting distracted by mindless and emotional snacking.
What are the cons of cleansing? First & foremost, you are detoxing and purging build-up and toxins in your body. Because of this, the reality is you may experience some side effects. My first cleanse go-round was the roughest (I have done it 3 times). Day 2 I was nauseous, and had a super bad head ache. I ended up having some plain turkey at lunch time to help offset how I was feeling. I skipped on the shakes and greens for the rest of the day (the idea of them made me sick), and drink tons of water and tea. Day 3 I was feeling myself and finished out my cleanse strong!
If you are type 1 diabetic, another con is problem solving your dosing–especially the soup. Since it’s liquid + high carb, you must be super mindful of your bolus timing. I encountered a few highs on the soups simply because I didn’t wait long enough for my bolus to kick in to meet the soups absorption rate. Personal tip: waiting 20-35 minutes before enjoying the soup! Depending on your starting number of course.
What does everything taste like?
The green drink is fresh and light with a slight gritty texture since it’s blended versus juiced. If you are used to your smoothie/juices containing tons of fruit…you could find it too earthy—just give your tastebuds time to adapt! It has a slight touch of apple which adds a perfect, subtle sweetness.
The protein shakes are yummy but…. so SWEET! I prefer the chocolate over cinnamon. Maybe because I was so nauseas on the first cleanse, or maybe it’s just too sweet for my preference but I 100% prefer the chocolate because it’s more balanced. Sometimes I’ll add a little more raw cocoa powder to offset the sweetness intensity.
The soups are such a comfort at the end of your day. They do not contain any salt so the flavors (sweet potato or carrot) really come through. You appreciate them and they are a simple, but (semi) filling way to end your day(s)!
Are you hungry? Yes & no. Most of it’s mental—knowing you cannot eat your normal go-to’s can make you feel hungrier then you really are. During the day I feel mostly satisfied but the hardest is after work (the main time I tend to emotionally snack/over-eat). I just crave some texture (something to chew) mostly! Reality is, you are likely intaking a lot less calories then you are used to so feeling hungry isn’t unusual. Overall this particular cleanse is well balanced with fiber, protein, and carb so you are nourishing your body more then most of the cleanses out there on the market. No need to overly deprive and stress your body…
What are the benefits of cleansing? This question can be a post in itself because this topic is so vast and layered. Simply put, our body deals with a lot! Toxins build up, gut flora becomes imbalanced, cells become stressed, and our immune system’s get inflamed. These imbalances effect our mood, digestion, skin, weight, and insulin response. Cleansing is a great way to dedicate a set time to re-nourish and give back to our mind & body. While it requires a dedicated mindset, it’s worth it and DOABLE!
Should I do the 3 day, 7 day, or 21 day cleanse? This is personal preference and based on your individual goals. I have only done/have experience with the 3 day cleanse. I could see doing the 7 day…the 21 day seems too intense for me personally. For more details on the 3 day cleanse you can adventure HERE!
Stay tuned for Part II—How to dose when cleansing!
p.s. This is not a sponsored post. Just spreading the good news + my positive cleansing experience with you! There are countless cleanses out there to choose from; this is just my personal experience with the one that I have tried and loved.
Detoxing for Diabetes: My 10-Day Jumpstart to Better Health
If you had told me a year ago that I’d be gluten- and dairy-free, I would have laughed and then served up a huge lasagna. This Italian American practically has pasta running through her veins — which likely contributed to my current health dilemma.
After my type 2 diabetes diagnosis in January, I began to read everything I could get my hands on about reversing the disease through diet and exercise. I watched Forks Over Knives and omitted animal products, saw a nutritionist and counted carb grams, and through it all, I drank a lot of kale.
Then, I picked up Dr. Mark Hyman’s book Blood Sugar Solution. In it, he explains how common allergens like gluten, dairy, alcohol, and caffeine affect our bodies, even if we’re not technically allergic. Certain foods are more likely to cause inflammation, which is a stress response that the body produces when we are fighting off something. A little inflammation helps you heal and then goes away, a ton of it hurts you and becomes constant. Inflammation and insulin resistance go hand in hand, and one of the ways to combat diabetes is to remove the triggering foods.
Dr. Hyman’s research made sense to me, so I thought I’d give his diet a try. With little less than a month until my follow-up doctor’s appointment, I wanted to jumpstart my progress. I read his 10-Day Detox Diet, which cuts out not only the inflammation triggers of gluten, dairy, caffeine, and alcohol, but also all grains, most fruit, legumes, and starchy vegetables, to help maintain balanced blood sugar levels. I welcomed the return of humanely-produced lean protein and an almost laughable amount of healthy fats — nearly 20 g per meal — which was absolutely shocking to someone who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, when fat was the enemy. Could this really produce results? I was about to find out.
Lowdown on Detox: Diabetes Buster or Buzzkill?
While it felt like an undertaking to commit to such a change, I figured that I could do practically anything for 10 days, so why not give it a shot? As I prepared to make everything that passed my lips for the next week and a half, I filled my shopping cart with raw nuts and coconut oil, hemp and flax and chia seeds, a lot of avocados, and a farmers market’s worth of leafy greens and cruciferous veggies. I was ready to detox.
