Diabetes and the eco-village


For more articles on diabetes go to diabeteslinks.html

Colin Austin

1 August 2016 © Creative commons this document may be reproduced but the source should be acknowledged.

 

Moving North


What has diabetes got to do with an eco-village, and wicking and sponge beds?
 
House A lot actually - type two diabetes is when insulin fails to properly transfer sugar out of the blood stream and into the muscles and organs.

Minerals - particularly chromium and vanadium are essential for this transfer - as is gut biology. Wicking and particularly sponge beds are an effective way of increasing minerals and improving gut biology.
 
Kookaburra ParkFor the last fourteen years I have lived in an eco-village experimenting with different growing systems aimed at improving health by a better diet.
 
map d3.jpgBefore that I used to live in Melbourne - near the Yarra Valley - a very pleasant place to live but mama mia - the climate. The cold wet winters seemed to go on for ever but then bang - summer would come - just so hot.

I have travelled all over Australia and chose to settle near Bundaberg - which must have one of the best climates in Australia (or maybe even the world).

It is just far enough north to avoid the winter storms which come up the coast but generally peter out at Gympie 200 k to the south while the tropical cyclones generally come down as far as Rockhampton 200k to the North then turn into tropical lows which bring us good rain without the winds.
 
beach d4.jpgThe winters are simply beautiful - bit cold first thing in the morning - solved by staying in bed until the sun has warmed everything up - but not that stinking heat in summer. It’s hot but a dry heat - not that humid heat further north (or south for that matter).
 
veranda d6.jpgI virtually live on my veranda - cooking and eating outside just going inside to sleep and write - like now but overlooking the bush and lakes. Not a bad sort of life.

It is a pleasantly rural area - say Bundaberg and most people think of rum and sugar - but it has transformed itself into a major horticultural centre with an abundance of fresh fruit and veggies - grown locally using organic principles which I often buy from the local market. It is nice to know who is growing my food.


The land area of the park is over 200 hectares but I live on one hectare (3 acres) where I could grow all my own food. I tried self-sufficiency when I was younger but as I have aged I have come to the conclusion it is better to focus on growing certain crops which provide the minerals and gut biology and eat a much wider range of fruit and vegetables than I could reasonably grow myself.
 
second house d7.jpgI have two houses on my land - the second I have used for family and friends but I just thought I would put out a feeler to see if people out there on my list of readers - particularly those with diabetes or those fed up with freezing or frying - would be interested in coming up to my place in sunny Queensland for a ‘live in’ diet changing experience. More details late but just email me if this could be of interest.
 

Diabetes

 
diabetes sucks d9.jpgBut let me get to the topic of the day - diabetes which has just exploded around the world. This morning I read that about a third of the worlds populating is either diabetic or pre-diabetic often without people actually knowing and in the UK the health bill for diabetes exceeds 11 billion pounds.
 
fat kid d9.jpgType 2 diabetes used to be called adult onset diabetes but the scary thing is that kids as young as twelve and thirteen are being diagnosed as diabetic.

This never used to happen so what has gone wrong?


The simple answer could be the food we eat - but like most simple answers this would not be correct.
 

Is our brains the source of the problem?

 
sugar d10.jpg At one time it was fat that was the baddie - now it is sugar. Neither is correct - every muscle in our body is powered by sugar - without sugar to power our heart and brain we would drop dead. We must have sugar running around our bodies in our blood stream.

But we all know that wine is made by fermenting sugar so if I had too much sugar in my blood stream I would stick a label on my forehead ‘Chateau Colin 2016’ then keel over.

So the body must control the blood sugar level very precisely - the Goldilocks principle - not too little - not too much - just right.

Our bodies have developed some very clever ways of controlling the sugar level in our blood. It can turn sugar into fat which can be stored in our muscles and our organs like our liver and pancreas and also reverse the process turning fat back into sugar to provide the energy.

As our bodies can happily switch between sugars and fats it is a little surprising to see so much promotion of extreme low fat or low carbohydrates diets.

What is important is that our internal mechanism for controlling our blood sugar level is working properly and diabetes occurs when this mechanism breaks down.

Our bodies control the blood sugar by hormones or chemical signals which come from our main brain situated just above the neck or our secondary brain which lives inside our tummies.
 
gut brain d11.jpgPart of this secondary brain is not even part of us - it is our microbes or gut biome which we have co- evolved with so it has become an essential part of us.

Every diabetic knows about insulin which is the hormone which instructs our cells to open up and store sugar - often converting the sugar to fat in the process.

I have yet to come across a technical description of how insulin performs this magic trick - it is generally described as being like a key and insulin resistance is when the key hole get blocked up.

