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Controlling Blood Sugar and Nerve Damage: Understanding the Connection


Celiac.com 04/04/2011 - Having been diagnosed with celiac disease, I know from having to follow a strict gluten-free diet that monitoring one's diet and health can be inconvenient, time-consuming, and challenging. Similarly, keeping one's blood sugar level under control for diabetics can be tough, but studies are showing how important this is, as it has been shown to prevent diabetic neuropathy, that is, nerve damage peculiar to diabetics, and its devastating effects.

According to Tedd Mitchell, M.D., President of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, there are two types of diabetic neuropathy, peripheral and autonomic. Peripheral neuropathy is "a degeneration of the nerves in the feet and hands," according to Dr. Mitchell, which, as it occurs "slowly but progressively," reduces sensitivity to touch while heightening sensations of pain and itching. The second type is autonomic neuropathy, which is, Dr. Mitchell says, "damage to nerves that control bodily functions, such as digestion, urination, heart rate, blood pressure, sexual function and even sweating." Some of the symptoms of this type are digestive problems, urinary problems, and reductions in blood pressure.

The longer one has been diabetic, the higher one's risk for neuropathy. Thankfully, evidence supports that long-term blood sugar control can reduce this risk. It may seem like a challenge for some diabetics to control their blood sugar, but with some determination and effort, it can successfully be achieved.

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MedicalMoment.org, a website developed by Columbia St. Mary's, an organization of hospitals and clinics, offers various ways to get started controlling your blood sugar. First, in liaison with your health care provider, test your blood sugar and keep a record of your results and pertinent information, on a daily basis. Follow your doctor's prescribed diabetes medicine plan while eating foods low in fat, sugar, and sodium and high in fiber on a regular basis, aiming for the same caloric intake every day. It's important to get regular exercise, starting slowly if need be, such as swimming and walking. Your diet and exercise routine should be geared toward maintaining your ideal weight, which should be determined by your health care provider. You'll want to stay aware of signs of possible nerve damage such as sores that won't heal, blisters, swelling, and ulcers.

MedicalMoment.org also offers several tips for keeping blood sugar under control. Low blood sugar should be treated quickly with the use of special glucose gel or tablets. Smoking, which harms the heart and the circulatory system, should be avoided. Next, learn as much as possible about your diabetic condition and treatment; knowledge is power in this case, as I know from being a celiac disease patient. Lastly, avoid stress and get support by staying connected with friends and relatives or a support group who can help you keep your blood sugar under control.

It isn't unusual for me to focus some of my work as an author, researcher, and gluten-free and health advocate, on the area of diabetes; after all, according to Celiac.com, evidence is growing which supports that people with Type 1 diabetes are at high risk for celiac disease. In this research, the necessity of maintaining blood sugar is clear. With the help of your medical practitioner and other resources, you can achieve proper self-care in controlling blood sugar level and lower this risk of nerve damage.

Resource:
Mitchell, Dr. Tedd. "Nerve damage: One more reason to keep blood sugar under control." USA Weekend: July 9-11, 2010.

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3 Responses:

 
Anne
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said this on
11 Apr 2011 9:01:03 AM PDT
I have gluten sensitivity, peripheral neuropathy and type 2 diabetes (I am not overweight). When I stopped eating gluten, my peripheral neuropathy pain went from a 9 to a 0 and I don't feel like it is progressing. I still have some residual foot numbness and I am hoping that this will improve by getting my blood sugars into the normal range (80-90). I follow a grain free, sugar free, low carb, primal/paleo-like diet to keep my blood sugar in this range. I will admit that my postprandial blood glucose goes to 110 at times if I eat too many carbs. Before I went low carb, my blood sugar would shoot up to 200 and above.

I highly recommend Dr. Richard K Bernstein's book "Diabetes Solution" and Jenny Rhul's book and website "Blood Sugar 101" if you really want to get normal blood sugars.

I could find medicalmoment, but many of its links were broken.

 
Celiac
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said this on
17 Apr 2011 5:06:09 PM PDT
I'm not sure if this article really relates to most people reading it. Type 1 diabetes is the only form of diabetes related to celiac disease (they are both genetically related autoimmune disorders). Type 1 diabetes is the "severe" form of diabetes that is not related to lifestyle or weight. Type 1 diabetes is very, very, very hard to control and is immediately life threatening if not managed 24/7. There can be severe swings in blood glucose levels daily, even hour to hour. Even with insulin pumps, testing your blood glucose 12 times or more a day, and/or injecting 7+ times per day, a strict diet, weighing your food, etc. the disease is still impossible to manage for many. It's not that simple. You can do everything "right" and still have variable control from day to day. I do agree that some T1s do well low carb, but high fibre diets do NOT suit the new fast acting insulins and can cause low blood glucose in a T1 diabetic (but not a Type 2 diabetic) It's not just low carb. I cannot eat ANY soy, rice, buckwheat, or potatoes without severe swings for days in my blood glucose and insulin needs. Soy is by far the worst for me. Because T1 is an autoimmune disease, it is very possible that some are reacting to food proteins, much like Celiac. These antibodies to insulin (not just any residual beta cells) can complicate control in a T1. We really need a cure for both diseses, all autoimmune diseases, really. Also, T1 diabetics need MORE "good" fats in their diet.

 
david atiyeh
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said this on
07 Nov 2011 8:44:14 AM PDT
Great info. I will send my patients to this site




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Just recently diagnosed and wondering has anyone else experienced constant benching/gas, chest burning, and constipation??

and once that's happened if results are negative please do properly trial the gluten free diet regardless. So much of what you've posted suggests you're on the right track with this, results notwithstanding. Good luck!

Hi Galaxy, This does not mean that you don't have celiac. You need a full panel done. I only test positive on the DGP IgA test. You still need tTG IgG, DGP IgA, DGP IgG and EMA. Ask your Dr to order the rest? Do keep eating gluten until all testing is complete and definitely keep advocating for yourself! You deserve to feel good!! ((((((Hugs))))))

HI all. Blood, genetic and 3 biopsies diagnosed Celiac 2007. Spent 10 years on elimination diet of 9 foods to have stable colon and CRP. Never had bad Celiac numbers and my weight dropped 90 lbs from inflamation under control. Great cholesterol. Last two years have been adding foods. Last summer developed sharp pain in right flank, severe. After ultrasounds and MRI no diagnosis. Three back to back bladder infections and high CRP, Westergreen and Cholesterol later I went back to elimination diet for 30 days. Hard with food and starvation fear. Blood perfect again. Just wanted to share that obviously some food I added took me down hard. I am militant gluten-free and my Celiac blood work was normal throughout. Pain is gone. Anyone else experience this. Did you find out what it was and what test or Lab? Thanks to all who share here.

