Diabetes mellitus comes from two Greek word roots meaning “flowing through” and “sweetness”. People with diabetes experience frequent urination and their urine is loaded with sugar. In old days doctors would place a patient’s urine in an open bowl near a beehive. If the urine was high in sugar, the bees would swarm to it.
There are several types of diabetes; type 2 (DM2) is the most common, the most prevantable, and one that years ago presented only in mature adults. Unfortunately, we now see young children living with DM2.
* There are an estimated 30.2 million adults 18 years or older – 9.4% of US population – living with diabetes in the US (2015)
* $245 billion is spent each year in direct and indirect expenses related to diabetes (2012)
* The average medical expenditure for people with diabetes is $13,700 per year. That’s 2.3 times higher than that for people without diabetes! (2012)
* Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the US. (2016)
* There are 90,000 people in the US currently on a waiting list for a new kidney (mostly due to diabetic complications).
* Diabetes causes more amputations than any other disease.
When we look at predisposing factors that contribute to the development of diabetes, we see a lot of imbalances that Americans commonly live with in our society that often result in other serious health conditions as well.
* Excessive weight and obesity
* Physical inactivity
* High blood pressure
* High cholesterol
* High blood glucose
How Does Diabetes Develop
The stomach and small intestine convert the food we eat into usable chemicals that nourish our cells, and glucose (a form of sugar) that fuels our body with energy. When the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood rises, a signal is sent to the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin unlocks the receptors on our cellular walls to allow glucose to enter. The insulin also brings blood glucose levels back into normal range. All good.
DM2 develops if the pancreas can’t make enough insulin to keep up with a constant influx of sugar into the system, or if the cell receptors stop working, or even worse, if both are not functioning.
With no access to sugar, cells must burn protein and fat for energy. The excess metabolic waste that is left behind by protein and fat metabolism is like dumping sand into the bloodstream. Unchecked, this will lead to atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries due to plaque buildup) leading to hypertension (high blood pressure), and eventually stroke or heart disease. The additional pressure put on the kidneys to clean the blood can result in renal failure.
So, what I shared above is the generally accepted theory in medicine of how diabetes develops. If you would like to hear a new and different perspective, especially regarding the relationship between obesity and diabetes, watch this TED-talk video from Dr. Peter Attia.
DM2 is preventable and treatable. To reverse the early indications of DM2 developing, however, requires both a serious commitment to lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, stress management) and a partnership with a doctor trained in the area. Please do not ignore the early warning signs: frequent hunger, thirst and urination.
Reflexology and Diabetes
Both my own personal experience and controlled studies show that well-managed diabetes (diet, exercise, medication) responds very favorably to foot reflexology. I’ve included links at the bottom to three case studies completed by Academy grads that you will find interesting.
There are some important points to take into consideration when offering reflexology to diabetic clients:
* If fatty plaques from atherosclerosis accumulate in the legs, peripheral neuropathy may result. Reflexology is excellent for helping to manage peripheral neuropathy, but you must keep in mind that the client’s ability to sense pressure or temperature will be diminished. Watch your pressure and the temperature of the water if you do foot soaks – your client’s ability to recognize discomfort may be off.
* Poor circulation damages the skin, especially in the feet. Sores take longer to heal. Ulcers and nerve damage can develop from chronic ischemia (reduced blood flow and delivery of oxygen to cells). Even minor injuries like blisters and ingrown toenails can become threatening if left to develop into an infectious situation. These skin conditions may also force someone to alter their stance and gait; balance then can become a challenge. Avoid all contact with skin ulcers. Insist that your client have them covered before arriving for a reflexology session. Strongly encourage clients with skin issues to see a professional – not to perform ‘self-surgery’.
* Blood sugar often drops during reflexology. Before beginning sessions with a diabetic client determine how she is prepared to respond in the event she feels dizzy and/or light-headed afterward. Many carry a quick-acting candy with them at all times.
* Although reflexology will bring blood sugar levels closer to a normal range, DO NOT advise clients to adjust their oral or injected medications! That could be life threatening! Although it is possible to get off diabetes medications, the process to do so takes months and is only accomplished with a determined commitment from the individual and strict monitoring by a medical doctor. Reflexology cannot cure diabetes. It can support and improve someone’s efforts to heal their endocrine system.
* Schedule sessions for the middle of your client’s insulin cycle; not right after they’ve taken insulin and not later when they’re getting hungry and blood sugar is dropping.
Type 2 Diabetes and Reflexology
Reflexology for Peripheral Neuropathy
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services; 2017.
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