Though it wasn’t all about the food. Stress causes inflammation, so a big part of healing yourself is to actively work on relaxation techniques. Detoxifying baths, journaling, breathing, media fasting, and exercise were all part of the plan, too. It’s also a lot easier to make better food choices after you’ve taken a few deep, calming breaths.
As with most detoxes, it gets worse before it gets better. I had intense gluten withdrawal, which caused headaches, irritability, and the craziest cravings I had ever experienced. I felt like I would die (or someone in my immediate vicinity might) if I didn’t immediately eat a pizza-pasta-bread sandwich. Thankfully, it passed in a couple of days, and the other side saw a lifting of “brain fog” that I didn’t even know I had. So much energy! Such clarity! It felt pretty great.
At the end of 10 days, I had lost 8 pounds, bringing my overall weight loss to 25 pounds. My lab results showed marked improvement, with improved cholesterol and a reduction in my A1c (average blood sugar over three months) from 9.8 to 6.5.
While I have dabbled in gluten and dairy since the detox, I’ve noticed that I have more energy and fewer cravings when I avoid them. Though it doesn’t hurt to hit the reset button every once in a while, diet remains a balance, and making good choices most of the time is the way to get and stay healthy.
Tara Bellucci is a lifestyle writer and marketing consultant focused on helping entrepreneurs boost their small businesses. Her work has appeared on Apartment Therapy, The Kitchn, and Boston.com. A co-founder of the Boston Food Swap, she hosts monthly events where people swap homemade and homegrown food. She writes openly about her health journey at MindMouthMantra.com.
Diabetes is running rampant in our country. If you are one of the several million who have this condition, then this article is for you. It will teach you how to manage your food and therefore manage your blood sugar.
Type I diabetes is a condition in which the body produces very low amounts of insulin or none at all. Type II diabetics have low insulin receptors. Either way it creates a no-holds-barred situation for your internal system, and that’s exactly how you need to fight back… NO HOLDS BARRED!
Your body uses insulin to convert the food you eat into energy. Here’s how the process works in a non-diabetic person: calories are consumed, blood sugar rises, then the pancreas releases insulin to convert the sugar into energy. Any sugar not used as energy will be stored as fat to be used as energy later.
However, if you have diabetes the process works differently: you consume calories, insulin is released in response to the increased blood sugar but your body is unable to use the insulin effectively. Your brain sees that your blood sugar is still going up, so it asks your pancreas to release more insulin. But since your body can’t use it’s insulin to convert sugars into fuel, these sugars are now stored as fat, or they float around your blood stream. None of this is good.
Fortunately, there’s a food plan you can use to give your body only the type and amount of food that it can effectively manage. It’s called a food plan because it’s not a quick fix diet; it’s for life.
To use this food plan effectively, you should be familiar with the following food groups and how to best use them to your advantage:
Foods To Use To Your Advantage
Proteins: Proteins include meat, eggs, and low fat cheese. They raise your blood sugar only slightly and keep your belly full.
Fats: Fats are not the enemy. Some are better than other, though. Low polyunsaturated fats are good fats. They raise your good cholesterol (LDL) and encourage your body to use stored body fat as fuel. Try to avoid hydrogenated and trans fats. Fats do not raise your blood sugar.
Carbohydrates: These are the enemy! Again, some are better than others depending on their glycemic index reading. Lower glycemic carbs raise your blood sugar to a moderate level over a longer period of time. High glycemic carbs raise your blood sugar really high, really fast. Avoid high glycemic carbs!
So in this food plan, you can eat:
Unlimited Amounts Of Proteins Such As:
- Chicken breast
- Lean pork
- Eggs – No really! They raise good cholesterol as much as bad.
- 90/10 ground beef
- White fish
- Egg beaters
Unlimited Amounts Of Veggies Such As:
- Green beans
- Yellow squash
Unlimited Amounts Of Fats Such As:
- Pine nuts
- Sunflower seeds
- Olive oil
Limited Amounts Of Carbs Such As:
- Oatmeal – Slow cooking type
- Whole grain bread
- Brown rice
Limited Amounts Of These Proteins & Fats:
- Cottage cheese – Be careful with this! It converts to a carb during digestion.
- Natural peanut butter – Peanuts are a bean not a nut so this is a little higher in carbs but loaded with healthy fat.
Avoid These Foods At All Costs:
- White flour
- White potatoes
- White rice
- Processed cereal
- Juice of any kind
- Citrus fruit
- Sugary peanut butters
Keep track of your blood sugar levels. Always check before each meal or snack and before and after exercise. Your body will usually be able to handle a carb better after exercise.
Sample Daily Menu
Here is a sample daily menu:
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup oatmeal
- Celery sticks
- 4-5 cheese cubes
- Chicken breast
- Salad with 1 tbsp. Olive oil and vinegar
Mid afternoon snack:
- 1 oz. nuts
- Lean steak
- Salad with 1 tbsp olive oil and vinegar
Observe These Meal Planning Rules:
- Always eat breakfast
- Use sugar free condiments
- Eat 3 meals and 2 snacks per day. Your second snack can be after lunch or after dinner
- Eat carbs at only one meal per day
- Take a multi-vitamin
- Drink at least eight cups of water per day
- Never eat a carb alone. Have a protein or a fat with it to slow down it’s absorption into your blood stream
Good luck. You may feel terrible for the first few days on this plan. It’s your body detoxing from the sugars. Stick with it. It will be worth it in the long run.
