Raw foods diets for reversing diabetes really work. What most people don’t know about raw foods diets for reversing diabetes, however, is that they begin with juicing.
Dr. Cousens’ Diabetes Cure
The most famous proponent of juicing as a natural diabetes treatment is Dr. Gabriel Cousens, a psychiatrist who gave up his practice in New York to open a holistic diabetes clinic in the high desert near Patagonia, Arizona, in the USA. Dr. Cousens presents a very holistic and, possibly in a sense most of us associate with the hippie era, alternative persona. Wearing his long hair in a knit hat and dressing in free flowing white robes, Dr. Cousens refers to himself as an Essene rabbi and insists that eating only plants is essential for supporting a “culture of life” and eating any other foods supports a “culture of death.”
Frankly, I did not take Dr. Cousens seriously until Robert Rister (a herbalist) told me of when he met one of Dr. Cousens patients, herself a physician, an oncologist originally from South Africa named Jenny. The first thing he noticed about Jenny was how she “notices you”. Within 30 seconds of their introduction around a table in a classroom discussion, she had correctly surmised that one other person at our table was a diabetic, and she started telling her story.
Four times in the previous two years Jenny had made the trek from London to Patagonia, the one in Arizona, to stay at Dr. Cousens’ Tree of Life retreat. Forty pounds (about 18 kilos) overweight, she had had diabetes that she needed medication and insulin to control. After about 10 months on the raw foods and juicing approach, Jenny had lost all her excess weight and had achieved an HbA1C of 4.5%.
The HbA1C measures glycated hemoglobin, the percentage of red blood cells that on which the membrane of the cell has become “caramelized” with glucose from the bloodstream. It’s a good measure of average blood sugar levels that detects diabetes when a single blood test cannot. Although you can have a higher-than-expected HbA1C if you have very healthy red blood cells (which travel through the bloodstream longer) and you can have a lower-than-expected HbA1C if you have sick or fragile red blood cells (which break up before they get counted in the test), most diabetics will have an HbA1C that is over 6.5%. By this measure, Jenny had been cured of her diabetes in less than a year.
But most people who can stick to the diet are essentially cured of diabetes in about 21 days.
What’s Special About Juicing?
The Tree of Life retreat has a very major advantage over diabetes treatment centers in urban settings. It’s very difficult or impossible to sneak away to get a fast food snack. Nearly the first thing the center does is to ask new arrivals to take an enema to clean out the bowels. Since bathrooms are not en suite, some visitors leave right then. And the next thing patrons of the clinic are asked to do is to enjoy a glass of freshly prepared green juice.
Both practices make good sense for treating diabetes on a physiological level.
Every doctor can tell you that eating carbohydrates and sugars turns into the sugars in your bloodstream. What you eat, however, is not the only determinant of your blood sugar level. Since we don’t eat all the time, the liver and muscles store glucose sugar in the form of glycogen, one molecule of glucose chemically bonded to four molecules of water. The liver can convert glycogen back into sugar and water when the body needs energy and food is not readily available. The muscles can use glycogen to power themselves, and they also use glycogen to “bulk out.”
Almost any kind of stress can trigger the release of glycogen, including the stress of eating bulky meals. Our bodies don’t have some kind of chemical testing system that can tell us whether a large meal will digest down into lots of sugar. The pancreas has to release insulin to store sugar, however, before all the sugar from a large meal would enter the bloodstream.
The lining of the small intestine, the part of the intestine into which the stomach empties digested food, contains stretch sensors. These sensors release hormones that travel to the pancreas and cause it to “unzip” proinsulin, the storage form of insulin it makes when we aren’t eating, into smaller molecules of insulin that can travel through the bloodstream. If the pancreas can’t release insulin, blood sugar levels soar.
If the large, newly digested meal does not yield lots of digested sugars, however, all that insulin could cause blood sugar levels to crash. To prevent this from happening, as the pancreas releases insulin, the blood sugar lowering hormone, it also releases glucagon, the blood sugar raising hormone. Glucagon travels to the liver and causes it to release glycogen as glucose.
If you aren’t diabetic, the net effect of the release of glucagon and insulin is nearly perfect control of your blood sugar levels. If you are in the early stages of type 2 diabetes, however, your pancreas can’t “unzip” the storage form of insulin fast enough to prevent the combined effects of glucagon and whatever is in your meal from raising your blood sugar levels too high. Your pancreas may be able to catch up before you eat again, but over time your body becomes more and more resistant to insulin and more and more of the insulin-producing beta-cells of your pancreas burn out so that diabetes gets worse and worse.
