Blog Entry Health & Healing

Sweetness in Life: Diabetes in Perspective


A person without diabetes knows he or she needs to eat well and exercise, but I’m forced to. The result? I have a better body, better health and a better life. Dorian Gregory, Actor and former host of Soul Train

Where is the Sweetness in Life?

I recently celebrated my birthday by enjoying a full day of self-care where I first studied Ayurveda many years ago. I enjoyed the steam room, tubs, massage and therapeutic offerings completely, and at the end of the day was having a spirited conversation with my beloved teacher and friend. Though we were happy to see each other after several years, I could tell something was on her mind. She had been dealing with the dilemma of not wanting to ruin my birthday by telling me some disturbing news, while at the same time knowing that I would have wanted to know what happened.

As it turns out, one of my beloved classmates was in the hospital that very day experiencing his third amputation. He had first lost his toes, then left leg a few years ago. On my birthday, he was having his right leg amputated. I was shocked beyond belief. I could barely digest the idea that he had diabetes, and with all that he knew about healing, I couldn’t accept that he would neglect a cut which lead to the amputations … three times! I went to see him the very next day and as I sat in the hospital room watching the nurses turn my colleague and friend in his hospital bed, I had to accept that it was true. My emotions surged from frustration (How could HE let this happen?) to compassion (I see the pain in his eyes) to acceptance (I will always love and support his journey). Natural law persists regardless of how much we know.

Understanding how to heal means nothing unless that understanding is applied and practiced on a daily basis.

Medical Facts About Diabetes

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in America. About 5 percent of people diagnosed with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes, which is also called juvenile-onset diabetes. The majority of people who have been diagnosed have Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for about 90-95 percent of cases.  When a person has diabetes, their pancreas doesn’t produce enough or produces no insulin and the body loses the ability to have its natural, healthy response to insulin (this is called insulin resistance). Insulin is needed to transport glucose. Glucose is what is produced after our body metabolizes (digests) carbohydrates and it is our body’s primary source of energy. The utilization of glucose is controlled by insulin. Using DNA and RNA, insulin also stimulates the creation of proteins (protein synthesis) as well as free fatty acid storage in the body’s fat deposits. So when our body doesn’t have enough insulin, it has limited access to essential nutrients for energy and for storage. But did you know that insulin regulation is not the only function of the pancreas? The pancreas has both exocrine and an endocrine functions.

Our Amazing Pancreas: Two For The Price of One

  • The Exocrine Function of our Pancreas: Most of our pancreas (95%) contains exocrine (the ability to secrete a substance through a duct) glands that produce very important enzymes such as lipase (to digest fats), chymotrypsin and trypsin (to digest proteins), and amylase (to digest carbohydrates).  So what happens when we eat food and our body doesn’t have energy or resources to break it down properly? Our pancreas has to work extra hard. It’s like having two full time jobs, except that we have less and less time to get to the second job (insulin). After many years of stress, the pancreas becomes fatigued and without the energy or resources to also attend to the proper regulation of the level of glucose in the blood, we can see the connection to the development of diabetes mellitus.
  • The Endocrine Function of our Pancreas: Our pancreas also contains islet (clusters of cells that produce hormones) cells that create and release vital hormones such as insulin (which lowers blood sugar) and glucagon (which raises blood sugar) into our bloodstream.  Our liver, kidneys and brain require balanced blood sugar levels to function properly.

After eating a meal, our body converts the starches and sugars into glucose which is stored in our liver or absorbed into our bloodstream, causing our glucose level to rise. In response to these rising levels, our body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or our cells resist the insulin, and then our cells do not get enough energy. As a result, glucose now builds up in our blood vessels which cause disturbances in ALL of our body’s organs.

African American adults are 80 percent more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to have been diagnosed with diabetes by a physician … In addition, they are more likely to suffer complications from diabetes, such as end-stage renal disease and lower extremity amputations. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health

Making the Connection, A Holistic Perspective

When we understand the digestive connection, we are on our way to understanding that our body is a WHOLE integrated complex system. When one part of our system is stressed, it affects the rest of our system directly or indirectly. Over time, the stress continues to build, causing dis-ease in other parts of the body because the root cause of the distress was not identified or addressed properly. A person who manifests diabetes often eats and/or is addicted to starchy and sugary foods to compensate for an often unconscious or unfilled desire for sweetness in life of some form. If we find ourselves addicted to these foods, it is important for us to pause before eating them to assess what emotional response seems to be attached to that particular food. For example, if we eat ice cream when depressed, we can become aware when we are triggered to eat ice cream (and why), and then acknowledge, sit with/breathe through our feelings. In doing so, we’ll notice them surge and then dissipate, eventually removing the desire for the ice cream. While it may be difficult at first, this type of high level awareness is very healing and restores energy to the body.

