A dramatic rise in obesity rates across the country in recent years has led to a parallel increase in new cases of diabetes, but not everyone who develops the chronic illness will need medication to deal with it. Some diabetes can be better controlled through the use of vitamins, contends noted pharmacist Stuart Lindsey.
According to Lindsey, who in January wrote a column entitledConfessions of a Frustrated Pharmacistwhich was critical of pharmaceutical orthodoxy, current medical treatments for diabetes are "among the least successful in medicine," and that's despite the billions of dollars spent treating and researching the disease every year.
"Medicine has succeeded in making diabetes very expensive for the patient while making the disease a cash cow for the numerous businesses that cater to the diabetic," he wrote in a new column recently. "We should expect to see some improvement in diabetic treatment, but in fact the basic protocols haven't changed much in twenty years."
And, Stuart says, current research doesn't seem to be getting any closer to a cure. In fact, he notes that many a scientist have made entire careers out of "researching" diabetes.
Motivated by need, not greedSo what has motivated this "frustrated pharmacist" to find a cure or better treatment for diabetes?
"My interest in the lack of results from standard treatment of diabetes came into sharp focus when pain in my feet led to my being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes," he writes (Type 2 is the less serious form of diabetes and doesn't require insulin injections like the more serious Type 1, but Type 2, left untreated, can develop into Type 1). That pain, it turns out, was neuropathy, a condition caused by nerve damage - common to diabetics.
"From my observations at work, I already knew that the drug treatments for peripheral neuropathy were questionable," Stuart writes. "Introducing amitriptyline, gabapentin and Lyrica, which are sedatives and pain killers, made the people sleep a lot. Medically, it's obvious that sedating nerves doesn't solve anything. When such patients step up to daily long term narcotics and finally get some pain relief, they still haven't solved their problems."
So, Stuart was determined to find a way to mitigate his diabetes rather than just cover up the symptoms. To do so, he began studying just how blood glucose levels and blood sugar affected the diabetes-prone body. His research led him to a 2005 paper written by a researcher in the United Kingdom named Paul Thornally. His paper talked about how many diabetic patients have a deficiency of thiamine (B-1).
"Elevated blood sugar promotes a type of toxicity in the kidneys that causes thiamine to be excreted by the kidney at a rate much higher (sixteen to twenty-five times higher) than normal, leading to an acute deficiency of thiamine," Stuart wrote, quoting for the paper. "From other studies, it is known that deficiencies in all B vitamins, as well as vitamin C and D are common in diabetics. This can cause most of the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes, which include: polyneuropathy, nephropathy (kidney damage), retinopathy (eye damage) and eventually heart failure.
"This raises the question of whether the symptoms are from diabetes or acute beriberi?" he said.
After receiving his diagnosis, the curious pharmacist rejected the standard medical treatments being recommended by his doctors, who wanted to place him on statins, metformin and Byetta. Instead, after reading Thornalley's theory regarding vitamin deficiencies in diabetics, Stuart started a regimen of vitamin and mineral supplements.
"Although the pain in my feet was quite severe, I wanted to avoid the regular drug regimen because it relied upon taking lots of pain killers that don't cure the problem. I reasoned that when the body's B vitamin levels are depleted due to high blood sugar, replenishing body stores through diet alone is difficult, so supplementation will be necessary," he said.
So Stuart began taking a dietary supplement of thiamine (benfotiamine, 250mg 4 times a day); vitamin B-6 (250mg/day); pyridoxal 5 phosphate (P5P, 100mg/day); magnesium (aspartate, citrate, malate, or chloride); and acetyl-l-carnitine (1000 mg/day) - "depending on the severity of my peripheral neuropathy symptoms." He later added vitamin C to reduce inflammation and prevent oxidation from high levels of blood sugar. His doctor didn't approve of the regimen but was curious nonetheless, said Stuart, who promised his doctor he would begin the standard treatment if his way didn't work.
Nutrients don't cure but they can work to mitigate the damageThe results came pretty quickly. He said within a week the most "overt" neuropathy symptoms - the shooting pains in his ankles - were mostly gone. Other symptoms also mostly disappeared, including the numbness in his toes and overall foot pain.
"Now I know this treatment may not be a cure for diabetes. But it is a valid and reasonably inexpensive way to control the symptoms, which are held at bay as long as you keep your thiamine levels high. If you quit taking thiamine and the other B vitamins, the symptoms come roaring back," he said.
Despite warnings that his health would begin to deteriorate - kidney problems, pancreatic problems, eye trouble - he went on self-treating. Two years later, he got his results: Good news. Mostly.
Two key elements - Creatinine and Microalbumin levels - were in the "low, normal" range, though his fasting blood sugar levels (those taken during periods of fasting) are still high, as is his overall blood sugar levels. But he believes his nutritional supplementation has staved off, though not cured, his condition.
"In my case, the unusual positive results are evidently due to my nutritional approach. I substituted supplements of several essential nutrients for pharmaceuticals and stayed in relatively good health. And I continue to try supplementing with other nutrients such as antioxidants which are known to help prevent diabetes," Stuart writes. "This suggests that the health issues are actually caused by nutritional deficiencies that can be easily prevented."
Sources for this article include: