Health consumers are confronted with lots of choices when considering how to maintain or improve their health. Many of these options might be considered “alternative” to traditional western medicine, or could be thought of as “holistic.” Holistic health care is sometimes described as care that addresses body, mind, and spirit, and seeks a healthy balance. For the interested consumer, evaluating strategies which they might not find at their local doctor’s office or hospital can be challenging.

The spectrum of holistic strategies is very wide. The most commonly used in the US are manual therapies such as chiropractic and massage, supplements such as herbs and nutrients, stress management tools like meditation, and traditional healing tools which may be thousands of years old like acupuncture. Surveys have shown that Americans utilize such approaches in large numbers. They may find out about such options from friends, relatives, the internet or their usual health care providers.

 

I recently examined a middle-aged woman who had multiple complaints including fatigue, excessive thirst, and vision changes. The only significant factor of her medical history was a lifelong struggle with obesity and dramatic weight gain over the last few years. After an extensive workup, I notified her of the unfortunate news that she was diabetic. Although she found this new diagnosis alarming and scary, I reassured her that diabetes is a disease that can often be well-managed with lifestyle changes.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects over 24 million people in the United States today. Specifically, it is a disorder that affects the way your body regulates sugar levels. In normal circumstances, your pancreas is able to produce a hormone called insulin to normalize sugar levels. However, with diabetes, this process breaks down causing blood sugar levels to rise to concerning levels. Diabetes increases your risk for several health conditions including heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease, and circulation problems.