  • The Emotional Connection. From a holistic perspective, diabetes mellitus is caused by emotional stress, hormonal disorders, poor nutrition choices and sedentary habits. People who have nervous exhaustion, fatigue, and digestive problems or are obese are on the path to developing diabetes mellitus. Emotions such as a lack of joy, trust or focus; feeling disempowered, being closed off, over protective or emotionally shut down are the type of emotions that make the pancreas and kidneys weak. Tendencies such as taking on other people's “stuff” having low defenses, a lack of confidence or even not knowing how to protect the self causes internal stress that affects the pancreas. If we look at the emotional connection through a holistic lens and consider the history of oppression and racial disparities, it is easy to see why a disproportionate number of African Americans develop diabetes mellitus.

  • The Physical Connection. The most significant physical cause of diabetes mellitus is cumulative effect of improper digestion. Enzymes that break down carbohydrates, proteins and fat combine to create pancreatin so it is extremely important for the digestion and assimilation of food, and this function has a higher priority in the body than the regulation of insulin. Eat the right kinds of foods at the right time and in the proper environments to give our pancreas the energy and resources it needs to do both of its jobs properly.

Health & Healing Strategies for Diabetes Prevention and Recovery

Early prevention and detection are important. We can overcome heredity if we are willing to change poor health habits that run in our families. Here are important actions you can take right now to prevent or reverse diabetes.

  • Emotion: The emotions and actions that strengthen our pancreas are connected to how we are able to “digest” situations such as setting healthy boundaries,  paying attention to our gut instincts, motivation, self-esteem, a healthy and balanced sense of power, a strong will, self-empowerment and decisiveness.  It is important for us to cultivate mental peace and a peaceful environment around meal times.
  • Therapeutic Nutrition:  Focus on eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and alkaline grains such a quinoa, millet and amaranth and a variety of dark leafy GREENS! Click here for an example of step-by-step instructions on how to cook delicious greens. Eat all the colors of the rainbow to ensure you get all the nutrients you need. 
  • Herbal Healing: Bitter melon, aloe vera, turmeric and amalaki (also called gooseberry) are wonder herbs for diabetes prevention and reversal. Herbs such as cinnamon, fenugreek, chamomile, cinnamon, anise, fennel, lavender, ginger, lemon, lemongrass, rosemary, marjoram, coriander, basil and peppermint all strengthen the solar plexus which is the emotional power center that energizes the pancreas.
  • Therapeutic Movement: Qigong, yoga and joint rotations and free form dancing are the best exercises to OPEN up the body at the heart center, open up the abdomen, hips and groin areas. Lets engage in movement that makes our hearts sing! Research studies are now reinforcing the power of Qigong to lose weight, strengthen legs and reduce insulin resistance.

After spending a good amount of time with my friend at the hospital, it was clear to me that the self-neglect began during a dark time in his life. There is no shame experiencing low times. I’ve written a blog series on emotional health (Part I and Part II) and transcending depression and suicidal thoughts to offer strategies to those who feel the darkness descending upon them. We don’t have to fear the darkness. In fact, seeds can only grow after spending some isolated time in complete darkness. The discomfort that we feel can be similar to the struggle of the seed to burst through its outer shell. It is important to nurture ourselves during difficult times, and continually ask ourselves “what is this situation here to teach me?”

Unfortunately, self-neglect caused my friend to pay the steep price of losing both of his legs. However through this most recent part of his journey, he seems to have reconnected to his purpose and the beauty that he brings to the world. Diabetes is preventable and reversible. My hope is that as we move through life, we develop the courage to heal, accept and learn to love all aspects of who we are as we educate and empower ourselves on our journey to radiance.

What is one way that you can actively engage in our own self care today? Journey to Radiance is now LIVE! Download our copy on iTunes and the CBMA website. Tag us on Twitter @BMAchivement using hashtag #BMARadiant.

Dr. Phyllis Hubbard is Director for CBMA's Health & Healing Strategies campaign. You can follow her on Twitter @GetRadiant.


The information on this website is a synergistic blend of holistic and traditional medicines which uses organic materials and healthy lifestyle suggestions to support the body's natural healing processes. This information is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of advice provided by our licensed medical doctor or other health care provider. This information has not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and in the case of ill health, pregnancy, and other serious health conditions, a licensed medical practitioner should always be consulted prior to using any service or product offered by The Campaign for Black Male Achievement. Our product information and descriptions of any and all forms of holistic medicine are in no way intended as a medical claim to prescribe, diagnose, treat or cure any situation or disease.


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