For all the conversation about diet and nutrition, including greater awareness about the value of consuming whole foods, we nonetheless face a public health crisis that is as urgent as the former polio epidemic and as vicious as the outbreak of the 1918 influenza pandemic. I refer to the 29 million Americans, or 9.3% of the U.S. population, with either Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes.
This condition involves much more than the regulation and production of insulin, impacting the body in its entirety; in some people, it can cause vision loss, heart attack or stroke, nerve damage (that could even lead to amputations), aggravation of the skin (more about this below) and even death. Put another way, when 27.8% of Americans have undiagnosed cases of diabetes—and when over 69,000 of our fellow citizens die from diabetes each year—we can no longer remain indifferent to or ignorant of the severity of this disease.
My particular point of focus, with regard to diabetes, involves "diabetic itch," which is one of several skin problems related to this illness. Other challenges include: Bacterial infections, fungal infections, vitiligo, diabetic blisters, digital sclerosis, neuropathy-related skin problems, scaling, plaque or skin eruptions, reddish bumps, and excess pigmentation or discoloration of folds on the skin.
At a minimum, I believe it is essential to educate patients (and those who are borderline diabetic) about the threat of itch. For I know that, regardless of the specific aggravating factor (in this case, poor control of glucose), chronic itch is more than an inconvenience or an insignificant matter altogether.
On the contrary, this condition can be acute, painful and worsened by scratching already irritated areas of the face, chest, arms, back or legs. And, though it would be gratifying to know that better regulation of glucose alone can solve this problem, stress plays an integral role in heightening the symptoms of most skin conditions.
So, in response to the ensuing question, "How can people reduce the onset of diabetic itch?" my answer is, for readers of my previous posts, now an unofficial mantra: Read the ingredients of everything you plan to eat or apply to your skin . . . before you ingest or absorb anything. Always speak with your health care provider about any questions related to your specific blood sugar or skin issues or before making any changes to your dietary regimen.
Look, for example, at the sugar content and carbohydrate percentages for every food, snack, drink or prepared meal you would otherwise buy. Avoid the most dangerous culprits, as well as most cosmetics and perfumes, while keeping a journal cataloging your skin's overall reaction to this or that product.
A Built-in Early Warning System: Your Skin Is the Ultimate Red Alarm
Notwithstanding the practical value of performing your own due diligence, and thus acting as an educated shopper, patients with diabetes have—we all possess—a built-in warning system about our individual vulnerability to certain foods and chemicals.
That alarm is our skin, where redness, rashes, discoloration and itching are obvious signs of something possibly more serious.
My advice to readers is to pay attention to these things because, based on the statistics, diabetes is not something we can dismiss as an aberration.
The disease claims too many lives, costs too many dollars and consumes too many resources for us to be inattentive to its ferocious effects.
Its many signals are an itch for us to fight back, with intelligence and superior resources.
We owe it to ourselves to win this battle.WF
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Posted on WholeFoodsMagazine.com 3/19/15
This piece is not intended to be taken as medical advice. Speak to a healthcare provider to get more information about diabetes and any potential side effects.