How to Prevent and Reverse Type-2 Diabetes
June 24, 2016 by Dr. Jessica Knox, MD
If you follow health news, you may have heard all the statements about how sugar is poison.
My goal in this blog is to prove the accuracy of that statement, and we’ll go over some of the harmful effects it can have on the human body, namely, Type 2 Diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body no longer responds to insulin as it should, causing you to have too much glucose, or sugar, in your blood.
In healthy bodies, the pancreas releases insulin into your bloodstream after you eat or drink, and insulin communicates with the muscles, fat, and liver cells to absorb the glucose from the drink or snack you just consumed. Your muscle and fat cells will store and use that glucose for energy, and your liver will store it as a molecule called glycogen to use between meals when your body needs more energy.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance, meaning your muscle, fat, and liver cells are not as responsive to insulin as they once were and don’t absorb glucose as readily as they used to. As a result, the glucose that continues to linger in your bloodstream triggers the release of even more insulin to bombard your cells and convince them to take up the remaining glucose.
To treat Type 2 diabetes, doctors typically prescribe medications that either trigger your pancreas to produce your insulin, make your target cells (muscle, fat, and liver cells) more sensitive to insulin, or tell your liver to produce less glucose. But unless you reverse diabetes, the cycle will only continue and intensify.
As diabetes progresses, your pancreas becomes burned out and can no longer produce enough insulin to keep up with the demand of the resistant target cells. It is at this stage that diabetics become reliant upon insulin replacement.
So, how do you know if you have diabetes?
The classic symptoms include the following:
• Frequent urination (your body’s attempt to get rid of extra glucose)
• Excessive thirst (your body’s attempt to dilute the glucose)
• Increased hunger (even after you’ve eaten, because the cells aren’t getting the glucose they need)
• Dry mouth
• Blurry vision
If you have these symptoms, a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, or are overweight or obese, your doctor will likely test for diabetes by measuring your A1c levels or your fasting plasma glucose levels.
An A1c test is a measure of how high your blood pressure has been, on average, for the past two to three months.
In people without diabetes, a normal A1c reading is in the range of 5 to 5.5. In prediabetes (defined as impaired glucose tolerance with no symptoms, and levels that are high but not severe enough to indicate diabetes), measurements range from 5.7 to 6.4. People diagnosed with diabetes have A1c levels of 6.5 or higher.
A fasting plasma glucose test is a measurement of the amount of sugar currently in your blood when you have not eaten for at least eight hours. A reading of 99 or below is normal, people with prediabetes range from 100 to 125, and people with diabetes will have a level of 126 or higher.
A standard diabetes diagnosis is made when two separate blood tests show your fasting plasma glucose is equal to or greater than 126 milligrams per deciliter.
Causes and Long-Term Effects of Diabetes
Too much glucose in your bloodstream slowly but surely poisons your organs.
Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness and leg amputation, and is also a leading risk factor for heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and dementia.
The disease is ultimately fatal and can cut off more than eight years of your life.
This may all sound quite dismal, but take heart ..
.. Diabetes is preventable and reversible.
Even people with prediabetes may never progress all the way to full-blown diabetes if they make healthy lifestyle choices.
Diabetes is largely a lifestyle disease caused by obesity, poor diet, and toxic exposure. These offenders create an inflammatory environment in the body, which prevents the cells from behaving optimally, including their response to insulin.
There is also a genetic piece to the puzzle.
If you have first-degree relatives with diabetes, you’re at higher risk. Luckily, we have the potential to empower our genes, and that power lies in our behaviors and choices.
Prevention & Reversal
(1) Make Good Food Choices
Nutrition is the most important factor in preventing and reversing Type-2 Diabetes. Specifically, avoid added sugars and beware of trans fats. Limit your sugar intake to that which is found naturally in real foods.
You know sugar has been added to a food product when it appears in a list of ingredients. Added sugar is toxic. Adding sugar to coffee, tea, or cereal stresses the insulin system without giving the body the added benefit of fiber or other nutrients that accompany naturally occurring sugars found in fruits and vegetables.
Most packaged foods, even bread, have surprising amounts of added sugars, so be sure to read your labels. You may be shocked by how many products, even those that that don’t taste sweet, contain added sugar.
Added sugars also are addictive. Exposure triggers intense reward centers in the brain that serve to further encourage sugar consumption. It is easy to see how such a cycle can snowball into obesity and diabetes.
It is also important to mention here that even natural sugars can be problematic for diabetics and prediabetics. Fruit intake must be carefully monitored.
Trans fats also increase the risk of diabetes. Fortunately, in recent years, a crusade against trans fats has led to restaurants and food producers eliminating them from their food prep processes. Even so, they can still be found all over the place.
Fried foods, many baked goods, and margarine are some of the most notorious sources of trans fats.
Carefully take note of nutrition labels on menus and packaging, and limit, if not exclude entirely, any foods with more than zero grams. Partially hydrogenated oils in ingredients lists can also be a red flag for the presence of trans fats.
Notably, saturated and monounsaturated fats do little to impact diabetes, and polyunsaturated fats (found in walnuts, sunflower seeds, fatty fish, tofu, and soybeans) actually will reduce the risk of diabetes.
(2) Be More Active
Increased calorie expenditure contributes to healthy weight and also improves your cells’ responses to insulin.
Active muscles will take up more glucose than underused ones. Plus, active muscles also look and work better.
(3) Avoid Toxins
Bisphenol A (more commonly known as BPA) is a chemical found in some plastics, pesticides, heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and mercury, and chemicals in cigarette smoke, and it may contribute to diabetes.
In other words, you can count diabetes as yet another bullet point in the long list of reasons to never start smoking, or to quit now.
Otherwise, be a conscious, informed consumer. BPAs are often found in plastic water bottles, so look for water bottles that are BPA-free or, better yet, made of glass or stainless steel.
Buy Organic fruits and vegetables if you can. If not, make sure you always wash your produce thoroughly. Make sure your home is free of lead paint (present in homes built in the 1970s or earlier) and be aware that consumer products may contain lead and other heavy metals.
Read the ingredients lists of the foods you like to buy
Is sugar in the ingredients list?
If so, lower your consumption of that food. Beware of the words “no sugar added” or “sugar-free.” These terms sometimes indicate that sugar has been replaced with sweeteners like Splenda or aspartame, which are harmful to your body as well. Stevia is a natural sweetener that is a healthy, acceptable replacement for sugar.
Also, be on the lookout for trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils, and other chemicals in ingredient lists. If there are words in the ingredient list that you cannot pronounce, or you don’t know what they are, you probably shouldn’t put them in your body.
Create an activity plan
What activity do you enjoy doing? What barriers prevent you from doing that activity or exercising more? Do you need a group or trainer to keep you committed?
Carve out a few minutes here or there from your daily tasks to build a thirty-minute chunk of time to devote to activity or exercise.
Check out more resources to learn how to limit your exposure to pesticides and heavy metals. There is plenty of information for anyone committed to preventing or reversing diabetes.
You have the power to influence your health.