The Race to Fight Aging: Part 2. Insulin Resistance & Immune Breakdown

Having diabetes is a major factor in premature aging. Many experts now consider obesity and diabetes to be forms of accelerated aging.

Type 2 diabetes has reached epidemic levels in America. The rates of diabetes have doubled just in the last three decades! Today, 17 million people suffer from diabetes. Many more people have the disease, but don’t know it. Type 2 diabetes cases are even rising among young adults and children. In type 2 diabetes, the most common type, the pancreas is unable to use insulin properly (insulin resistance) or has too little insulin, the hormone that allows sugar to be stored or used for energy.

  Diabetes is really a vicious cycle where poor fat and sugar metabolism lead to obesity… which then leads to diabetes. The cycle keeps going. Diabetes makes you more hungry, so its symptoms are aggravated as well as brought on by eating too much fat and too many sugary foods.

Complications from diabetes are the fourth leading cause of death by disease in the world today. Heart disease, high blood pressure, retinopathy (loss of vision), nerve damage, kidney problems, arteriosclerosis, and circulatory problems are all major problems that face diabetics.

 But there is a lot of hope. While some cases need to be managed medically, many type 2 diabetics can balance their blood sugar simply by following a low glycemic, low fat diet and getting regular exercise.

What are diabetes risk factors?

People with a family history of the disease (particularly African Americans), who are overweight, or who get little or no exercise are at the highest risk. Clearly, a diet high in refined sugar and refined carbohydrates is another major factor.

Here are the latest statistics: Sugar has become an entire food group, counting for an astounding 20% of total daily calories for adult Americans! But a high sugar diet overworks, then damages the pancreas, so your body can’t produce or correctly use insulin. As refined carbohydrates and sugars cease to be metabolized, they accumulate in the body and are stored as fat. Excess body fat and lack of exercise then bring on insulin resistance.

Do you have high blood sugar warning signs? Common symptoms include:

—extreme thirst with frequent urination

—slow healing cuts and wounds; chronic infections

—recent weight loss or weight gain without diet changes

—severe, unexplained fatigue

—blurry vision

 If you have any of these warning symptoms, make sure to get medical advice. Diabetes can be serious! Testing your blood sugar when you get up in the morning can provide some helpful clues. Home blood glucose monitoring kits are available from most pharmacies.

How is type 1 diabetes different?  Type 1 diabetes is a juvenile, autoimmune condition where the body destroys its own insulin-producing cells. Today scientists are working with Islet-cell transplants as a possible cure with some success. Although diet therapy is helpful to manage reactions, type 1 diabetes is a chronic problem that is almost entirely dependent on insulin to sustain life.

What about metabolic syndrome or “Syndrome X”? Is it the future of Diabetes? 

  Metabolic syndrome is estimated to affect up to 95 million Americans - It is one of the most serious health threats in the modern world! It’s a complex condition, but the common denominator is insulin resistance; People with metabolic syndrome always have either pre-diabetes, or diabetes. In fact, in metabolic syndrome, blood sugar levels soar out of control, setting off a damaging free radical cascade, inflammation, accelerated aging and a variety of metabolic problems.

  Metabolic syndrome often goes undetected by doctors for years, because its complications are so varied. In women, gland problems like infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome and irregular menstruation often result.

 Insulin resistance damages the cardiovascular system and blood vessels. High blood pressure is a common result, so people with metabolic syndrome have very high risk of heart attack, stroke and coronary heart disease.

Excess insulin also provokes the liver to make more cholesterol, dump more fats into the bloodstream, and allow more fat storage, reasons why people with metabolic syndrome have such a hard time losing weight. Excess fat around your waist is a primary sign.

 Too much sugar circulates in the bloodstream, creating more AGE products (advanced glycosylation end products) associated with accelerated aging, brown spots, and kidney disease.

  The medical approach relies on using a different drug “patch” for each problem, so the person is juggling 4 or 5 different prescriptions, (and possibly adverse drug reactions and side effects). For example, statin drugs used to control high cholesterol are highly toxic to the liver. Using them long term can worsen complications like fatty liver disease and obesity.

What’s causing the Metabolic syndrome epidemic?

  Again, our lifestyle bears much of the responsibility. Like diabetes, the main triggers of Syndrome X are lack of exercise, and diet overloads of sugar, refined carbs, saturated and trans fats. Smoking, chronic stress and alcohol abuse accelerate the damage.

 Still, heredity can play a role. African American women, Hispanics, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders who have adopted a western lifestyle (and eating patterns) are the hardest hit by this syndrome, but the epidemic is actually growing in all of America’s middle aged baby boomer population.

Are you at risk for Syndrome X?   Three or more of these symptoms may be a sign.

            • Obesity, especially if you have an apple shaped body (excess weight around the middle) or a protruding stomach (a sign of liver enlargement).