Here’s the problem. Eating too much of any kind of food can make a diabetic’s blood sugar levels soar. Eating a candy bar may cause a diabetic’s blood sugar levels to soar up to, say, 360 mg/dl (20 mmol/L). Eating a big piece of cake may cause a diabetic’s blood sugar levels to soar to 360 mg/dl (20 mmol/L). But eating large bowl of salad with no-fat dressing can do exactly the same thing.
Taking food in the form of juice prevents the stretching on the walls of the small intestine that makes blood sugar levels soar. And keeping the bowels moving prevents upward pressure on the small intestine while avoiding heavy meals prevents outward pressure on the small intestine.
Why juicing better than pure water?
Many people who go to Tree of Life get amazing results just from taking an enema and following a juicing diet for a few days. It’s not unusual for people who have had uncontrollable blood sugar levels for years suddenly find that they don’t need insulin or medication, or at least that they don’t need as much. But why couldn’t you just drink water? After all, water doesn’t bloat the small intestine, either.
Although many of us are familiar with the body’s many cries for water, to borrow a term from the late Dr. F. Batmanghelidj, and avoiding dehydration is essential for dealing with diabetes, juice has several major advantages. Pure water passes through the stomach and the small intestine quickly. Water with no dissolved electrolytes at all, such as distilled water, can actually draw electrolytes out of your body. Since calcium is essential for the chemical reaction that releases insulin from the beta cells in the pancreas that make it and sodium is essential for insulin to move sugar inside a cell, overly purified water is not a good thing for diabetics.
One of the most important benefits of juicing is that juices naturally contain electrolytes and minerals. At the Tree of Life clinic, green juices are fortified with sea salt to make sure they contain electrolytes and minerals. Juices also contain tiny bits of plant matter that have to be completely digested before the stomach will send them on to the small intestine. This keeps you fuller longer, reducing hunger. But since the amount of nutrients digested out of juice is relatively small, the digested juice does not stay very long in the small intestine and the pancreas and liver do not react in a way that makes blood sugar levels soar even before the body receives sugar digested from food.
The Power of Juicing for Complete Nutrition
Many advocates of juicing and vegan raw foods diets may be surprised that plant foods really don’t concentrate the macronutrients and major minerals, especially protein, fat, and calcium, as well as meat and dairy. When an author whose real agenda is persuading people not to eat meat says something like “spinach contains more protein than beefsteak,” the author is actually referring to dried spinach, with 100% of the juice removed. Nobody eats plant foods in the form in which they are as concentrated in protein and minerals as meat and dairy. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Our bodies break down proteins into essential and non-essential amino acids. These amino acids are strung together in an exact order to make human proteins. We can’t use proteins ready-made from any other living organism, not even if we were cannibals. Our genes encode exact sequences of one, two, then, up to thousands of amino acids to make the specific proteins our bodies need that no other individual on earth needs in exactly the same proportions, not even an identical twin.
Our bodies can transform essential amino acids into non-essential amino acids to provide them in the right order, but we have to get essential amino acids from food. Juice never, ever provides all the essential amino acids, but people can live on juice diets for very long periods of time without becoming amino acid- or protein-deficient. How can that be?
The simple fact is that we digest about 100 grams of ourselves every day. Our saliva and our gastric juices are also digestible, and they are a source of complete protein. One of several remarkable insights by Dr. Cousens was that sea salt makes the mouth water. It makes green juices tastier and it also causes our bodies to release more of the saliva it can use to release complete amino acids that the body can reassemble into other proteins that are needed for maintenance and repair.
Green juices also contain a bitter component. Since most poisons in nature have a bitter taste, our bodies are hard-wired to secrete more stomach acid when we sense a bitter taste on the tongue. The tongue sends a signal to the brain and the brain sends a signal to the stomach to be prepared to digest more thoroughly. This releases mucus and gastric juices which are themselves digested along with food.
Green foods and juices actually aren’t as high in protein as meat. But it doesn’t make any difference. Unless you already have protein deficiencies when you start a juicing diet for diabetes—and deficiencies in any kind of nutrient are rare in diabetes—you can follow a complete juicing diet for several weeks with no ill effects. Dr. Cousens, however, has his patients slowly add cooked vegetables, seeds, nuts, and eventually some fruit and oil into their diets as they sustain their low blood sugar levels.
