Survival Friday: Diabetes and Survival

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When it comes to dealing with medical issues in a survival situation, one of the most frequent questions I get has to do with treating diabetes when drugs are no longer widely available. Since I am not a medical or a healthcare professional, I have always had to beg off answering, because I simply do not have the knowledge to address this topic with any degree of credibility.  Because of this, I was delighted to see  the issue of diabetes in a survival situation finally addressed by an experienced physician who is well versed in emergency and medical preparedness.

Doctor Joe Alton, who is also known as Dr. Bones, has written a series of articles that not only describe diabetes and its causes and symptoms, but also shares some steps you can take now to prevent getting this affliction in the first place.


According to Joe:

Diabetes is the cause of death or a contributing factor in close to 100,000 deaths each year in the U.S. As many who have type 2 diabetes are unaware of it, there are likely huge numbers of “pre-diabetics” who may begin to have medical issues in the next decade.  This means that millions will be dependent on oral medications like Metformin or insulin injections to stay healthy.  In the event of a true disaster, this translates into big problems when the pharmaceuticals run out.

In my view, the prudent thing to do is take steps preventive steps to stay healthy now.  Clearly, preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes is one of those steps.  Dr. Bones suggest the following 9 things you can do now to prevent type 2 diabetes.

  1. Get to a normal weight
  2. Change your diet
  3. Get active
  4. Quit smoking
  5. Drink Alcohol in moderation
  6. Consume Cinnamon
  7. Drink Tea
  8. Intake Vitamin D and Calcium
  9. Eat Barley

Most of these suggestions are common sense lifestyle choices that can be adopted by just about anyone.  With Joe’s permission, today I share with you part 3 of his 4 part series on diabetes and survival.

9 Things You Can Do Now to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes (known in the past as adult-onset or non-insulin dependent diabetes) is usually  the result of your body’s resistance to pancreatic insulin. Insulin is required to move sugar (glucose) into cells; there, it is stored and later used to produce energy for the body.

In type 1 diabetes, there is the failure or death of the pancreatic cells that make insulin.  This causes an absolute deficiency of the hormone.  In type 2, there is insulin produced; your body, however, chooses to resist its effects, resulting in elevated sugar levels (“hyperglycemia”).  Over time, hyperglycemia causes damage to various organs, including the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves.

If there is a good example for an epidemic disease, type 2 diabetes would be it. In the U.S., there are 24 million diabetes, the grand majority of which are type 2.  This number should more than double by the year 2050, both in the U.S. and worldwide, afflicting more than half a billion people.

Diabetes is the cause of death or a contributing factor in close to 100,000 deaths each year in the U.S. As many who have type 2 diabetes are unaware of it, there are likely huge numbers of “pre-diabetics” who may begin to have medical issues in the next decade.  This means that millions will be dependent on oral medications like Metformin or insulin injections to stay healthy.  In the event of a true disaster, this translates into big problems when the pharmaceuticals run out.

Given this disturbing trend, we should formulate a plan of action to nip type 2 diabetes in the bud. Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 does have a well-known and accepted preventative strategy.  These seek to correct the main risk factors for the disease:

  • Obesity (especially around the waist)
  • Lack of Exercise
  • Poor Nutrition
  • Age older than 45 years
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated bad cholesterol (LDL), low “good” cholesterol (HDL) and high triglycerides (fats in blood)
  • Smoking
  • Family history
  • Genetic factors

Certain minority groups such as African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native-Americans seem to have higher risk of diabetes. Although genetics, age, and other uncontrollable factors may play a role in type 2 diabetes, they are less important than aspects relating to lifestyle and behavior. You may not be able to change your age (you can try), but you can change your lifestyle.

If you can follow a few simple recommendations, you can decrease your chances of progressing to type 2 diabetes if you are currently pre-diabetic.  Also, if you have type 2 diabetes currently, you can prevent the long-term damage to organs that it causes. You may be thinking: “Not another doctor telling me to exercise and live right”.

Well, maybe I am; there are studies, however, that back me up. The landmark study called the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) took thousands of people at high risk for type 2 diabetes and placed half of them on a basic diet and exercise program.  Over the next few years, the chances of becoming diabetic were 58% lower in those who lost an average of 10 pounds (5% of body weight) and exercised. These results were not flukes; studies from China and Finland achieved the same results.