            • Diabetes or pre-diabetes (Fasting blood glucose higher than 110).

            • Diagnosed high cholesterol, triglycerides Cholesterol deposits on the skin (xanthelasma).

            • Poor circulation or arteriosclerosis.  Blood pressure greater than 140/85 mmHg.

            • Poor immune response with frequent colds, flu or candida yeast infections. Retinal changes, cataracts.

            • Polycystic ovaries (signs include irregular menstruation, infertility, hirsutism, acne and obesity).

            A holistic approach is well suited to address Syndrome X and diabetes, helping to rebalance blood sugar levels, and to help normalize high blood pressure and cholesterol without serious side effects or drug toxicity.

Natural Therapies To Rebalance Body Systems

1. Start with diet improvements. Do not skip meals. Most diabetics should eat 6 mini-meals a day, especially if they’re on insulin therapy. Ask your physician.

• Focus on a largely plant-based, fresh foods diet for complex carbohydrates that don’t require much insulin for metabolism. Make sure you are getting high quality protein from fish, legumes, and green superfoods like barley grass and spirulina.  Add high fiber vegetables, and whole grains like oats and brown rice to stabilize sugar swings and support cardiovascular health.

• Keep fat intake low, no more than 15% of total calories, for heart health and weight management. Instead, boost essential fatty acids (EFA’s). EFA’s promote healthy metabolism and improve circulation.

Low essential fatty acid levels worsen metabolic syndrome by triggering inflammation. Eat seafood (especially wild salmon) 3 times a week for Omega 3 fatty acids. Sea veggies, olive oil, flax seed oil and dark greens like spinach are other good sources of EFA’s.  Consider EVENING PRIMROSE OIL 3000mg daily.

• Add more chromium-rich foods to your diet, like nutritional yeast, onions, garlic and wheat germ to normalize blood sugar levels. Supplemental chromium (500 to 1000 mcg. daily) is another good option to explore with your physician.

•Very important! Strive for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily. No program for diabetes or metabolic syndrome will work for long without regular exercise. 

Mushroom Wisdom offers high quality medicinal mushrooms for wellness

Mushroom Wisdom offers high quality medicinal mushrooms for wellness

2. Consider medicinal mushrooms and whole herbs for body balance. Note: If you’re on medication for diabetes, ask your doctor before using herbal formulas. Diabetics may need to reduce the dosage of their medication while using herbs.

• First, let’s talk about maitake mushroom. New research on a special extract from maitake mushroom, called SX fraction, shows it can enhance insulin sensitivity and improve blood glucose management.

 Diet improvements are absolutely necessary for managing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. A healthy, natural foods diet, in addition to reducing insulin requirements and balancing blood sugar, has the nice “side effects” of healthy weight loss and better heart protection.

Immune Breakdown- Can medicinal mushrooms safeguard your health?

Most Americans today don’t have good immune response to fight off illness. Pollution, drug overload and nutrient-poor diets compromise our immune health even in good weather. So we’re already pre-disposed to a life of frequent colds, flu, and sinus infections when bad weather or spring allergies roll in.

  Many people still believe they’re protected by having a flu shot, but think again. Flu shots are only effective for specific flu viruses...... you may be exposed to a different one, or even a brand new one (flu viruses mutate rapidly) and your shot won’t be effective. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2004 that the vaccine had little or no effectiveness against influenza or influenza-like diseases!

Meanwhile, with a death toll of 36,000 people annually in the US, the flu can be deadly, especially for the elderly.

People who HIV/AIDS, and children whose immune systems aren’t fully developed (especially babies born prematurely--- 500,000 babies in the U.S. each year) are also at very high risk for flu complications. 

 But drugs aren’t the answer for immune enhancement. Each one of us has a unique immune response system. It would be almost impossible to form a drug for each person.

Immune defense is automatic and subconscious. It works on its own to set up a healing environment for your body. It is this quality of being part of us, yet not under our conscious control, that is the great power of immune response. Our immune system shows us that there is so much more to healing than the latest wonder drug. We can really see that we are the ultimate healer of ourselves.

 The immune system is the most complex and delicately balanced infrastructure of your body, your own personal defense team that comes charging to the rescue at the first sign of a harmful invader—like a virus, fungus, pathogenic bacteria or parasite. The immune system is always vigilant, constantly searching for proteins, called antigens, that don’t belong in our bodies.

 It can deal with a wide range of them, even recognizing potential antigens, like drugs, pollens, insect venoms, malignant cells and chemicals in foods.

But today your immune system is challenged daily by at least 25,000 new chemicals that enter our environment every year - many of them from third world countries that don’t have safeguards in place. These chemicals affect our air, our water, our food supply, and our basic hormone balance.

Today immune compromised fatigue diseases like candida albicans, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s, and cancer are taking hold in almost epidemic proportions.