Juice for Beginners on the Road to Reversing Diabetes
Many juicing gurus charge about $250 for a 15-minute phone consultation and $10,000 for a two-stay in their diabetes retreats. If you don’t have that kind of money, and most of us don’t, you can still follow the principles of juicing at home. And you don’t need to start by buying a ton of produce and spending a week over a juicing machine.
The very first thing you need to do before you start a juicing diet at home is to secure to the cooperation of other members of your household. Explain to them that your are juicing for your health and for your life and you will not be eating the same food as they for a long time, probably for the rest of your life. That doesn’t mean that they can’t eat their own food.
The next thing you need to do before you start juicing for your diabetic condition is to treat constipation. Most people reach for a box of fiber first. That’s really not the place to start. If you have a clogged bowel, stuffing it with fiber will only make the problem worse. You need to get the probiotic bacteria into your system that break down fiber so the carbs you can’t digest (fibers and complex polysaccharides) don’t contribute to that constant feeling of fullness that helps keep your blood sugar levels high.
The best brands of probiotics are encapsulated (protecting the passage of the probiotic, friendly bacteria through the stomach) and contain some combination of Bifidobacterium brevis, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium lactis,Lactobacillus acidophilous, Lactobacillus bulgaricus,Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Lactobacillus salivarius. These are not the probiotic bacteria you usually get in yogurt with live cultures. Yogurt with live cultures usually contains Streptococcus bacteria that stimulate the immune system (not the kind that cause disease) and just a few of the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus bacteria that help with digestion.
After you take the bacteria for a week, then it’s OK to take fiber. And after you have taken fiber for a week, then it’s OK to start juicing. You could get a similar result by taking enemas, but most people don’t get good results by doing their own colon cleansing routines. (And on that topic, avoid over-the-counter colon cleansers. They usually do just enough good to keep you buying more and more). Taking care of constipation before you start your juicing diet make it a lot more likely that you will stay on juicing long enough to see major and lasting results.
One Other Thing You Have to Do Before You Start to Juice
The other things that is absolutely necessary before anyone starts juicing is to prepare for success by taking blood sugar levels. Many diabetics absolutely hate to do this, but there is no other way to know whether the diet is really working—or even working too well and causing hypoglycemia. If a purveyor of a book or a diet or a supplement tells you that using his or her product will liberate you from having to stick your finger or forearm to do blood sugar level testing, avoid that product.
Usually that’s a sign they want to make sure you don’t know that you are wasting your money and your time and possibly endangering your health. When juicing works for you, you will be able to prove it to yourself and your doctor and anyone else by the changes in your numbers.
If you take medication for diabetes, and especially if you take insulin for diabetes, speak with your doctor about a medication scale. If your blood sugar levels typically run about 180 mg/dl (10 mmol/L) and you usually take 850 mg of metformin twice a day, for example, ask if how much metformin you should take if your blood sugar levels start running 120 mg/dl (6.7 mmol/L) or 90 mg/dl (5 mmol/L). If you take insulin, be sure you and your doctor have worked out a sliding scale so you take more insulin when your blood sugar levels are higher and less when they are lower. Many people start juicing diets for diabetes and find they don’t need medication at all, so test, test, test!
Your very first day using juice for diabetes should be a day your drink green, not fruit, juice. Green juices are higher in the magnesium that helps with your blood pressure and helps your body use calcium more effectively. They are better sources of the bitters that stimulate your digestion. And they are lower in sugars and calories.
Unless you are the kind of person who needs to make a total commitment to a diet to make it work,it is usually better to start off with commercially prepared green juices rather than juices you make on your own. Dealing with family issues and regularity issues and blood sugar issues can take so much of your time that making your own fresh juice can feel overwhelming. It’s also best to choose a day you don’t have to work—or you at least can work on your own schedule—for your first day on your juicing diet.
Many markets carry their own freshly made beet, carrot, kale, spinach, tomato, and wheatgrass juices. These may be combined with small amounts of açai, apple, apricot, arugula, blackberry, blueberry, pitted cherry, chicory, ginger, grape, grapefruit, kiwi, orange, parsley, mango, papaya, peach, pear, pineapple, radicchio, raspberry, and strawberry for nutrition and flavor, spirulina for protein and vitamins, and ground chia seeds, nuts, and flaxseed for essential fatty acids. (Whole chia and flaxseed can’t be digested.)