We are Mk 9 humans and have a basic design flaw which will no doubt be rectified in Mk 10 humans. Unlike mobile phones which they update every six months it takes a few ten thousand years to bring out a new human Mark so we better learn how to operate Mk 9 humans or at the present rate we will all die out before Mk 10 rolls of the production lines.

This flaw is that the cells block up and no longer take in extra sugar. I have been reading about diabetes now for over eight years since my wife Xiulan was diagnosed with diabetes and have watched as medical researchers try and come up with a proper scientific explanation. The simplest and most likely explanation appears to be simply fat blocking up the pathways.
 

Treating the symptoms not the cause

 
metaformin d12.jpgNow here comes catch twenty two. The standard treatment for diabetes type 2 is pills which increase the amount of insulin in the blood - if the door is locked just push harder. But the catch is that insulin makes us feel hungry (it blocks leptin - the hormone that makes us feel full) so we tend to eat more and get more fat in our cells and organs.
 
fad diet d13.jpgThese pills really work in controlling blood sugar - the tragedy is it makes us more insulin resistance and puts an extra load on the pancreas which eventually stops working properly. This is when things get really bad for diabetics as without a properly functioning pancreas they have to rely on insulin injections for the rest of their lives.
 
fat and thin d14.jpgLet’s not pussy food around here - the mainstream view of the medical profession is that diabetes cannot be cured - is irreversible - and all that can be done is to keep on boosting the insulin levels until eventually the pancreas fails.

This failure of the pancreas is often described in the diabetic literature as pancreas burn out. I find this burnout theory a bit difficult to believe - just look at Para-Olympians - they put extra loads on the muscles that are still working and they definitely do not burn out - they become massively strong.
 
 

The alternative view
 

Now if you look through the literature on diabetes you will find that there is an alternative medical view. We are talking fully qualified medical practitioners - not the snake oils salesmen that proliferate on the web claiming that you can cure diabetes by eating plants like avocados, mango leaves or some strange herb form the Himalayas that you have never heard off - I am talking qualified doctors treating diabetic patients every day.
 
blood sugar d15.jpgThey argue that reducing blood sugar levels by increasing insulin is just a stop gap measure which may be essential in the short term but simply makes things worse in the long term.

They argue that the long term solution is to remove the fat in the liver and pancreas which is blocking the system. They say that this can totally reverse diabetes and get patients off insulin producing medication.

These two views are in total opposition - the established wisdom is to keep on increasing the insulin to keep blood sugar levels under control which certainly makes diabetes get worse while the alternative view is that insulin is the cause of the escalation and can be managed by diet so sufferers can progressively get off insulin drugs.

With this barrage of recommendation from accredited sources - and the totally opposed views and solutions it is difficult to know which way to go.

The concept that diabetes is totally reversible by diet and life style changes is very attractive - but how do we know?
 
guinea pig d16.jpgI decided the only way to find out is to experiment with me as the Guinea pig. I make a good subject as I am a natural pig - I just love my food - I tend to put on a bit of weight and was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. This meant I could experiment on myself with very little risk whereas a full diabetic must be much more cautious.
 

Not so easy

 
mr creosote d17.jpgIt is not so easy to get rid of the fat in our vital organs. We have been bombarded by the eat less exercise more propaganda for years and at last it seems to be recognised that this simply does not work - certainly long term. Watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxRnenQYG7I

I tried classic diets but as I am a pig and spend a lot of time in China with exquisitely tasting food it simply was not working (for me).


However I was very attracted to the idea of intermittent fasting which has become increasingly popular - with the promotion by Michael Mosley. He recommended a 5:2 system with two days per week of fasting with a normal diet the other five days.
 
intermettent fasting d18.jpgI tried this and was a bit disappointed - it is not that easy to keep to so I switched to an alternative fasting scheme the so called 8:14 system meaning eating for 8 hours a day and fasting for the other fourteen hours.

I - like many dieters - started off full of enthusiasm and lost some 3 Kg in the first couple of weeks. Then some of my friends said I was looking a bit gaunt and unhealthy and better watch my health - too much weight loss too quick was not good.

Also too rapid a weight loss meant I was lacking in energy and feeling hungry all the time - not my idea of life.
 
wine women and song d19.jpgI have always like the joke that ‘giving up wine, women and song does not make you live longer - it just makes it seem longer’ so I was more than happy to compromise. Going out for a Chinese feast to celebrate my granddaughters birthday is something I decided was not worth giving up for just a couple of kilos - there is more to life than that.

