Diabetes among Native Americans - Can Diabetic Native-Americans Fast Safely?
by N J Howell
This is part five of a five-part article on diabetes and fasting. In part one, the question was fasting with diabetes - is it safe?. Please read part one for a better understanding of this and other parts of the health series on diabetic fasting risks.
Fasting for Diabetic Native-Americans: Spiritual fasting is very often a part of many Native American practices including Vision Quest and Sundance. For the Native-American who is also diabetic, such spiritual fasting is not without added risk.
When I began researching this issue of fasting with diabetes, I found out that Native Americans are already at higher risk for diabetes, so it felt important to address not only the diabetic fasting question but diabetes in general.
If you are Native American, you should know that are at a significantly higher risk for developing diabetes and also at higher risk for diabetic complications.
Back as far as 2002, the American Journal of Public Health reported that diabetes among Native Americans was increasing at an astounding rate.
While statistics vary from site to site, the reality is that a person of Native-American descent faces an increased risk of developing diabetes unless attention is paid to diet and lifestyle, beyond that which might be required for people of some other races.
The International Journal of Obesity published findings from a study that suggested the increased risk for diabetes might also be linked to a variation of a blood protein called apolipoprotein C1.
Although apolipoprotein C1 is a common blood protein, the C1 variation in Native-American blood may cause predisposition toward obesity and diabetes.
I didn't find any information suggesting that anything could be done to correct the apolipoprotein C1 variant but it appears it might be a diagnostic earmark for assessing increase diabetes risks.
Possible Dietary Link to American Indian Diabetes
What was fascinating for me to read one of the theories as to why American Indians are at greater risk for diabetes.
Remember, this is just a theory at this point ...... I read that the Native-American system may be genetically designed to stay at it's most healthy when fasting regularly and that the calorie-rich diet now employed may be out of alignment with genetic predisposition toward a leaner diet.
Could it be that safe fasting, when it can be safe for the Native-American who has diabetes, might help the body system restore balance and reverse the trend of obesity, diabetes, and diabetes-related complications among the Native-American people?
If you are Native-American, even if you are not diabetic, you should get a fasting plasma glucose test done prior to fasting. This is particularly important if you are over the age of 45, there is a history of diabetes in your family or you are overweight by more than 20 percent of your ideal body weight.
As I mentioned before, ceremonies such as Vision Quest and Sun Dance almost always include spiritual fasting. Most Native Americans with whom I've had contact practice regular fasting so, since this is a high risk group, paying attention to the special situation that arises when a diabetic chooses to fast for spiritual reasons, there should be more attention paid to this, particularly with Elders who fast.
The remaining Native American Elders are a precious gift and we should do everything we can to protect their health, so that they can continue to impart their spiritual wisdom.
Another unique factor for diabetic Native Americans who fast is that, very often, the fast is combined with very rigorous physical activity, such as is the case in Sundance. Instead of moderate physical activity, they are more physically active than normal and this adds to the risks if diabetic.
I'm aware that many feel spiritual ceremony can heal conditions such as diabetes....I'm one of them, in fact. I've seen that ceremony can heal the body, sometimes where medical science fails.
However, I also respect the wisdom of the body and when we have manifested illness, it is important to deal with that at the safest level of healing the body will accept. Sometimes, that means respecting the current condition of the body on physical, as well as spiritual, levels.
Health Care Disclaimer: Spiritual fasting has benefits that go beyond the physical. However, those with diabetes who wish to practice spiritual fasting should work with a health professional they trust to monitor body conditions during the fast.