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Understanding diabetes and busting myths

It is very fitting that November is Diabetes Awareness Month, since it deals with a subject that is currently affecting almost 100 million Americans.

In my new book, “The Diabetes Solution,” I decided to tackle this important issue, not only because of how many Americans are affected but because in the United States over 200,000 people die unnecessarily from complications of diabetes every year. The sad truth is the Type 2 Diabetes is not only treatable; it is curable.

Simply speaking, diabetes is when the body cannot use the carbohydrates we eat.  Instead of using them as the vital energy our organs need, these sugars just stay floating around our blood, causing damage to many organs, including the eyes, the nerves, the kidneys and our hearts, just to mention a few. 

Some people cannot make any insulin, which is the protein necessary to use carbohydrates as fuel. These people have Type 1 Diabetes.  However, over 90 percent of all diabetics are Type 2 Diabetics. The greatest cause of Type 2 Diabetes is being overweight and as the number of overweight Americans increases, so does the number of Type 2 diabetics.

Even though diabetes is more common in Hispanics and African-Americans, our doctors should test us all for diabetes, because whether it runs in our family or not we are all susceptible. The earlier you diagnose it, the easier it is to treat and the less organ damage that occurs.

It is essential to know the truth about treating diabetes, not the myths.  This knowledge is power.  For example, in order to treat diabetes you don’t have to avoid carbohydrates. On the contrary, you need them for energy.  What is important is to know which are the right carbohydrates to eat and when to eat them. Your body is an engine and you need carbohydrates throughout the whole day.  But you need the carbohydrates that have fiber associated with them, such as unrefined flour and fresh fruit.  

There are other important misconceptions about what you should eat if you are diabetic. For example, artificial sweeteners are actually something that should be avoided if you are diabetic.  You need natural energy, not chemicals.

In “The Diabetes Solution,” I along with my colleague, registered dietician and cookbook author, Susan Wyler, have devised a very simple system called the Blood Sugar Budget.  Much like other successful programs to manage your weight, we have assigned points to all the different food groups. The difference in our point system is that you MUST consume all your daily points. Less is not better here. Believe it or not, you will not only control your diabetes, but also probably lose weight in the process.  Treating diabetes doesn’t have to be scary, difficult or full of sacrifice; it just requires a little knowledge.

Jorge E. Rodriguez, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist who received his medical degree from the University of Miami. He completed his residency in internal medicine at Tulane Medical School in New Orleans, and his fellowship in gastroenterology at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. Dr. Rodriguez has established himself as a leader in HIV treatment and intestinal diseases. He has appeared as an expert medical commentator on CNN News, Good Morning America Health, The Doctors, and The View. He is an MDVIP-affiliated physician and has had an internal medicine practice in Newport Beach, California, since 1988.

Click for more at DrJorge.com.

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