But I have found that the 8:14 system is extremely flexible. I weigh myself regularly and if I pig out one night I can just tweak it to a 6:16 for a couple of days and my weight just drops back to what I think is a reasonable balance - back to the Goldilocks principle not too fat - not too thin - just comfortable.
 

Basic theory

 
It is worth reviewing the basic principles of intermittent fasting. The idea is that there is significant sugars floating around in your blood stream - your body finds this sugar the most accessible source of energy and will use this up first before even looking at the fat. This is why conventional fasting simply does not work.

However when this available sugar is used up your body will then start to convert the fat back into sugar. This is called ketosis and is the basis of diets like the paleo diet (which I put in the too extreme basket).

They say it takes some 12 hours for your body to burn up the existing sugars - less with exercise - so you need to fast for some 14 hours.
 

What’s intermittent fasting like in practise?

 
At first I found it quite difficult. I would start my eating period with a good breakfast and midday meal but I would have a light - largely vegetable snack - about 5 pm. I tried to avoid snacking between meals but I later found that it did not make much difference to my weight loss.
 
hungry d20.jpgBut in the evening I felt really hungry and was crying out to eat something - anything. But then it would pass. I concluded that while my body was gobbling up my sugar supply I felt fine but as soon as this was exhausted I had these hunger pains.

However when my body had made the switch to consuming fat the hunger pains just went away and I felt fine again. But the interesting point is that this evening hunger period simply went away after a two or three weeks. My body seemed to have adjusted to the new routine.

I found that intermittent fasting by itself was not so effective - but a combination of diet and exercise could make it dramatically more effective. For example simply going out and working in my garden for a couple of hours before breakfast really made my tummy shrink down.

One big advantage of intermittent fasting is it is so controllable. I have got rid of a lot of body fat but am comfortable with a little fat and find I can control my weight simply by how extreme I am in my fasting routine.
 
chinese banquet d21.jpgIf I go out for a Chinese banquet and really pig out my weight will jump up be well over a kilogram just with one pig out. But if I upgrade to a 16:6 rather than my normal 14:8 routine I will soon recover from my pig out. Life is meant to be fun - not some slave to the scales and the clock and if it suits me I can drop my schedule for a couple of days knowing full well that I can haul the weight back by changing my routine.

I was highly motivated in this experiment. Xiulan my wife is a full blown diabetic and I wanted to test out the system before persuading her to adopt it. But I think it would be quite difficult for anyone without social support to get through this transition phase.
 

Reversing diabetes

 
So after all this what do I think about reversing diabetes?

To be honest I find the conventional wisdom that diabetes is irreversible - that you need to keep on taking stronger and stronger pills - then finally going onto injections - with the consequences of amputations, blindness, heart attacks and an early death is just so depressing - and wrong.

There are so many cases reported by qualified doctors of diabetic sufferers reversing their diabetes by diet and lifestyle changes that while it cannot be looked upon as totally proven - in the scientific sense - anyone who does not try this system must be a Kangaroo short in the top paddock. (For overseas readers that is Australian for just plain stupid).

So to summarise what do I think are the keys to reversing diabetes?

I think it is given that we must cut down on the massive amounts of high carbohydrates and fats in our modern diet. But neither do I think that these should be cut out entirely as in some extreme diets - we need some sugar and carbohydrates - just not too much.
 
spnonge bed d22.jpgWe can be sure that trace minerals are essential for our bodies to function properly and manufacture the complex chemicals and hormones which are essential for reversing diabetes.

I am not in favour of simply taking mineral supplements - this leads to an imbalance and often lack of absorption - my preferred option is simply to eat fruit and vegetable grown in a soil rich in minerals and with an active soil biology to release the minerals - that’s what sponge beds are all about.

Overcoming hunger pains is a real problem - I find that a high vegetable diet really helps - for me just chewing on a celery stick will kill these pains - so including fruit and vegetable in the diet is critical - not just for the well promoted health benefits but the practical issue of stopping hunger pains.

Finally I think that some sort of social support group to help get through the early stage is a major help.

I ask myself who it correct - the conventional medical establishment who says diabetes is incurable and will steadily get worse or the alternative medical view that diabetes is reversible by techniques like intermittent fasting?
 
pill d23.jpgIt seems to me that diabetes is not like the typical illnesses such as pneumonia or a broken fibula which lend themselves to the specialist approach of modern medicine.

There are multiple factors at work and we need multiple tools.

Clearly genetics play a part - some people are naturally fat and prone to diabetes.

Intermittent fasting is certainly a highly effective way of losing weight - but is that going to be enough to reverse diabetes? If you pig out on pizza and cheese cake in the eating period may be not - what you eat is still important.

