Tom Hanks has said eleven words to me in my lifetime. That’s not a lot when you do the math. However, with profound words like “Good morning, you guys look great,” and “Time to get some lunch,” you can understand the impact they had on me. Now that I see them on paper, maybe those words were not as brilliant and life changing as I had imagined. Maybe it’s just the caliber of the person that said them that made those words count for me. I think as a human, when anyone that you look up to acknowledges that you exist, it burns a stamp in your memory that can last a lifetime.
In the nineties, when I was a punk-kid touring professionally as a comic, I also did a few stints working as an extra in movies. Tom Hanks spoke those words to me on the sets of From the Earth to the Moon and Forrest Gump. The point of this story is this: If Tom Hanks sharing worthless chit chat affected me so greatly, imagine what could happen to another kid if he were to say something of value. With the news of Hanks’ diagnosis of Type II Diabetes, imagine the effect that could come from the man himself, sharing insights about the disease with millions of kids across the country who currently share the same burden.
Believe it or not, Tom and I have not kept in touch since he casually walked past me on two separate occasions. He has gone on to tremendous success and is loved the world over. I lost my voice for eight years, filed bankruptcy and I constantly seem to lose socks. If we had stayed in touch (like many of us do with strangers that we walk past on our way to lunch) I would certainly love to share with him what I have learned about Type II Diabetes, how it comes about, and how people around the world are managing and reversing their Type II Diabetes every day.
Before I move forward, I would like to emphasize that this article is about Type II Diabetes, not Type I. Most who suffer from Type I Diabetes are born with this burden. Poor nutritional choices will not cause you to become a Type I Diabetic. If you have been diagnosed, you know it’s a serious affliction that requires constant attention. Though I do hear rumblings of advancements being made in the understanding of this disease, I personally do not have experience helping people overcome this hardship. There are steps that an individual with Type I Diabetes can take to decrease their reliance on insulin, but to this day, it’s a matter that must be taken seriously on a daily, and even hourly basis, by all who have it.
Though Type II Diabetes is also a very serious matter, those who are diagnosed do have many options and there are steps that can be taken to improve, or even eliminate your diagnosis. Type II Diabetes takes lives every day, however, with the growing optimism and understanding of steps that can be taken to avoid and even improve Type II Diabetes, it may be helpful to look at this topic with a lighter attitude. I tend to write with a more comical approach so younger people can relate better and have an opportunity to learn about their health and their body. That doesn’t mean these matters are not serious. It simply means that laughing about a very scary topic can sometimes make it seem less daunting. If we feel we can stand up to this beast, we can someday beat it.
Now, back to the story… Due to my own health issues, I spent nine years researching nutrition and how the body really works. I now write books from a comic’s point of view that teach people how to improve their health issues through nutrition. I also teach webinars on nutrition to doctors in more than thirty countries. If talking with healthcare professionals around the world has taught me anything, it’s that we make a crap-load of mistakes in the world of health.
Our methods for Diabetes prevention and early detection are about as effective as telling a teenager that video games aren’t fun… so, don’t play them. The kid’s not going to hear that. He doesn’t even understand that his pants are three sizes too big. Our message about Diabetes isn’t much better. If the best advice our medical professionals are handing out is, “Well, Diabetes runs in your family… so, don’t get Diabetes.” Really? Thanks, Doc. That’s very helpful.
To detect trouble with Diabetes , our medical professionals monitor blood sugar. When fasting glucose goes too high, TADA! You’re Type II Diabetic! That’s sort of like having a smoke detector that announces, “Hey, the fire department came by because all your stuff burned up.” With many individuals, if their doctor looked at their insulin levels instead of just blood glucose, this problem could have been seen a mile away and it may have even been preventable. Sort of like a smoke detector that warns you of a fire and gives you time to save all your Milli Vanilli CDs from melting.