http://www.popsci.com/peppers-marijuana-gut Found this and found it interesting, I will admit I love making edibles and it always seemed to help with my gut lol. "Your gut is something of an immunological mystery. Unlike the rest of the body, which tends to treat foreign invaders with a singular purpose?seek and destroy?the stomach cannot afford to be so indiscriminate. It exists to help fuel the body, and that means routinely welcoming foreign bodies in the form food. ?If we injected ourselves with the food that we eat, we would have a massive immune response,? said Pramod Srivastava, an immunologist at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. When our gut?s immune system starts acting more like that of the rest of the body, the gut gets inflamed and starts attacking its own cells. The end result is illness. Diseases like celiac (an autoimmune reaction to gluten) and ulcerative colitis (one of two types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, the other being Crohns) occur when the gut?s immune system starts treating food, and our own body, like an interloper. These conditions often leaves sufferers in tremendous pain and at an increased risk of both malnutrition and colon cancer. But if researchers could figure out how to calm down that immunological response, it might be possible to create a treatment. Srivastava?s recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests we may be one step closer to finding a cure. He found that anandamide, a chemical that the body makes naturally and that is very similar to chemicals found in marijuana, helps calm down the immune system?at least in the guts of mice. If his studies hold up in humans, he says it could eventually lead to a cure for ulcerative colitis. To understand how Srivastava came to this conclusion it helps to look at his earlier work. Srivastava found that when he exposed immune cells to hot temperatures that the cells became highly activated?in other words, the immune cells went to work. Previous studies have shown that elevated body temperatures (better known as fevers) can help immune cells work better. But what Srivastava wanted to know was why. How exactly did the cells know that it was getting hot in there? ?It was known that there were certain calcium cells that open up in the nerves when they are exposed to high temperature,? said Srivastava. ?So, if the hand encounters a hot stove, those calcium cells open, calcium falls into the nerve and that nerve impulse goes to the brain, and we know that it is warm or hot.? It turns out that the same calcium channel is also how immune cells knew that their Petri dishes were getting warm. If physically hot temperatures activate the immune cells, Srivastava wondered, would capsaicin?the chemical that makes chili peppers feel hot?do the same? The answer was yes. Immune cells exposed to chili pepper in a Petri dish behaved just like cells exposed to higher temperatures. But our cells aren?t exposed to capsaicin directly when we bite into a spicy dish. So Srivastava fed the chemical to mice with type 1 Diabetes (which, like IBD, stems from autoimmune inflammation) to mimic our actual exposure. Since the Petri dish experiments showed that heat and capsaicin tended to make immune cells more active, the mice fed capsaicin should have developed more diabetes than the control group. But the opposite happened. Srivastava found that capsaicin didn?t ramp up the immune cells in their guts?it chilled them out. The mice fed capsaicin actually stopped being diabetic. It turns out something else happens when a mouse chows down on capsaicin. A special kind of immune cell, CX3CR1, also gets activated. And that immune cell tends to suppress immune responses in the gut. Since the body can?t really depend on a steady diet of chili peppers to keep us healthy, Srivastava went looking to see what else binds to the same calcium channel as capsaicin. He discovered that anandamide does. Anandamide was discovered in the 1980s when researchers were trying to make sense of why our body, especially the brain, has cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoids, found in marijuana, are part of a class of chemicals that can alter neurotransmission in the brain. Nature didn't develop those sensors just so humans could get stoned: anandamide is similar to the cannabinoids found in marijuana, but our body actually produces it. ?The person who discovered anandamide had an interest in Indian languages,? said Srivastava. ?And in India, the word ?ananda? means bliss.? Nobody knows whether anandamide actually induces a sense of bliss, but mice fed anandamide experienced the same healing effects?stretching from the esophagus down through the stomach?as mice fed capsaicin. Srivastava also discovered that when he gave mice capsaicin, it seemed to stimulate their bodies' production of anandamide. In both cases, it was ultimately the anandamide that was healing the gut, which suggests that other cannabinoids like marijuana might have a similar effect. As with all studies, there are some limitations. Srivastava?s work was done in mice, not people. But it does fall in line with anecdotes from IBD sufferers who have found that marijuana relieves some of their symptoms, and other studies that have found that people who eat chili peppers live longer. Because anandamide is a cannabinoid, it?s pretty heavily regulated?you can?t just give it to humans. As a result, Srivastava hopes to work with public health authorities in Colorado?the land of medical (and recreational) marijuana?to see if legalization has led to any improvement in colitis patients who consume edibles. If it has, that could help Srivastava make the case for a study that repeats his experiment in human patients. In the meantime? Well, if you live in Colorado and want to try something new for your IBD, you're sure in luck. But most patients should probably hold off on trying to mimic the study results at home: many IBD patients report negative reactions to spicy foods, likely because they increase stomach acid and often contain nightshade plants. So guzzling hot sauce might not be a safe way to boost your body's anandamide production."