By Eric M Morris
Sometimes life can throw us a curveball. On May 29th, 2010 I was thrown a curveball that would change my life forever.
It was only after my body was acting strangely did I realize that something was wrong. Sure the warning signs were there; rapid weight loss, unquenchable thirst, severe leg cramps, extreme fatigue, urinating every two hours, impotence, jolting kidney pains, and extremely blurred vision. Those around me simply dismissed my symptoms as a result of me “being almost 40”. It seemed there was an explanation for everything. Frequent urination? “That’s what happens to men when they get about 40.” The fatigue, “Oh you just need to rest”. Blurred vision; “Well I was about 40 when I needed glasses”. The impotence, “We’ll that’s what happens to men when they get about forty, you know”. Kidney pain? “You’re not drinking enough water.” Co-workers suspected me of being on drugs when my weight went from 200lbs to 170lbs in two months. After researching my symptoms in the Prescription for Nutritional Healing, a book that I’ve held in high regard for years, all symptoms pointed to one thing, diabetes.
A trip to the doctor confirmed the fears. My fasting blood sugar level was 474. My A1c was 15.7. I was clueless about diabetes, so I asked the nurse if having 474 and 15.7 was a good or a bad thing. It was quickly explained to me that a normal fasting glucose level should be between 110 and 120. A healthy A1c is 6. The nurse was surprised that I hadn’t already gone into a diabetic coma and immediately suggested that I may be prescribed insulin to get my numbers in check. I was against it. After all, insulin and comas are things or diabetics and at 38 years old and highly active, there was no way that I could be a diabetic. My parents weren’t diabetics. My grandparents were but aside from me having a lifelong love affair with candy and sweets, I was the healthiest eating person in my family. But maybe it was this coma thing that I was fighting off as I’d struggle to lift my cramped legs out of bed in the mornings. Instead of being well rested upon waking, it felt as if I had walked 100 miles with concrete blocks chained to my ankles. Maybe it was the onset of a coma that caused me to go into deep sleep at my desk. While I was able to avoid an insulin prescription I was prescribed metformin but after suffering the harsh side effects such as severe gas, bloating, and stomach-churning, I knew that there had to be a more comfortable way to treat diabetes. This was when I decided to seek the medicinal power of herbs in my fight against diabetes.
Doctors cautioned me against taking myself off of the prescribed medication. Many doubted the effectiveness of herbs to manage my diabetes versus the use of modern medicine. Even my wife, a registered nurse, had little confidence that herbs would get my glucose levels back to normal. It is my opinion that many in the medical field are conditioned to believe in and are sold on the theory that modern medicine is the only solution to a medical problem. My decision to go with traditional medicine did not disappoint. Three months after I started my herbal regimen, eating glucose lowering foods such as grapefruit and high-fiber foods, drinking lots of water, and exercising daily, my A1c was cut almost in half. My blood sugar was down to about 9. Doctors were amazed that I had done this without the use of diabetic medications. Six months later my glucose was at acceptable levels, and my A1c hovered at 6.9. I vividly recall a conversation with a nurse who flat out disputed the use of herbs to treat a disease like diabetes after I acknowledged that I was a diabetic and not on any medication. Her words were “herbs do not work”, even though my lab results showed otherwise.
Despite being diagnosed with diabetes, I was able to find two positive sides to having the disease. First, and undeniably the biggest “positive” of having diabetes is that diabetes forces you to eat healthily. All of the things that we used to avoid as children suddenly become good to us. Broccoli, high in chromium, has been shown to lower A1c levels. Grapefruit, often not recommended if a person is on other diabetic medications, can be good at lowering A1c. Kidney beans and black beans pack some of the highest fiber percentages available and were a staple in my fight against diabetes. Flaxseed oil was also paramount due to its high alpha-linoleic acid content is essential in lowering A1c. Cinnamon, my go-to herb, has been long revered for its ability to metabolize sugar within the body. Second, physical exercise on a consistent basis becomes a welcomed ritual, especially once you see a direct correlation to exercise and a lower A1c. Health experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise for good health. I tripled these numbers by vigorously walking 5 miles a day, 4-5 days a week; about 360-400 minutes a week. This, combined with herbs and a fairly strict diet, worked wonders in keeping my blood sugar in check. I know, it’s not easy, it takes motivation, and we have other things that we’d rather do but considering the options; amputation, blindness, dialysis, and insulin, it pays to hit the pavement or gym.
Are herbs for you? This is a question that everyone will have to decide for themselves. They can be effective but cautioned must be used if combined with modern medication. While herbs and other traditional remedies have proven effective against diabetes, they aren’t the magic solution that will allow us to eat and drink whatever we want. I’ve found this out the hard way as my glucose level still ebbs and flows when I am inconsistent in diet and exercise. However, I know that a side- effect- free solution to treating my diabetes is there at my fingertips and what is inevitably in store for me if this solution is not adhered to. If you ask me, I’d say that herbs work. If I can manage my diabetes without the use of modern medicine, so can you!
Eric’s article is in no way intended to initiate or replace your healthcare professionals therapy or advice. Please check in with your medical team to discuss your diabetes management.