7 Day Clean Eating Menu for a Person Living with Diabetes
If you’re on a diabetic diet, you might find the dietary restrictions challenging. Sometimes, it feels like you’re eating the same old foods day in and day out! Well, we have some exciting news for you: Even with dietary restrictions, it’s possible to eat a versatile and delicious range of foods. This 7 day clean eating menu for a person living with diabetes proves that you don’t have to settle for boring food or stale menus.
The exact dietary advice you’ll want to follow depends on your blood glucose levels, activity levels and whether or not you take medication to manage diabetes. So, make sure you check with your doctor before making any drastic changes in your diet. In general, this clean eating plan for diabetics involves not only consuming whole, real ingredients, but also keeping the amount of carbohydrates you consume in check. (If you haven’t already, check out this amazing story of how one man reversed his type-2 diabetes by switching to a plant-based diet)
Carbohydrates are broken down by insulin in the body (a hormone that does not behave normally in diabetics). The exact amount of carbs you want to consume per meal is something you’ll need to work out with your doctor and/or nutritionist. The American Diabetes Association gives the rough guideline of 45-60 grams of carbohydrates per meal. So, we created this 7 day clean eating menu for diabetics based on this guideline.
If you’ve followed this 7 day clean eating menu for diabetics in the past, you’ll be excited to hear that we recently updated it with tasty new recipes! We chose some of our favorite, clean-eating recipes to replace some of the older, more outdated recipes. The end result is a refreshed menu with balanced, delicious recipes specifically chosen for your diabetic diet. We think you’ll love the new choices!
Breakfast: Triple Berry Baked Oatmeal
Carbs: 49 g
Oats release glucose slowly in the body, and cinnamon may lower fasting blood glucose levels.
Lunch: Vegetarian Black Bean Enchiladas
Carbs: 43 g
Legumes are believed to improve blood sugar control!
Dinner: 5-Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
Carbs: 42 g
Dairy contains vitamins and minerals that can help increase insulin sensitivity.
Breakfast: Triple Berry Baked Oatmeal (leftover from Day One)
Lunch: Mediterranean Chopped Salad with Salmon, Cucumber and Mint
Carbs: 8 g
Very low in carbs, this salad gives you a healthy dose of omega-3’s from the salmon and olive oil. These fats help fight inflammation, protect your cells, and improve insulin sensitivity.
Dinner: Slow Cooker Vegetable Chili
Carbs: 33 g
Plenty of legumes, and plenty of leftovers!
MUST READ: Love Affair With Sugar
Breakfast: Spinach and Artichoke Breakfast Sandwich
Carbs: 30 g
This very low-carb breakfast calls for egg whites, which have very little impact on your blood glucose levels.
Lunch: Vegetarian Black Bean Enchiladas (using leftovers from Day One)
Dinner: 5-Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese (leftover from Day One)
Here’s the not-so-sweet truth. We are killings ourselves by consuming truckloads of hidden sugar.
Sugar is the New Fat
Despite 40 years of Americans being brainwashed into thinking that fat is bad, it turns out it’s sugar, not fat, that makes you sick and overweight.
The facts are in, the science is beyond question. Sugar in all its forms is the root cause of our obesity epidemic and most of the chronic disease sucking the life out of our citizens and our economy — and, increasingly, the rest of the world. You name it, it’s caused by sugar: heart disease, cancer, dementia, type 2 diabetes, depression, and even acne, infertility and impotence.
The average American consumes about 152 pounds of sugar a year. That’s roughly 22 teaspoons every day for every person in America. And our kids consume about 34 teaspoons every day — that’s more than two 20-ounce sodas — making nearly one in four teenagers pre-diabetic or diabetic.
Flour is even worse than sugar. We consume about 146 pounds of flour a year. Think about it. That’s about one pound of sugar and flour combined every day for every man, woman and child in America. And flour raises blood sugar even more than table sugar. Even whole-wheat flour.
Food Addiction: Is It Real?
Here’s another shocking fact: Sugar is eight times as addictive as cocaine.
Being addicted to sugar and flour is not an emotional eating disorder. It’s a biological disorder, driven by hormones and neurotransmitters that fuel sugar and carb cravings — leading to uncontrolled overeating. This is not a limited phenomenon. It’s the reason nearly 70 percent of Americans and 40 percent of kids are overweight. In one study, Harvard scientists found that a high-sugar milkshake (compared to a low-sugar one) not only spiked blood sugar and insulin and led to sugar cravings, but it caused huge changes in the brain. The sugar lit up the addiction center in the brain like the sky on the Fourth of July. Think cocaine cookies, morphine muffins or smack sodas!
Why You Need a Sugar Detox
We need a clear path to detox from sugar, to break the addictive cycle of carb and sugar cravings that robs us of our health. And it only takes 10 days — or less. We need science, not willpower, to reverse this.
That’s why I created The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet. Early last year, I invited more than 600 people to try it out, and they lost more than 4,000 pounds in 10 days. But more important, they did it painlessly by enjoying powerful addiction-reversing foods that rewired and reset their brains and bodies. No cravings, no bland or boring diet food, no deprivation. Just abundance and delight. And at the end of the 10 days, they got their bodies and their minds back, and learned a new way to eat and live that will last a lifetime — a long one!
