Can You Reverse Diabetes?
Yes, you can reverse diabetes which is one of the more prevalent and harmful diseases. Diabetes can be reversed largely through diet and exercise. How many times have you heard that? You can reverse diabetes but for some it it going to take aggressive lifestyle changes.
Diabetes is rapidly increasing across the United States. According to the CDC 37 million Americans (more than 10% of the population) has diabetes and another 96 million Americans (nearly 30% of the population) have pre-diabetes. And, what might be worse is 8 out 10 do not know they have pre-diabetes. So about 40% of the population is either diabetic or pre-diabetic.
Why and what can be done about it? For the purposes of this discussion we are talking about Type 2 diabetes which accounts for 90% to 95% of the cases of diabetes in adults.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the result of insulin resistance as opposed to type 1 diabetes where the body does not make enough insulin. In type 2 diabetes the body makes more than enough insulin but the body does not use it efficiently causing the body to overproduces insulin to drive sugar into cell. It just so happens that insulin is a fattening hormone.
Risk Factors for Diabetes
Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include”
- being overweight (BMI >25 to 30) and obesity (BMI >30).
- family history of diabetes.
- being sedentary.
- being over age 45.
- low sex hormone levels.
What are the health consequences of diabetes? People with diabetes have a 60% higher risk of dying early compared to those without diabetes. Other health complications include:
- kidney failure
- heart disease
- loss of limb
All of those should be good reasons to motivate you to reverse diabetes if you have it.
What Can You Do to Reverse and Prevent Diabetes?
There is not much you can do about family history but a family history does not mean that it is inevitable that you will get diabetes. The best and biggest thing you can do to reverse and prevent diabetes is to achieve a healthy weight (BMI <25). Other strategies include other dietary changes, get more exercise, take certain supplements, better manage stress, and get enough quality of sleep. Let’s take a look at each of these.
Losing weight is not easy, otherwise so few would be overweight. We have several articles on this website that discuss different strategies for losing weight. This link will take to 10 such articles, but there are far more on the website. As little as 5 to 10 percent reduction in body fat can lower your insulin and blood sugar levels. For many this amounts to 10 to 20 pounds which is certainly doable. You just have to do it.
The best for your buck when it comes to weight loss is on the nutrition end as you don’t burn as many calories as you think from most forms of exercise. However, when it comes to diabetes reversal exercise plays a huge role which we will get into later on in this article. To lose weight you must create a calorie deficit. But, weight loss goes beyond just a calorie deficit. It also involves consuming good calories and avoiding bad calories. Let’s now look at some actual dietary strategies.
Dietary Changes to Reverse Diabetes
Management of carbohydrates is key when it comes to reversing diabetes. As mentioned above there are good calories and bad calories. Since insulin is a fattening hormone, you want to avoid foods that cause excessive insulin release. These bad calories are found in foods that spike your blood sugar and insulin levels. These are known as high glycemic foods. Low glycemic foods cause a low rise in blood sugar and insulin after a meal.
Here are some strategies when it comes to shopping for healthy foods.
- Only buy foods found in the perimeter of the grocery store.
- Avoid as much as possible buying foods that come in a bag, box, can, or jar. They are frequently full of sugar which has many names.
- Don’t eat anything that your grandmother or great grandmother would recognize as food. Those generations did not have Fritos, Oreos, and thousand of other largely unhealthy snack foods.
- If if flies in the air, swims in the water, runs across the ground, grows from the ground, or falls from a tree, it is likely to be healthy.
Be sure to drink enough water. We recommend consuming in ounces 1/2 your body weight in pounds. So if you weigh 200 pounds you are shooting for 100 ounces of fluid during the course of a day. Drinking cold water will actually burn a few extra calories as the body expends energy warming water up after ingested.
Get more fiber in the diet from fruits and vegetables. Fiber slows breakdown and absorption of carbohydrates. This reduces sugar and insulin spikes. Shoot for 35 grams of fiber a day.
Diabetics tend to be low in certain nutrients which can easily be replaced in the form of nutritional supplements. Magnesium and chromium are two such nutrients. We recommend 500 to 1,000 mg of magnesium a day and 500 to 1,000 mg of chromium a day as well. Fish oil improves insulin sensitivity. We recommend 2,000 to 4,000 mg of high quality fish oil a day. Berberine is another supplement that acts more like a diabetic medication rather than restoring a nutritional deficiency that has been shown to reduce fasting blood sugar levels.
Why is managing stress important in reversing diabetes? Excessive stress triggers the release of cortisol. Have you noticed that some people lose weight when they are stressed and others gain weight? Why is that? It has to do with cortisol and the presence or absence of insulin. Cortisol and insulin stimulate liprotein lipase or LPL. LPL helps to store calories in our fat stores. When insulin is high, cortisol facilitates storing more fat. When insulin is low, cortisol allows calories to be released from fat leading to a loss of body fat. Since diabetics and pre-diabetics have high insulin levels, they will tend to gain weight when under stress.
Stress creates havoc on our health. Try hard to reduce it. Engage in stress managing activities like yoga, deep breathing, meditation, hot baths or saunas, progressive muscle relaxation techniques, massage, and more.
Exercise is another key to reversing diabetes. Exercise improves insulin sensitivity which means your body can utilize sugar with less of the fattening insulin. In addition, strength or resistance training will build muscle. An abundance of insulin receptors are found on muscle cells. The more muscle you have, the more insulin receptors you have and the easier it is to clear sugar from the blood. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat tissue and burns 2-3 times as many calories as fat.
At the very least consider walking 30 minutes a day. But more would be better in terms of improving blood sugar control. Also, consider high intensity interval training 2-3 days a week coupled with sustained aerobic exercise for 60 minutes 3 days a week.
High Quality Sleep
Poor sleep affects your metabolism. Getting a good night of sleep is one of the best things you can do for your health. Poor sleep affects your metabolism increasing your risk of developing obesity, insulin resistance, and disruption of the gut microbiome. Poor sleep increases cortisol levels which contributes to obesity and diabetes. Adults should strive for 7-8 hours of good quality sleep a night.
Sleep can be improved by sticking to a routine and going to bed and awakening up the same time every day including the weekends. Exercise improves sleep. Avoid computer screen time as you approach your bed time. Hot shower or bath can help relax before you go to bed as well. Here are 10 tips to improve your sleep.
Reversing diabetes is one of the best things you can do for your health. Focus on changing your lifestyle and stay committed. Set a goal of how much weight you want to lose and put a reasonable target date on the calendar to achieve it. Cut out the bad carbs. Same with exercise. Develop a daily program that you adhere, though to maximize benefit from exercise, you do need to change up the routine periodically. Drink more water and put to practice tips to improve your sleep.
Results will come your way!