Locally squeezed juices that don’t contain preservatives or coloring agents are always better than bottled or canned. As long as at least 70% of your juice is one or more the vegetables listed in the first group above, and there are no added sugars, fats, or dairy, you’re OK. There are differences in the glycemic index numbers for these various juices, of course, but if your diabetes diet has been Twinkies and Fritos for the last 20 years, it’s probably not necessarily to worry about the difference in the glycemic indexes of carrots and spinach. Choose a mostly-green drink that tastes good. Drink when you are hungry, up to 1200 calories (about 1-1/2 liters) the first day.
What About Juices Off the Shelf?
In the USA and Canada, not everything that is labeled as “green” is really green. With a view to ensuring easy nutrition, here are some quick product reviews.
Cow’s milk contains complete protein but it also contains proteins that cause various kinds of sensitivity reactions in most people, plus lactose, to which most people are intolerant. Bloating from cow’s milk can undo all the good done by juicing. If you simply must have milk, consume a kind of milk you don’t usually drink, up to 1/2 cup (120 ml) per day, goat’s milk instead of cow’s milk, or cow’s milk if you usually drink goat’s milk.
Green tea is great for antioxidants but you actually need some protein, minerals, and vitamins that you have to get from vegetables.
Hawaiian Punch Green Berry Punch contains no greens, less than 2% berries, and loads of sugar and preservatives.
Horchatas (made with rice or grains) are delicious, but they are too high in sugar for juicing when you have diabetes.
Jamba Juice, no matter what the nice server behind the counter may say, it’s mostly fruit juice and it’s not suitable for your first 21 days of juicing.
Knudsen Mega Green juice is mostly processed apple and banana juice. It’s a good product for when you get your blood sugar levels under control (assuming you continue to take your blood sugars to make sure) but it’s a little too high in sugars for the first week.
Naked Truth Green Machine Superfood Juice Smoothie bought online also is mostly fruit, and it’s pricey because it is delivered by air freight to your door. It’s a lot less expensive at Target or Costco, however. If you have to rely on a bottle juice, this is the one. You can use it to mix with spinach or kale juice if you like the flavor.
Rice milk isn’t really a juice. It’s high in carbohydrates and low in minerals.
Soy milk doesn’t contain calcium and B vitamins in appreciable quantities unless they are added to the drink. It’s not a source of complete protein, either, although you don’t need to worry about complete protein for the first three weeks you are on your juicing program. Drink in small amounts if desired, no more than 1/2 cup (120 ml) per day. Be aware that the natural sugar in soy milk is sucrose, the same as in cane sugar.
V-8 and other canned beverages are devoid of raw juices. You always get more nutrition from raw juice.
Wheatgrass is an acquired taste for some people, but if you are going to use just one ingredient for making juice, wheatgrass is best.
What to Expect in the First 21 Days
Nearly every diabetic who sticks to a juicing diet for even one day will notice lower blood sugar levels. If you rely on commercial products like those listed above, they will tend to go up and down. But if you start making your own juices, you’ll get better blood sugar control. Since it’s green vegetables that do diabetics the most good, most diabetics need a masticating juicer. They are a little pricey, but they will pay for themselves in about a month. They are the best way to add leafy greens and wheatgrass to your juice blends.
If you aren’t intimidated by learning to use a juicer and by getting all the produce you need for juicing, by all means, start by making your own juices. Most people are more likely to stick on their programs if they have a way to get a quick and easy juice fix without making juice at home, at least for the first few weeks. And when you see how your blood sugar levels fall and feel added energy, you will want to stick to your juicing diet.
What to Do After the First 21 Days
Many diabetics reap tremendous benefits from their 21-day juice diet—it’s not a juice “fast,” remember—and then cancel them out by going for a bacon cheeseburger and fries. Don’t do that. Start by adding salads to your diet—no fatty dressings. Then add cooked vegetables to your diet. Then, making sure you continue taking your blood sugar levels, add raw fruit and freshly squeezed fruit juices. Finally, you may add an occasional serving of dairy, fish, or poultry if you are so inclined. But after a few months you will lose your taste for these foods.
Thousands of diabetics have gone into remission from diabetes for good after juicing. Some of Dr. Cousens’ patients, including Jenny who was mentioned earlier in this article, have stayed on the diet for 5 years or more. If you stray from the plan, continue to monitor your blood sugar levels, and get back on juicing to stay diabetes free.