More recently, another group of 30 people tried my plan, and had very similar results. You can read about their experiences and results . You’ll see for yourself how well it worked.
Top 10 Big Ideas
In my book, The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet, you’ll learn how to make these top 10 big ideas for detoxing from sugar and refined carbs work for you in just 10 days.
1. Make a decision to detox
In my book, there are three simple quizzes to help you know you need to detox. If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, a sugar detox is your ticket to feeling great quickly and losing weight painlessly.
The first is the diabesity quiz. Do you have pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes? (90 percent of Americans have not been diagnosed.) Do you have belly fat? Are you overweight? Crave sugar and carbs? Have trouble losing weight on low-fat diets? Have high triglycerides, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol or been told your blood sugar is “a little high”?
The second is a food addiction quiz. Do you eat when you’re not hungry? Experience a food coma after eating? Feel bad about your eating habits or avoid certain activities because of your eating? Get withdrawal symptoms if you cut down or stop eating sugar or flour? Need more and more of same bad foods just to feel good?
The third is the FLC Quiz (or the Toxicity Quiz). FLC stands for Feel Like Crap. FLC Syndrome has a list of symptoms including bloating, gas, reflux, irritable bowel, joint or muscle pain, brain fog, memory or mood problems, sinus or allergy symptoms and more. Millions of us have FLC Syndrome and don’t know we are only a few days away from health and happiness.
2. Be a turkey (a cold one)
There is no way to handle a true physiological addiction except to stop it completely. Addicts can’t have just one line of cocaine or just one drink. Go cold turkey. But you won’t have to white-knuckle it because if you follow these 10 Big Ideas you will automatically reset your body’s neurotransmitters and hormones. Stop all forms of sugar, all flour products and all artificial sweeteners — which cause increased cravings and slow metabolism, and lead to fat storage. Also get rid of anything with trans or hydrogenated fats and MSG (watch for hidden names). Ideally, for 10 days you avoid any foods that come in box, package or a can or that have a label, and stick to real, whole, fresh food. And the best way to really detox is to give up ALL grains for 10 days, too.
3. Don’t drink your calories
Any form of liquid sugar calories is worse than solid food with sugar or flour. Think of it as mainlining sugar directly to your liver. It turns off a fat storage machine in your liver, leading to dreaded belly fat. You don’t feel full, so you eat more all day and you crave more sugar and carbs. It’s also the single biggest source of sugar calories in our diet. That includes sodas, juices other than green vegetable juice, sports drinks, sweetened teas or coffees. One 20-ounce soda has 15 teaspoons of sugar; Gatorade contains 14 teaspoons of the stuff in one bottle. One can of soda a day increases a kid’s chance of being obese by 60 percent and a woman’s chance of type 2 diabetes by 80 percent. Stay away!
4. Power up the day with protein
Protein, protein, protein at every meal — especially breakfast — is the key to balancing blood sugar and insulin and cutting cravings. Start the day with whole farm eggs or a protein shake. I recommend my Whole Food Protein Shake. Use nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, chicken or grass-fed meat for protein at every meal. A serving size is 4-6 ounces or the size of your palm.
5. Eat unlimited carbs (the right ones)
Yes, that’s right. Unlimited carbs. Did you know that vegetables are carbs? And you get to eat as much as you want. Unlimited refills! There is one catch. I only mean the non-starchy veggies such as greens, the broccoli family (cauliflower, kale, collards, etc.), asparagus, green beans, mushrooms, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, fennel, eggplant, artichokes, peppers, etc. What’s out are potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash and beets — just for 10 days. Also skip grains and beans for 10 days. It supercharges the results so you lose weight and feel great.
6. Fight sugar with fat
Fat is not a four-letter word. Fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar does. Fat makes you full, balances your blood sugar and is necessary for fueling your cells. Along with protein, have good fats at every meal and snack including nuts and seeds (which also contain protein), extra virgin olive oil, coconut butter, avocados, and omega 3 fats from fish.
7. Be ready for emergencies
You never want to be in a food emergency when your blood sugar is dropping and you find yourself in a food desert such as an airport, the office, or in a maze of convenience stores, fast food joints and vending machines. You need an Emergency Life Pak. I have one with me all the time, filled with protein, good fats, and good snacks so I never have to make a bad choice. Here’s what’s in mine. Packets of Artisana nut butters and coconut butter, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, salmon jerky or turkey jerky, a can of wild salmon or sardines and unsweetened wild blueberries.
8. Swap distress for de-stress
If you are stressed, your hormones go crazy. Cortisol goes up which makes you hungry, causes belly fat storage and leads to type 2 diabetes. Studies show that taking deep breaths activates a special nerve, called the vagus nerve, that shifts your metabolism from fat storage to fat burning and quickly moves you out of the stress state. And all you have to do is take a deep breath. My Take Five Breathing Break is something you can do anywhere, anytime. Simply take five slow deep breaths – in to the count of five, out to the count of five. Five times. That’s it. Do this before every meal. Watch what happens!
