It looks like conventional medical research is catching up to what we’ve known in functional medicine for years.
The new study by researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) found that inherited genetic changes may set the foundation for a higher vulnerability to high blood sugar and the variability of how different patients respond. This makes perfect sense, but I would argue genetics is not the only differentiating factor between patients. In fact, there are four major issues we must personalize to get the best results from a diabetic treatment plan.
As this new study confirms, genetics can set the stage for diabetes and all diseases. Specific genes may interfere with the release of insulin from the pancreas, production of glucose from the liver, and the risk of obesity associated with inflammation and type 2 diabetes. By identifying and targeting gene variations, we can work to overcome each patient’s unique risks and vulnerabilities.
Epigenetics is the way that our environment changes the way our genes express themselves for health or disease. This is a primary reason that aging, being overweight, eating a poor diet, and sedentary behavior all increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is also the reason that changing all these risk factors can lead to the reversal of diabetes symptoms. You’re stuck with your genes, but you can change how they behave based on your lifestyle.
3. Immune System
A person’s immune system is just as unique as his or her DNA because it is ever-changing based on the exposures it has had throughout life.
The immune system fights a specific infection and then remembers it so that it can launch a faster attack next time. However, many type 2 diabetics find that their immune system is compromised; they may have an inflammatory response to different foods, environmental triggers, or even insulin itself. If we’re going to successfully treat diabetes, we must balance the immune system, and that means identifying each patient’s unique immune triggers.
4. The Gut
Your individuality is also reinforced by the microbiome, a unique community of microbes living in your gut. Those microbes are linked to your risk of obesity, glucose metabolism, inflammation, autoimmunity, and more. By capitalizing on the health of the microbiome, we can increase your body’s ability to fight against the progression of diabetes.
“Managing” diabetes with a general approach means masking symptoms while ignoring the sources of the disease. The effective way to stop the progression of and reverse symptoms of diabetes is to identify each patient’s unique root causes and make the adjustments needed to correct the disease at the source. That means addressing genetics, epigenetics, immunity, and the gut, among other defining aspects of each person’s life. Every patient deserves to be seen and treated as the individual he or she is so that they get the best shot at regaining their health.