Frequently Asked Questions About Juicing when you have Diabetes
Q. What is the difference between juicing and a raw food weight loss diet for diabetes?
A. Bulk. The extra bulk from whole raw foods can raise your blood sugars, as explained earlier in this article. Juices don’t.
Q. Can I stop using insulin if I do juicing?
A. Some diabetics can, but not all. The longer you have had to use insulin, the less likely you are to be able to come off it, but most diabetics can use dramatically less insulin. That’s very useful for health because they are less likely to have potentially deadly bouts with hypoglycemia, their bodies store less fat, certain kinds of tumors are less likely to be stimulated, and they won’t have the concurrent problems of insulin resistance and insulin insufficiency, essentially having type 1 and type 2 diabetes at the same time, as many diabetes do. Don’t stop taking insulin while your blood sugar levels are still high.
Q. Isn’t a juicing diet for diabetes a high-carb diet?
A. Yes but freshly squeezed vegetable juices are high in healthy carbs. Your own body will, at least for three weeks, provide the protein you need. A tiny amount of oil either from seeds or nuts (1 or 2 tablespoons or up to 30 grams per day) will help your body continue to make the bile salts it needs to remove toxins and keep your regular. You need a least a tiny amount of fat in your diet for essential fatty acids and to avoid constipation.
Q. But aren’t all high-carb diets dangerous for diabetics?
A. The proof is in your blood sugar levels. That’s why taking your blood sugar levels is a must. Try it and see.
Q. You say beet and carrot are also beneficial. Aren’t these too high in natural sugars?
A. Unless you drink whole glasses of them, no. You consume such small amounts of these juices that the total number of grams of sugar is low, and because they take more time in your stomach to be digested than pastries or bread, even that small amount of sugar is released into your bloodstream slowly. The phytonutrient properties of carrot and juice, their high content of antioxidants (when juice fresh beet and carrot) more than compensate for the tiny amounts of extra sugar.
Q. Does spinach help to cleanse the colon?
A. Not particularly. It’s a great source of nutrients and it helps reduce the acid load on the kidneys. Avoid eating more than one serving of spinach per day if you have kidney stones (due to their high oxalate content).
Q. Can I add maca to juices?
A. Yes. It’s a great source of minerals. Most vegetables that grow above 2000 meters (6000 feet) have high antioxidant content, as does maca.
Q. Is it best to drink juice ice-cold? And what about smoothies to reverse diabetes?
A. If you have been diabetic for 10 years or more you may have a digestive problem known as gastroparesis, which is basically nerve damage that causes slow passage of food through the digestive tract. If you have this problem, iced beverages will make digestion even slower. Otherwise, the effects of cold beverages are minimal although room temperature is best.
Even for diabetics who don’t have gastroparesis, smoothies are a slippery slope. It’s easy to start piling in the sugar and calories. Stick to stevia and minimize the fruit if you drink smoothies. Most “green smoothies” and “super smoothies,” it’s important to point out, aren’t actually made with greens.
Q. I crave bread. Is there any kind of bread that is relatively safe for me?
A. Rye bread that contains no wheat or oats at all works for some diabetics, sourdough rye even better. Wheat, oats, and potatoes contain plant compounds that stimulate 62 genes that increase insulin use. Rye contains plant compounds that reduce the activity of 71 genes that otherwise would increase insulin use. Wheat products can cancel out the benefits of juicing. Rye products can reinforce them. Rye flour that has been through the sourdough process has a very low glycemic index.
Q. Are bitter melon juice and Brussels sprout juices super-cleansers that are beneficial for diabetes?
A. Well, no. Bitter melon contains some compounds that help the pancreas “unzip” stored insulin, but if you have reach the point that your pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin any more, that won’t help. Most people have a lot of trouble drinking the juice straight because it is so bitter. And Brussels sprouts contain sulfur compounds that form antioxidants, but you can get those from any member of the cabbage family. Watercress is more “detoxifying” than Brussels sprouts.
Q. Is juicing a good idea for gestational diabetes?
A. No. The baby needs more nutrition that the mother can get from juicing. Also, juicing won’t really help constipation during pregnancy. Avoiding heavy meals and eating small amounts of nutrient-dense foods throughout the day, however, can be very helpful. Juices made with a little ginger, however, usually help resolve morning sickness.
Q. Is it possible to keep eating regular foods while juicing with diabetes?
A. Reducing both the bulk and carbohydrate content of your diet is essential. Replacing even one meal a day with juice, however, may help. Replacing two will help even more.