It may surprise you to know that, for many people, Type 2 diabetes is primarily a liver disease. The pancreas damage comes later. Liver issues in diabetes are complicated. An article in the journal Clinical Diabetes explained that diabetes can cause liver disease; liver disease can cause diabetes; or both can arise together from other causes. Whichever comes first, the sick liver may produce way too much glucose, enough to overwhelm the body’s insulin.
The liver’s energy production function is directly related to the creation of glucose tolerance factor (GTF) from the mineral chromium and the amino acid glutathione. GTF and insulin regulate blood sugar levels. The liver works with the pancreas and adrenal glands to regulate blood sugar. If too much sugar comes quickly to the liver from the intestinal tract, the liver will rapidly convert part of the sugar to triglycerides (fats), some of which is stored and some of which is released into the blood to be converted to glucose (blood sugar) inside the cells.
This process is extremely important, as it is the primary manner in which dietary sugar can be slowly released into the blood. Elevated blood sugar will cause serious problems.
First, the sugar literally sticks to the blood proteins, which can cause the immune system not to recognize these sugar-coated proteins, and an immune attack can occur, which results in free radical production and cell damage.
Second, higher than average blood sugar levels will cause a chronic overproduction of insulin. This desensitizes the cellular insulin receptors, so that the sugar does not enter the cells efficiently, keeping blood sugar high, creating a cycle that leads to Type 2 diabetes.
Finally, chronically elevated insulin levels greatly contribute to fat storage and increased production of cholesterol by the liver, which is where the term “fatty liver” comes from.
It is obvious that the liver is important in controlling blood sugar levels. In addition, the liver stores sugars not required for immediate energy production. When stored, these sugars are known as glycogen. The liver also converts glycogen into glucose, which is fuel for the cells when needed for energy.
The herbs milk thistle, dandelion, and bitter melon, as well as vinegar, are often used to help livers heal along with a healthy diet and exercise. Vegetables like broccoli, collard greens, and kale, and small fish like sardines are often recommended. An article on Livestrong.com suggests vitamin B complex, vitamin C, and coenzyme Q10 for liver health.