9. Put out the fire (of inflammation)
Studies show that inflammation triggers blood sugar imbalances, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. The most common source of inflammatory foods other than sugar, flour and trans fats are hidden food sensitivities. The most common culprits are gluten and dairy. We often crave the foods we’re allergic to. Without them we feel lousy and want more. Quit gluten and dairy for ten days. Getting off them isn’t easy, but after just two to three days without them you’ll have renewed energy, relief from cravings, and will see many of your common symptoms disappear.
10. Get your zzzs
Getting less sleep drives sugar and carb cravings by affecting your appetite hormones. In human studies, depriving college students of just two hours of the recommended eight hours of sleep led to a rise in hunger hormones, a decrease in appetite-suppressing hormones and big cravings for sugar and refined carbs. You want more energy if you don’t sleep, so you go toward quickly absorbed sugars. Sleep is the best way to fight against the drive to overeat. You literally can sleep your cravings and your weight away.
All of these ideas and a goof-proof, step-by-step plan of how to make them work for you are in my new book.
“If all Americans could to this! Our country would be happier, friendlier most importantly, healthier and gosh darn it…we could have world peace! Amen Dr. Mark Hyman! It’s a process that needs constant attention. Once your body reaps the rewards & you know you’re worth it- it makes TOTAL SENSE. Thank you!” ~ Marie N.
“I’ve never made a commitment to my health as I have with this detox. My doctor was skeptical and wanted to put me on insulin. I wanted to prove her wrong and was committed to go through the program to take my health back. It helped me realize how compulsive I’ve been with food. How I would reward my stressfull events with sweet treats. My husband joined me on the detox and he is also thrilled with the results. Thank you Dr. Hyman and staff for this amazing program.” ~ Jean Y.
Does Detox Reverse Diabetes?
The modern age could easily be defined as the era of metabolic disease. Reaching pandemic proportions, the incidence of chronic illness borne from poor dietary and lifestyle choices continues to increase, and the conventional medical world awaits these patients with open arms – ready to prescribe drugs which only treat the symptoms, and never the root causes of failing health.
Somewhere along the way, we have disregarded our intuition – that a life full of vitality and energy is achieved by continually striving to create balance. If we do not mindfully eat, breath, move and live, our bodies take over in a quest called homeostasis. In the case of diabetes (type 2), we are made to believe that the issue is caused by resistance to sugar-lowering hormone. At this point, it is so important to realize this resistance is a condition which we are personally responsible for – occurring because we have flooded our cells with too much sugar. In essence, it is the body’s way of protecting itself, because if we eat too many foods which are broken down into glucose – the biophysical consequences are fatal.
What does sugar-reducing hormone do?
For a glucose molecule to get into our cells, it needs sugar-reducing hormone. This hormone is secreted by the pancreas and could be likened to the key that opens the door into our cells. Without this hormone, glucose remains in the blood – and in the case of diabetes, the body is unable to convert the food that we eat into energy, because, in response to the potentially fatal levels of elevated blood sugar, our cells become resistant to sugar reducing hormone. Effectively it is like dying of thirst while being on a raft in the ocean, surrounded by water, but unable to drink.
It is foolish to believe that treating resistance of sugar reducing hormone in isolation holds the answer – functionally speaking, we must discover why the condition occurred in the first place and alter our diet and lifestyles to correct it. By completely cutting out the foods which caused an over-abundance of glucose in the blood, the issue can usually be quickly and effectively resolved. The most effective way to reset the body and change our biochemistry is through fasting and detox. After this, we have the perfect foundation to alter our diets and lifestyles to prevent the disease reoccurring and stay off the medication which most patients end up taking for life.
An effective cleanse is necessary
By embarking on a supervised detox – such as a green juice fast or master cleanse, blood sugar can return to normal levels – at which point, a 21-day raw food program should be followed. Because inflammation and often go hand in hand, it is crucial to effectively cleanse from the foods which contribute to inflammation, not just those which cause high blood sugar levels. Typical allergens include dairy, wheat, alcohol and caffeine – and the best way to eliminate these is by following a medically supervised detox program.
By thoroughly “cleaning the house,” a detox program has the added benefit of clearing toxins from medication, processed food, herbicides and our environment. These toxins are often stubbornly clinging to our tissues, particularly in the fat cells – which can make it even more challenging to lose weight. With such a strong link between obesity and type 2 diabetes, returning to a healthy weight is of the utmost importance. Because stress is also a trigger for inflammation, taking part in a detox program where active relaxation techniques are taught, is very beneficial. Not only does this contribute to the transformative power of detoxing, but it is also a useful skill to have in our mindfulness toolkits. It is much easier to make good choices regarding our food and lifestyle, after some deep, calming breaths!
Create a healthy life at home as well
During a professional detox program, the skills and knowledge required to create a healthy life at home must be learned. Following a deep cleanse, a strict plant-based diet is recommended. Common allergens should be avoided for 21 days – this includes all grains, most fruit (except for berries and green apples) and starchy vegetables and legumes. Coffee and alcohol should also be abstained from. High fat, plant-based foods can be eaten in abundances – such as raw & soaked nuts and seeds, nut butters, hemp and nut milk, flax and chia seeds and high-quality oils like extra virgin olive oil. The bulk of meals should consist of raw, organically sourced vegetables in all of the colours of the rainbow.