  I believe the only way to stay healthy during these high risk times is to prepare your body for the defenses it’s going to need. Even if you’ve improved your diet, take another look at it because a super nutritious diet is imperative as you grow older.

 And, the latest research validates ancient wisdom: Medicinal mushrooms and whole herbs offer powerful immune support and assist recovery for even serious illness.

1. Medicinal Mushrooms-  In Traditional Chinese medicine, many of the “superior” drugs- those that increase resistance to all disease agents- are derived from mushrooms.  Of course, the beauty of a medicinal food like mushrooms is that you can add them to your diet as well as take them supplementally. Mushrooms are double defense for your immune system!

Shiitake mushroom

 Shiitake mushrooms stimulate your immune system’s powerhouses, the macrophages and NK (natural killer) cells to act both quickly and aggressively against invading pathogens.

 Add shiitakes to your meals when you feel unusually tired or if you’re coming down with a cold. A little shiitake goes a long way. Simply soak them until they’re soft (or use them fresh), and slice them with kitchen scissors.  I like adding them to miso soup, brown rice or healthy stir fry recipes once or twice a week, especially during high risk seasons or after a lot of travel.

Reishi mushroom

Reishi mushrooms are adaptogenic. They have a balancing effect on the body- regardless of the illness. In China, Reishi has been prized for thousands of years as the “Elixir of Immortality.”

  While Reishi probably won’t make you immortal,  this powerful mushroom stimulates your immune system’s phagocytes, specialized “eater cells” that ingest harmful bacteria and boost the activity of your T-cells (“killer” cells).

Cordyceps

Cordyceps was first brought into the spotlight by Chinese athletes who used it and broke nine world records in 1993. Cordyceps (or caterpillar mushroom) is not technically a mushroom; it’s actually a fungi that colonizes inside a variety of insects. (FYI- you can view a video of cordyceps growing out of an insect host on boingboing.net ).  Cordyceps increases energy levels in health problems like CFS and fibromyalgia, where the body is deficient or run-down. It is a proven choice for people who feel too tired to exercise.

In my own personal experience, I have found cordyceps eases chest congestion and speeds healing from respiratory illnesses. Dosage: 600 mg of 12: 1 Extract.

Maitake mushroom

 Maitake mushrooms offer a significant immune boost for serious health concerns like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis, and, as we previously discussed, diabetes.

2. Protease Enzyme therapy

  Enzymes are at the forefront of my immune boosting program. Supplemental protease, the enzyme that digests protein, is  especially remarkable. Protease taken between meals will enter the blood stream and help the immune system digest the protein fragments and unwanted waste in the blood- including harmful bacteria and viruses. Protease can even break down abnormal tissue in the body. In my own experience, there are almost miraculous results from protease on dissolving scar tissue.... both externally and internally... and for helping shrink cysts and fibroids. For therapeutic benefits, take at least 370,000 HUT (Hemoglobin Unit Tyrosine base) daily.

3.  Whole herbs offer protection against illness as you age, and their activity is gentle and long lasting without the harsh side effects of antibiotic drugs. Here are 2 of my favorites:

   Astragalus is a “power root” for immunity. In China, it is considered the quintessential herb for building resistance to infection. Astragalus boosts natural killer activity and possesses anti-viral properties. In studies with people susceptible to frequent infections, astragalus improved natural resistance so patients got sick less frequently. It is especially beneficial to prevent respiratory illness.

 Most health food stores and Oriental markets sell the dried root in bulk. It looks like a tongue depressor and works well in a tonic, immune building soup with miso, other root vegetables and shiitake mushrooms.

It’s also available in capsules and tinctures. Combinations with other immune tonics like garlic or green tea are best, but as a single herb about 500-1000mg is effective. Note: Astragalus is not recommended for acute illness. It’s best used as a preventive or during the recuperation stage of an illness.

   Burdock is another miracle immune herb. Burdock’s not very well known in America, but it’s one of my all-time favorite defense herbs. Burdock provides remarkable support for your liver. Your liver is responsible for more than 1500 functions that directly maintain your immune system. It produces interferon, the body’s natural germ killer, which activates white blood cells that destroy and eliminate disease-causing toxins.

I like burdock best in an immune tea - simply simmer 1-2 tsp. of the dried root in a cup of water for 15 minutes. Take 2-3 times a week for protective results. Also, look for burdock under the name  “Gobo” in Japanese supermarkets. Like astragalus, burdock also works well in an immune recovery soup.

            Clearly, we are all trying to live longer and live better. But I believe the real secret to anti-aging, beauty and immune strength is found in your positive outlook and healthy lifestyle choices. Medicinal mushrooms and whole herbs are an ideal anti-aging choice for men and women. As nourishment, they offer the body nutrients it may not always receive, either because of poor diet, or environmental deficiencies in the soil, air and water. As therapy, they are essentially body balancers that work with the body functions, so that it can heal and regulate itself.