DEAR DR. ROACH: I have insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes (diagnosed a year ago), and I currently take metformin, Tradjenta, Levemir and NovoLog as part of my treatment. However, my question is regarding some advertisements I have been seeing in my newspaper. These advertisements claim that they can cure type 2 diabetes with no surgery, lower medications, etc. They say that their “functional medicine” is not generally used by most doctors because if doctors cured diabetes, they would not make money. My question is: What is “functional medicine,” and is it possible that they can cure my diabetes if I pay them their exorbitant out-of-pocket fees? — P.P.
ANSWER: There are some parts of a functional approach to diabetes with which I agree, including recognizing that overt, clinical diabetes is a late stage of a long process. Also, functional practitioners emphasize more than most traditional doctors do (and should do) the importance of diet and exercise. Large amounts of starches, especially if consumed without protein, require the pancreas to try to produce large amounts of insulin to control the carbohydrate load. These high insulin levels promote fat deposition, which then contributes to the patient’s resistance to insulin, the hallmark of type 2 diabetes. Decreased consumption of sugars and starches reduces insulin needs and helps to control blood sugar. Exercise partially reverses the insulin resistance and promotes weight loss. This should be the starting point for management of type 2 diabetes.
The part you have mentioned that I don’t agree with, and which needs to be rebutted immediately, is the implication that traditional doctors are deviously avoiding effective treatments in order to keep people sick. This is, of course, absurd. All health-care practitioners, regardless of background or training, have come to the field to cure the sick, ease suffering and prevent disease as best we can. We may disagree on methodology, but not, I hope, in our goals.
I have always felt that people can improve their health by taking the best of several approaches. If wellness centers can improve your health by giving you better lifestyle advice than your diabetes doctor, follow their advice. If you have a weight issue, you can see whether the advice you are getting is working by watching your scale and your waistline measurement. If your weight and waist are coming down, then discuss with the diabetes doctor reducing medicines, especially insulin. Insulin is necessary for some people, but high levels promote weight gain.
I am sure you don’t need to spend exorbitantly to find that kind of help. Most diabetes doctors would be delighted to work with you on the good aspects of functional medicine, and a nutritionist also can be very helpful.
DEAR DR. ROACH: In July, a letter discussed a perimenopausal woman’s symptoms of bloating, breast tenderness, weight gain and ovulation signs. She had not had a period for more than four years. You commented that estrogen levels could indeed fluctuate in the years after menopause, and that was the extent of your comment. The writer should have been alerted that the symptoms she described are also signs of ovarian cancer, and she should be checked by her gynecologist. Better safe than sorry! — J.B.D., RN
DR. ROACH RESPONDS: Thank you, colleague. You are quite right. Although it’s most likely to be normal, these could be the symptoms of ovarian cancer, and it should indeed be checked out.