The energy, clarity and feelings of mental and physical lightness following a diabetes program often feel more remarkable than the enormous achievement of becoming diabetes-free. Once this period of cleansing and healthy eating has been completed, returning to a balanced, plant-based diet is encouraged. The principle of 80/20 – 80% raw and 20% cooked food is an excellent maintenance plan. The focus should always be on consuming nutrient-dense foods, especially when reintroducing carbohydrates. Rather than eating bread, pasta, white rice or cooked potatoes, healthier choices such as quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, Ezekial or sprouted bread, kelp noodles, etc.
Get ready for a total lifestyle transformation
Part of the benefit of embarking on a diabetes program is the total lifestyle transformation that most patients undergo. Tastes and cravings change – and often the unhealthy foods and drinks that were enjoyed before, become unpalatable. Though some patients do go back to have moderate amounts of dairy or gluten, most find that the brain fog and sluggishness that follows too undesirable. As with all things in life, consistency is vital – so continuing to mindfully make good choices is the only way to remain healthy.
The LifeCo Diabete Detox Program to transform your life
The LifeCo offers an effective diabetes detox program, which has helped so many of our patients not only reverse diabetes but transforms their lives. Under the expert guidance of Dr Thomas Lodi, and several other collaborative physicians and researchers, we are well equipped to help our patients to eradicate this disease. The LifeCo’s excellent reputation for detox, coupled with adept medical supervision makes it a very safe and reliable place for such a big undertaking. On the pristine beaches of either Bodrum or North Phuket, this diabetes program is one of the few opportunities to relax in luxury while vastly improving health.
Kenneth Cusi, MD, FACP, FACE
Kenneth Cusi, MD, FACP, FACE
Chief of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, University of Florida College of Medicine
ADA Research Funding
Clinical Translational Award
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease—NAFLD, for short—is the most common chronic liver disease in America. Because of the liver’s central role in so many body processes, fat in the liver can have a ripple effect, increasing the risks of developing both cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
The links between NAFLD and type 2 are particularly well documented. Eighty percent of people with diabetes have fat in the liver, says Kenneth Cusi, MD, FACP, FACE, an endocrinologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Increasingly, researchers are realizing that the connection is no coincidence. “When I was in medical school, people thought obesity-related fat in the liver was an innocent bystander,” Cusi says. “Now endocrinologists are starting to realize this is a problem that hits home.”
Research indicates that NAFLD may contribute to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Because the liver plays such an important role in regulating the body’s blood sugar, the buildup of fat in the vital organ makes it harder to control fasting glucose levels. It also makes the body more resistant to insulin, straining the pancreas and its beta cells and speeding up the arrival of type 2 diabetes. “When you get fatty liver, diabetes is harder to control,” Cusi says.
Yet even though the majority of people with type 2 diabetes may have fatty livers, Cusi says the condition is typically undiagnosed, because of a lack of awareness among some doctors and the hidden nature of the disease.
Obesity is one indicator that the liver may be fatty, but NAFLD is very hard to detect, often eluding blood tests and physical exams. The most reliable way to diagnose it is a liver biopsy, an invasive and expensive procedure. Other options include MRI scans and ultrasound, a less precise but more economical method. Physical exams and blood tests might not yield any results at all: “A minority of patients have discomfort or tenderness, but for the vast majority it gives no symptoms,” Cusi says. “That’s why it’s so hard for clinicians. Even liver enzymes can be normal.”
So who gets fatty liver, and why? Studies have shown that Latinos are more likely to have type 2 diabetes than most other ethnic or racial groups, a finding that made Cusi wonder if there was a link to NAFLD. “Because Hispanics get more type 2 diabetes, there was a thought that they get more fatty liver disease,” Cusi says. “Our hypothesis was that Hispanics would have worse insulin resistance and worse liver disease.”
To test his theory, Cusi enrolled 152 overweight or obese patients in a study funded by the American Diabetes Association. Ninety-six of them were Latinos and 56 of them non-Hispanic whites. There were also 10 normal-weight participants in the study, to act as a “control” group. Cusi expected a higher proportion of the overweight or obese Latinos in the study to have fatty liver disease, defined as having more than 5.5 percent of the liver occupied by fat.
The study involved a range of tests, including scans of the liver and glucose tolerance tests. “We measured tolerance—how they were making insulin, insulin sensitivity in the muscle and liver—and took measurements of the adipose tissues,” Cusi explains.
As the results came in, though, it turned out that ethnicity had little to do with fat in the liver. “When we did studies, we found weren’t really that different,” Cusi says. The most important single factor seemed to be obesity, and Latinos tend to have more problems with obesity than other groups. “It’s not that Hispanics are doomed by genetics; they just tend to have more obesity,” Cusi says.
Was the experiment a failure? Certainly not, says Cusi: “Our hypothesis was wrong, but we learned that the main factor is obesity. That’s important, because we can do something about it,” Cusi says. “If there’s fat in your liver, think very seriously about lifestyle changes, and talk with your doctor about whether vitamin E supplements or pioglitazone is right for you,” he adds, noting that pioglitazone is approved only for patients with type 2 diabetes.
The key to reversing the course of fatty liver disease is weight loss. “Reduce carbohydrates, and that reduces fat in the liver very quickly,” Cusi says. A loss of 5 percent of body weight is enough to start reducing liver fat, and just a few percentage points more begin reducing the inflammation that is so closely connected to insulin resistance. “If you start losing weight,” Cusi says, “a lot of things get better.”