Another well-known Study took 85,000 female nurses and followed them over a period of 16 years.  The risk for development of type 2 diabetes was decreased 90% if the nurse in question:

  • Had a normal weight for height and age
  • Ate a healthy diet
  • Exercised 30 minutes a day
  • Didn’t smoke
  • Drank around 3 alcoholic beverages a week (!)

So here are some simple recommendations that can help you prevent the progression of type 2 diabetes:

Get to a normal weight.  Obesity is the major cause of type 2 diabetes. You have several times the chance of becoming diabetic if you don’t get to a healthy weight for your height and age.  The risk is even higher if you are morbidly obese.  You don’t have to lose it all at once; even if you just lose 5% of your current weight, you can drop your risk by half.

Change your diet. Several adjustments in what you eat can decrease your chances of developing type 2 diabetes:

  • Avoid processed foods. In the Nurse’s Health Study, diets rich in whole grains were found to protect against diabetes; processed foods (white bread, white rice, donuts, etc.) caused an increased risk. Scientists looked at the whole grain consumption of over 160,000 women. they found that women who had 2 or 3 servings of whole grains daily had a 30% less chance of type 2 diabetes that those who ate processed foods.  Drinks like sodas were particularly bad, causing spikes in blood levels of sugar (glucose).  Drink water or unsweetened coffee  and tea instead (in moderation).
  • Carefully manage the fats in your diet. Polyunsaturated fats found in liquid vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds can help prevent type 2 diabetes. Trans fats, found in many baked goods and fried fast foods, have the opposite effect.
  • Pick protein sources that improve your ability to avoid type 2 diabetes. There is evidence that red meat (beef and pork) increases your risk, especially if processed (hot dogs, bacon, deli meats).  In the Nurse’s Study, eating 3 ounces of red meat increased the chance of developing type 2 diabetes by 20 per cent.  If the red meat was in a processed form, the risk increased by 50 per cent.

Get active.  Getting your muscles moving improves their ability to use insulin and absorb sugar. This causes less pressure on insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.  You don’t have to run a daily marathon to get this effect.  Just a brisk 30 minute walk daily will decrease your chances of developing type 2 diabetes by 30 per cent.

Quit smoking.  Surprise!  Not really, I’m sure you know that smoking does bad things to just about every organ that is affected by diabetes. Smokers have a 50 per cent higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes, not to mention heart disease, etc., etc.

Drink Alcohol in moderation.  Surprise again, this time for real! Moderate amounts of alcohol (up to a drink a day)  increases insulin’s efficiency  at the cellular level.  If you don’t drink at present, though, don’t start: You get more benefit by eating well, exercising, and maintaining a normal weight.

Although the above recommendations are standard ways to prevent type 2 diabetes, some natural substances may have a specific beneficial effect.  Consider reducing your diabetic risk with:

Cinnamon.  Research suggest that regular intake of cinnamon may help reduce levels of blood glucose and cholesterol.

Tea. Drinking several cups of tea (or perhaps a lesser amount of coffee) may help prevent some type 2 diabetes.  Green tea was considered superior to black tea for this purpose.

Vitamin D and Calcium.  A 2006 study found that daily intake of 800 IU of vitamin D and 1200 mg. of Calcium decreased the incidence of type 2 diabetes by 33 per cent.

Barley.  A study published this year suggests that barley may reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, thereby decreasing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

There are others, but these are mostly related to treatment as opposed to prevention. In the next part of this series, we’ll explore both conventional and alternative options for diabetes in survival settings.

Joe Alton, M.D. aka Dr. Bones the Disaster Doctor

Joe and Amy Alton aka Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy, are the authors of the #1 Amazon Bestseller The Survival Medicine Handbook: A guide for when help is NOT on the waySurvival Friday: Surgical Masks for the Survival Kit   Backdoor Survival. You will find their articles in Backwoods Home, Survivalist, Self Reliance Illustrated, and Survival Quarterly magazines, and at their website at

The Final Word

Writing about medical issues – especially when they do not apply specifically to you or your family – is not the most exciting or the most “sexy” thing to share on a preparedness website.  That said, for those willing to take heed of the message of prevention, it is important to bring these issues to the forefront.