Here is the typical chain of events that can often lead to a Type II Diabetes diagnoses. I’ll use Dude as an example. Dude goes to the doctor for a physical. Dude’s fasting glucose is a perfect 85! “Woohoo! I rock the house and I get to live! Let’s go have a beer!” This pattern continues for the next twelve years. Lots of woohoo, lots of self-praise, lots of beer. What the dude doesn’t know is that with every perfect fasting glucose reading he scores, behind the curtain, there is a world of hurt magnifying and he’s about to be served a screwed sandwich.
There are many underlying causes that can lead to Dude’s insulin becoming weaker, or less effective, so to speak. Some of these causes could have to deal with genetics, but most are a direct result of lifestyle and consuming too many processed carbohydrates that turn into sugar in the blood stream. The big problem with these processed carbohydrates is that they do not contain the minerals needed by the body to properly process these sugars. Most foods in nature were designed to digest and process correctly in the human body. Believe it or not, a Ding Dong was not designed with the same level of biochemical harmony. A Ding Dong is just chocolatey deliciousness that has very little to do with nature whatsoever.
When we consume foods that turn into sugars that are harder for the body to process, or if that individual’s genetics or biochemical individuality makes it harder for their body to process these sugars, the pancreas will secrete more insulin to handle the job. Look at that. Problem solved. Dude still has a perfect fasting glucose of 85 even though the pancreas is now making five times the normal level of insulin.
The bad news for Dude is that for ten years he has believed that everything was going as planned. Sure, he’s packed on a few pounds, but who wouldn’t at his age? After all, he’s not playing on the football team like he did in high school so of course his pant size is going to go up a little bit. The “Type II Diabetes hammer” that’s about to hit him can show up for a variety of reasons. The most common cause is an individual’s cells becoming insulin resistant. In other words, with five times the normal amount of insulin screaming at his cells all day, the cells will eventually tell that insulin to piss off. “I’m done listening to you! You’re not the boss of me!” Who can blame the cells? Who really thrives with someone screaming and nagging at them all day?
The other option is that after years of making up to five times the level of insulin it was designed to make, the pancreas finally says, “Screw you! I’m tired,” and insulin production goes down. In either case, it’s bad news. Whether insulin production goes down, or the cells stop responding to insulin’s request to do something with all this sugar, either way, we know blood sugar is going to start to rise. Often, it rises very drastically, and appears to do so overnight. “Son of a…. I was healthy for my whole life and all the sudden I’m diabetic!” Dude says. No Dude. You’ve been moving in this direction for 12 years. You were just looking at the wrong marker. If Dude had known that his insulin was going higher every year, he could have gathered that maybe the food choices he was making were not as great as he thought. I mean, Golden Grahams in a taco shell? Did Dude really think that was a nutritious choice?
To avoid Dude’s pitfalls, you can do two things; One, the next time you have blood work done, ask the doctor to check your insulin levels too. The doctor will likely tell you, “We’re checking your glucose, that’s good enough.” At that point, just smack them in the back of the head and say, “I’d really like you to run my insulin numbers too.” They may charge you an extra $40 or so, but they can do it. Two, you might want to eat more real food and less high-sugar junk from a vending machine. Just sayin’. What you eat counts. I know that sounds simple, but it’s a huge piece of the puzzle so don’t overlook it. If you’re eating squirt cheese on a daily basis, you’re not doing your body any favors.
If you have your insulin tested, keep in mind that the “normal” range they give on a blood test report may be the “common” results, but that doesn’t make them “normal.” Many labs will say that between 3 and 28 is normal, but that is because so much of the population is insulin resistant with high insulin levels. In my opinion, a range of 0 -10 is a little more reasonable, and would be a good indication of insulin operating in a healthier manner.
This understanding could take a huge chunk out of our current “Diabetes epidemic.” You can pass this article along to anyone you know who may be dealing with Diabetes or high sugar issues, but we need to find a way to spread the word faster. If we could get Tom Hanks to change the eleven words he says to punk kids as he walks by on his way to lunch, that may be enough. Maybe those eleven words could be, “Hey, kid! If you’re worried about Diabetes, have your insulin checked.” It doesn’t seem like a good catch phrase for his next movie, but if I was the punk kid he said it to, I know I would listen. It’s Tom Hanks!
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