Liver Function Impacts Health in Diabetes: Are you loving your liver?
Ryan Bradley, ND, MPH February, 2008
In naturopathic medicine, we take the concept of “you are what you eat” very seriously and extend it further into “you are what you eat, absorb and can’t eliminate”; digestive health and liver function are critical to optimal health. The liver is a very important organ for all of us, as it is responsible for regulating our metabolism, including our blood sugar, as well as for detoxifying toxic substances. This article will describe some markers of a burdened liver and relate this to diabetes and the risk for cardiovascular disease. In addition, I will outline some choices you can make to love your liver through food choices and behaviors. Finally, I will discuss some data available on “treating” the liver using botanical medicines and nutrients in the context of diabetes.
Where is My Liver and What Does it Do?
The liver is a large organ tucked up under the right hand side of your rib cage. The liver has many functions including processing food, regulating our blood sugar and blood fat levels, and detoxifying our bodies. The liver detoxifies substances that we produce inside of our own bodies as well as toxic substances that we ingest or absorb from the outside world. In some cases, substances that we absorb from our food have biological actions. For example, dairy products can contain extra amounts of hormones, like estrogens, if the dairy cows are treated with these hormones while they are raised. The extra estrogen-like compounds in cow’s milk have biologic activity inside of our bodies, unless they are eliminated via our detox pathways. Compounds like hormones in dairy are called xenobiotics.
In general, human detox pathways are broken down into two phases, Phase I and Phase II. Phase I makes compounds more reactive, or sticky, so that they can combine with other materials in Phase II in order to eliminate them from the body; for example a fat may be made more soluble (or dissolvable) in water so that we are able to eliminate the fat in our urine. This description is an oversimplification of a convoluted, overlapping series of reactions that has some duplication and redundancy; usually a single chemical can be detoxed via several separate pathways. This overlap in function is a protective mechanism to avoid toxic accumulations of toxins that cause damage.
Although there is overlap in detox pathways within the liver, every process in the body can be overburdened by being given too much to do. In the case of the detoxification in the liver, if too much or too many substances require elimination, the liver can reach its capacity and the concentrations of these compounds can build or accumulate. This bioaccumulation leads to a toxic liver or “liver congestion” as it is referred to in naturopathic medicine.
To illustrate this idea, I’ll continue with the estrogen example. Imagine you were a young woman producing estrogens normally, but you also took a birth control pill, drank non-organic dairy daily and used plastic wrap on all your food at home (plastic wrap leeches estrogen-like compounds into the foods we eat and should be avoided in my opinion). Your body would do fine keeping up with metabolizing and detoxing the estrogens you produce on your own, and your body would probably respond to the extra hormones in the birth control pill okay too, by increasing the activity of the enzymes needed in this pathway. However, what about the estrogen-like compounds in dairy? Or the estrogen-like compounds in plastic? Imagine these do not get broken down and eliminated all in one day, and then the next day you drink more dairy, take your pill, etc. You can see how relatively quickly, these compounds could build up in your body – and for substances like hormones – begin to alter function in your body.
In the clinic, we see patients with “liver congestion” frequently. They are typically tired, feel generally ill, have generalized soreness, headaches, poor digestion and have impaired blood sugar regulation.
How Can I Tell if My Liver is “Congested”?
The liver is an exceptionally tolerant organ, and therefore the situation inside the body needs to get very bad before signs show up. However, there are liver function tests available from your doctor that provide information about your liver. One test in particular seems to be important in diabetes as well as risk for cardiovascular disease. This test is called gamma-glutamyl transferase, or GGT for short.
GGT has several roles in liver function, and both are very important. The first role of GGT is it helps to recycle nutrients and amino acids in order to increase antioxidants in the liver, specifically GGT increases glutathione production. Glutathione is a keystone to our antioxidant defenses! In addition to increasing glutathione, GGT also is a detox enzyme that combines, or conjugates, substances to glutathione in order for them to be eliminated from the body.
What Does GGT Have to Do with Diabetes?
Even slight increases in blood levels of GGT appear to:
- Increase risk for developing diabetes,
- Increase risk for developing the metabolic syndrome,
- Increase risk for having a cardiovascular problem like a heart attack and
- Increase risk for high blood pressure .
It is important to point out that the increases that seem to increase risk of all of these things are not “elevations” on your labs like you would see for your cholesterol being too high, but are technically within the normal range because most people are somewhat toxic and the “normal” range represents this baseline toxicity!
Wait a Minute, I’m Lost. How Does GGT Impact my Diabetes?
I agree, this is a pretty complicated topic, but hang in there and it may make more sense (I hope!) Not everything about GGT and how it represents abnormal function is fully known. However, it has been proposed that GGT is a marker of oxidative stress in the liver . GGT has been shown to be inversely related to concentrations of antioxidants in the blood in a very large study, i.e. GGT was increased when antioxidants were decreased. If the body is under oxidative stress, it makes sense that it would try to compensate by increasing its antioxidant defenses; this increase may be represented by higher GGT levels in the blood.