I encourage you to visit Joe and his wife Amy’s website at and to read the first the other articles in this series on dealing with diabetes in a survival situation.  Here are the links:

Diabetes and Survival: Part 1
Diabetes and Survival, Part 2: Type 1 Prevention
Diabetes and Survival, Part 3: Type 2 Prevention
Diabetes and Survival: Part 4 Treatment

I would like to thank both Joe and Amy for sharing their medical wisdom with the preparedness community.  We are truly blessed to have them as part of our community.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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In addition, when you sign up to receive email updates you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

Spotlight Item:  THE SURVIVAL MEDICINE HANDBOOK is a guide for those who want to be medically prepared for any disaster where help is NOT on the way.  It is written from the non-medical professional and assumes that no hospital or doctor is available in the aftermath of a catastrophic event.

This book will give you the tools to handle injuries and illness for when YOU might be the end of the line with regards to your family’s medical well-being. In circumstances where medical personnel are overwhelmed and access to modern technology is limited or non-existent, The Survival Medicine Handbook(tm) is the essential reference book for every library. Written in plain English, you’ll find step-by-step instructions on how to identify and treat over 100 different medical issues.

Bargain Bin: Survival is all about learning to fend for yourself. Here are some of the emergency medical reference books and supplies that belong in every household first aid kit.

Earloop Procedure Face Masks 50/Box: Blue pleated ear loop procedure masks with glass-free filter. These 3-ply fluid resistant face masks are fiberglass free and designed to eliminate fogging. They offer bacteria filtration, with efficiency at 3.0 microns. Aluminum nose guard for extra comfort. Latex-free.

3M N95 Particulate & Respirator Mask: This is an inexpensive mask that can be used in a variety of emergency situations. They come in a box of 20 and are NIOSH-certified. The molded cone design is fluid and splash resistant and will greatly reduces your exposure to airborne particles. Less than $10 for 20.

Quikclot Sport Brand Advanced Clotting Sponge: A must for any first aid or emergency kit, Quikclot Sport stops moderate to severe bleeding until further medical help is available.

Israeli Battle Dressing, 6-inch Compression Bandage: This is another inexpensive, yet critical item. Combat medics, trauma doctors, and emergency responders all recommend this Israeli Battle Dressing (IBD) for the treatment of gunshot wounds, puncture wounds, deep cuts, and other traumatic hemorrhagic injuries.

Where There Is No Doctor: Hesperian’s classic manual, Where There Is No Doctor, is perhaps the most widely-used health care manual in the world. About $20.  Also available as a free download at the Hesperian website

Adventure Medical Kits Pocket Survival Pack: Adventure Medical Kit products are well priced and with an excellent reputation among outdoor types such as fishermen and hunters. This is a good place to start if you are looking for a pre-packaged kit.

The Pill Book (15th Edition): New and Revised: For nine bucks, there is no reason not to have this book in your emergency medical kit.

Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (Pack of 10): These come in a pack of ten and are packaged tightly in a small packet that will fit in any sized pocket.

Omron Series Blood Pressure Wrist Unit: We personally would not be without one of these units.

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Survival Friday: Diabetes and Survival — 5 Comments

  1. The Doc doesn”t emphasize to eliminate all sugars (natural and artificial) in all forms. So you have to read all labels. HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) is in a lot of processed foods. Stevia is the only sweetener to use (not Truvia-read the label).
    Also diabetes is listed as a side effect of Statins and other drugs!
    Also 800IUs of vitamin D is not enough and it must be D3. I take 10,000 IUs. See
    Also no MSG in all it’s forms. See
    Also no GMO foods or products from animals that have been fed GMOs.
    Also see
    for a lot more info.

  2. Dear Gaye,
    Where do we find the guidelines for the process to follow the suggestion to add cinnamon to our diets?

    (In what forms and amounts?)

  3. I am with Pancho. I have an uncle that buys the little “gel caps” from Amazon and puts his own ingredients in them. I am wondering if this is the way to introduce cinnamon into our diet. I personally don’t like the taste of cinnamon.

  4. I have been thinking of capsules also. Although I love spicy foods, there are great benefits with consuming Cayenne pepper, especially in the morning. Check it out. This with a little cinnamon, “Plop, plop, oh what a relief it is” Sorry about that. I don’t know how that got into my head.

    • John Gordon. I read a book a long time ago by a doctor, in which he said if he could get to a heart attack patient while they were still breathing, he would never lose one by giving them a tablespoon of cayenne pepper. Since reading this, I have always placed a shaker of cayenne pepper along with my black pepper and salt (pink salt) shaker on my table. I use the red pepper instead of the black pepper every time.

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