Gut biology is very important but not necessarily the total solution. I have always played around in my garden eating fresh fruit and vegetables and messing around with dirt and compost. I tried to improve my gut biology by taking pro-biotics and it made absolutely no difference - for me. But it could be the magic key for somebody with poor bad gut biology.

Diet obviously plays a major role in diabetes but just eating a healthy diet may not be enough.

Similarly exercise is beneficial but you cannot jog yourself out of diabetes.
 
stress d24.jpgI know from my self-experiments with intermittent fasting that it was not particularly effective by itself but when I incorporated diet and exercise into my routine that the weight came off.

I know from Xiulan that stress has a major impact on her blood sugar - when she is stressed up go the readings.

So after all this what do I think about reversing diabetes?

To be honest I find the conventional wisdom that diabetes is irreversible - that you need to keep on taking stronger and stronger pills - then finally going onto injections - and the consequences of amputations, blindness, heart attacks and an early death is just so depressing and wrong.

So to summarise what do I think are the keys to reversing diabetes?

I think it given that we must cut down on the massive amounts of high carbohydrates and fats in our modern diet. But neither do I think that these should be cut out entirely as in some extreme diets - we need some sugar and carbohydrates - just not too much.
 
bok choi d25.jpgWe can be sure that trace minerals are essential for our bodies to function properly and manufacture the complex chemicals and hormones which are essential for reversing diabetes. I am not in favour of simply taking mineral supplements - this leads to an imbalance and often lack of absorption - my preferred option is simply to eat fruit and vegetable grown in a soil rich in minerals and with an active soil biology to release the minerals.

Overcoming hunger pains is a real problem - I find that a high vegetable diet really helps - for me just chewing on a celery stick will kill these pains - so including fruit and vegetable in the diet is critical - not just for the well promoted health benefits but the practical issue of stopping hunger pains.

Finally I think that some sort of social support group to help get through the early stage is a major help.

It seems that combining all these techniques into an integrated system may reverse diabetes in many people - but unfortunately at this moment we have no idea whether all people can be cured - there may be some people who may never be able to reverse their diabetes. But surely it is worth a try.

What is clear that a multi-pronged approach is needed and hoping for some magic pill or exotic plant to reverse diabetes is just wishful thinking?

For more articles on diabetes go to diabeteslinks.html
 

Syria and diabetes

 
syria d27.jpgWhat’s Syria got to do with diabetes? Nothing directly but I watch the news and think how terrible it is for the refugees. I think about writing to Peter Dutton - Dear Minister, I have two houses which could easily house 6 families - please send me your refugees.

I may feel guilty but sadly there is nothing I can do about war and the refugees and I have no expertise in that area. But all my life I have been growing plants and for the last eight years have been studying and researching how plants can help cure diabetes.

It might seem hard but diabetes if a far bigger global problem than the refugee problem - we are looking at numbers nearer a billion rather than millions. So I think about how to use my houses.

At the minimum people could come to the eco-village and if they wanted to improve their health by just chilling out and eating healthy food - after all it is a very pleasant place to live. That would suit me fine but there may be bigger opportunities in reversing diabetes.

I am always messing about in my garden growing plants which improve health. Maybe some people would be happy to just watch but even better some people may actually feel like becoming involved and developing skills which they can take back home with them and spread the word to their friends and contacts - a sort of amateur diabetic ambassador.

There would be a major mutual benefit of having a group of people as I am sure that a supportive group would make a big difference in that early transition period when our bodies adjust to a new eating routine.

It takes a week to change gut biology by eating fruit and vegetables in biologically active soil so I think the minimum stay should be a week which would cost $200 per person per week. This would include - for free - all the fruit and vegetables grown on site.

I garden on the principles of a balanced eco system with no chemical sprays. This is very different to the antiseptic modern food production. I suggest you may like to look at my articles on soil and food on my web (www.waterright.com.au) to get a feel of what is involved - basically a focus on soil biology and minerals so a lot of composting and living creatures. I hope that people feel motivated to join in and plant for the next round of visitors but this is no boot camp - relaxation is an important factor in reversing diabetes.

There are some excellent farmers markets, fish and organic suppliers in the region to provide a wider range of foods. I have an excellent chef friend who will pop in to demonstrate his cooking methods but it is essentially self-catering.

It took me about a month to adjust so this would be my preferred time scale. Spending a month in Queensland near to the beaches, markets and barrier reef does not seem to be too bad a way of reversing diabetes.

If this idea took off I would be interested in meeting up with a live in manager.

At this moment this is just an idea floating around in my brain but I would be really interested in your reaction to this concept. Just drop me an email colinaustin@bigpond.com