Because the liver is so important in regulating blood sugar by sensing blood sugar levels and responding by either increasing or decreasing its production of sugar, it stands to reason (although is not fully known how) that oxidative stress in the liver may impact this regulation of blood sugar.
How Does GGT Get Elevated in the First Place?
Not all factors that elevate GGT are well known, however some are. Certain diet patterns are associated with increased GGT, including consumption of red meat and alcohol, whereas consumption of non-fried or canned vegetables, grains, beans, tree nuts and coffee seem to be associated with lower levels of GGT. Recall, GGT was higher when blood antioxidant levels were lower, therefore it makes sense that consuming an antioxidant rich diet filled with multi-colored vegetables foods is one strategy to prevent elevations in GGT!
Although this has not yet been shown in research, I speculate that Advanced Glycosylation Endproducts (See Complementary Corner December 2006) may also contribute to elevated GGT levels. (If you review the AGE article, you will find meat and fried foods amongst the highest AGE-containing foods). In general, cooked oils or fats produce oxidants, called peroxides, in the body which elevated GGT. In addition some drugs, like acetaminophen in over the counter pain medication, also deplete the antioxidant glutathione and cause elevations in GGT.
What Can I do to Protect My Liver?
The easiest answer is to follow a healthy diet, rich in tree nuts, beans, fruits and vegetables and lean animal proteins like fish and poultry. Limit red meat and avoid fried foods. When using cooking oils, use olive oil and don’t cook at high temperatures.
Some research suggests low amounts of alcohol may actually be good for people with diabetes and may improve glucose control and reduce vascular risk , however alcohol should be limited to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Many alcoholic beverages, including beer and wine, contain significant amounts of carbohydrates, so all alcohol needs to be included in your daily carbohydrate allotments and your daily calorie requirements.
In naturopathic medicine, we refer to some foods as “liver foods” as these foods have either been shown to be protective for liver function in some way or contain nutrients required for detoxification. Some of these foods include garlic; onions; artichokes; root vegetables like parsnips, carrots and burdock; dandelion greens; and brassica-family vegetables like broccoli, mustard greens, turnips, cabbage and brussel sprouts.
Finally, although not well researched, it makes sense to me to eat organically when ever possible and avoid using plastics and harsh chemicals around the house. Although the exact influence of these household chemicals and food contaminants is not well known, I think your liver has enough to do without adding more substances to detoxify. Frankly, we are exposed to enough chemicals, like diesel exhaust, that we cannot control, so why not reduce our exposures whenever we can?
Are There Herbs or Nutrients that May Protect My Liver?
One of the most widely known “liver herbs” is milk thistle. Milk thistle contains a compound called silymarin which is a powerful antioxidant in the liver. Silymarin has been shown in human clinical research to reduce fasting blood glucose, reduce markers of inflammation in the liver and reduce hemoglobin A1c by 0.8% over a one-year period . In a separate four-month study, Silymarin reduced hemoglobin A1c by 1.0% in four months (this is better than some medications!). Silymarin also reduced other liver enzymes, but unfortunately GGT was not tested in this study.
In addition to milk thistle, tumeric or Curcuma longa, the commonly used cooking spice in curries and Indian fare, has been shown to reduce GGT in animal research by reducing the oxidative stress caused by oxidize oils . Curcuma may have other health benefits, including an anti-inflammatory activity and may improve insulin sensitivity. (See Complementary Corner July 2006 for more information on how some culinary spices may affect diabetes.)
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an antioxidant material available as a nutritional supplement; NAC is known to act as a precursor to glutathione in humans. NAC has not been well studies in humans. However in rats, NAC appears to lower GGT when challenged with high doses of alcohol and/or oxidized oils. In addition, genetic experiments in mice where the gene for GGT has been removed results in the mice developing cataracts (a common complication of diabetes) and dying prematurely. If these mice are fed NAC, the animals do not develop cataracts and live a normal lifespan.
Vitamin E, although controversial in humans, has been shown to reduce GGT levels in diabetic rats and has been shown to reduce markers of lipid peroxides in humans. Of note, the doses used to reduce peroxides in humans are much higher than doses typically used by most people; 1600-3200 IUs per day were required.
Your liver is a vital organ that assists in regulating blood glucose and in detoxifying normal and foreign wastes from the body. If the body is too burdened by outside toxins, these toxins accumulate and appear to alter biological function. GGT is an enzyme in the liver than functions to increase antioxidant status in the liver, as well as combine toxins with glutathione in order to detox harmful substances. Slight increases of GGT within the normal range appear to increase risk for diabetes and many cardiovascular complications associated with diabetes. There are numerous health habits that are associated with lower GGT levels, including eating a low red meat, low alcohol, high whole foods diet. In addition, clinical and animal research is supporting the use of botanical medicines like Tumeric and Milk Thistle in treating liver disease as well as preventing oxidative damage in the liver. In the case of Milk Thistle, this liver protection also appears to be accompanied by improvement in blood glucose control in people with diabetes. Love your liver, it’s yours to protect.
3. Andre, P., et al., Gamma-glutamyltransferase activity and development of the metabolic syndrome (International Diabetes Federation Definition) in middle-aged men and women: Data from the Epidemiological Study on the Insulin Resistance Syndrome (DESIR) cohort. Diabetes Care, 2007. 30(9): p. 2355-61.