What’s in Your Kitchen That Can Help You Reverse Type II Diabetes
Diet-related diseases are the top causes of death in the U.S. today–and type II diabetes is one of these. Almost 1 out of 3 people have prediabetes, and 1 in 10 are currently diagnosed with type II diabetes. This risk only continues to increase due to the foods, sedentary lifestyles, and stress that are so rampant in modern life. Before we reach the point of no return in terms of blood sugar health, integrative medicine might have the answers needed to not only prevent–but reverse–type 2 diabetes in some individuals.
This blog post will explore the impact of different foods on blood sugar levels, as well as actions you can take to reduce insulin resistance and possibly reverse type 2 diabetes by changing your daily habits.
The Cause of Diabetes
Before we jump in, it’s important to note that diabetes is classified into two types: Type I and Type II. Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disease through which the immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. Type II diabetes is driven by insulin resistance, though the pancreas is often still able to produce some (though often not enough) insulin.
Recent research even suggests there may be other types of diabetes that require different treatment, but this is an ever-evolving field of study. In this post, you’ll learn strategies that address type 2 diabetes to improve the function of insulin and promote normal blood sugar levels.
How Insulin Works
The hormone insulin helps cells use glucose for fuel. Glucose comes from sugars and starches that are digested in the gut, which then pass into the bloodstream. When everything is functioning well, the pancreas produces insulin in response to eating, which allows the cells to remove sugars from the blood, and blood glucose levels stay within a normal range.
When a person is resistant to insulin, the pancreas begins to produce more and more to try to get cells to respond to it. Your pancreas is able to keep up with this increased insulin production for a time, but eventually, beta cell function begins to decline and the pancreas can no longer produce insulin to maintain healthy glucose levels.
Though individuals with type 2 diabetes often take insulin, this treatment approach doesn’t necessarily target the underlying cause of poor blood glucose levels. This means that even though you’re adding more insulin to the body, it may not mean that the body’s cells and tissues are responding to its message like they should be. Insulin resistance leads to weight gain in a majority of individuals, which further increases the risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Is it possible to reverse Type 2 diabetes?
Reversing diabetes is possible for some people, especially in the early years after a diagnosis. In one study, 46% of people with type 2 diabetes achieved remission in 12 months, and 36% in 24 months (1). Researchers note this change was largely mediated by weight loss.
It’s clear that type 2 diabetes is highly responsive to changes in diet and exercise. To reduce dependence upon external insulin or diabetes medication, it’s crucial to address the sensitivity to the hormone insulin. The primary ways a patient can do this is through healthy eating, movement, correcting nutrient deficiencies, and maintaining a healthy body weight.
An expansive amount of research shows that a reduction in carbohydrates, along with balanced additions of fat and protein are effective tools to help the body use insulin properly, reduce high blood sugar, and lose weight (2).
There are 3-4 main things to target when the goal is to prevent or reverse type 2 diabetes:
- Eating healthy and reducing sugary foods
- Maintaining body weight, or losing weight if necessary
- Testing blood sugar levels
Testing blood sugar
Blood sugar levels change in response to your daily activities. They can even be higher or lower depending on things like sleep quality, stress, or illness. Reversing type 2 diabetes naturally is all about keeping an eye on your blood sugar levels. This can be done with a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) or with a small drop of blood from a finger prick a few times per day.
Contact your doctor at CentreSpringMD to confirm any abnormal blood sugar reading, and to develop a holistic plan to get your blood sugar back into a healthy range.
You can compare your blood sugar readings with the ranges according to the American Diabetes Association (3):
Healthy blood sugar: Less than 100 mg/dL in the morning after fasting overnight, and up to 140 mg/dL two hours after a meal
Prediabetes: Between 100-125 mg/dL after fasting overnight
Diabetes: 126 mg/dL or higher in the morning after fasting overnight, or higher than 200 mg/dL at any time
Now that you’re aware of how blood sugar and insulin impact your diabetes, let’s
talk about how healthy eating can help you lower blood sugar and, in some cases, reverse diabetes.
How can I reduce my blood sugar with diet?
Types of foods that are helpful for diabetics include fiber-rich plant foods like leafy greens or root vegetables, quality proteins like whole eggs, chicken, or fish, and of course–plenty of healthy fats.
Following these 3 rules can help:
- Include protein and healthy fats at every meal or snack
- Avoid ultra-processed foods, sugars, and refined carbohydrates
- Drink plenty of water, and stick to unsweetened beverages
Many people don’t realize that starchy foods like bread, rice pasta, and potatoes quickly result in high blood sugar levels when consumed. This makes the pancreas work even harder to make enough insulin in order to get blood glucose levels back into a healthy range (4).
Sugar and carbohydrate intake
Protein can also raise levels, but to a much lesser degree.
When we’re talking about reducing carbohydrate intake, you’ll want to avoid most (if not all) starchy, refined carbohydrates. This includes products that contain “whole grains” such as bread, pasta, or rice. Non starchy vegetables (such as greens, broccoli, and cauliflower) are fine and can be eaten regularly.
While fruits are a healthy choice for most people, you’ll want to limit your intake to low-sugar fruits such as melons, berries, some stone-fruits like pears, or rhubarb.
A meta-analysis conducted in 2021 found that a low carbohydrate diet improved insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes. Some participants were successful in completely reversing their type 2 diabetes, and most participants experienced significant weight loss (5).
In another study, researchers found that some participants were able to reverse diabetes just by losing weight alone (6).
A low-fat diet and low calorie diet was not as effective, although it did result in weight loss for most people.
Exercise to balance blood sugar
Exercise is a naturally beneficial method in helping to burn calories and build muscle. And for both those reasons, it’s great to manage diabetes symptoms.
Exercise helps with blood glucose control and plays a role in reducing your risk of a prediabetes diagnosis. It also positively impacts other health concerns like blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and heart health.
Try burst training (also called interval training) to combine short, high intensity bursts of exercise with slower recovery exercises during one workout. This type of exercise burns calories and may be more effective for weight loss.
Weight training for 30-40 minutes, three times per week to maintain muscle can also help support glucose metabolism. The more lean muscle a person has, the less likely they are to develop insulin resistance. Practicing yoga or stretching online or in the studio can also be a great exercise opportunity.
Take these supplements along with a healthy diet
Whether you’re concerned about developing high blood sugar or are aiming to manage symptoms in a holistic way, your best ally is a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. You can also add the right supplements which support glycemic control, as well as weight loss efforts and insulin levels.
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is an antioxidant which helps convert glucose into energy. ALA may also provide some protection against oxidative damage caused by high blood sugar levels (7).
Omega-3s from fish oil have been shown to reduce inflammation which may worsen insulin resistance. Omega-3s can also help reduce triglycerides when consumed regularly. Most people take between 1-2 grams per day, or consume fatty fish like salmon, tuna, or mackerel 2-3 times per week (8).
If you don’t love fish, check out Nordic Natural’s ProOmega Blood Sugar with omega-3s, chromium, and alpha lipoic acid.
Cinnamon is high in antioxidants and may improve post-meal blood sugar levels. Add it to your cooking, smoothies, or tea, and massage cinnamon essential oil into your wrists during massage (9).
Berberine is a compound found in plants such as barberry, Oregon grape and goldenseal. It is proven for its antioxidant properties and to help control blood sugar levels naturally by improving insulin sensitivity (10).
Gymnema sylvestre is an herb that has traditionally been used for diabetes treatment and prevention. It helps increase the number of insulin receptors which lower blood sugar (11).
Magnesium – People with poor blood sugar control are more likely to have low blood levels of magnesium than those without the disease (12). Studies show most people benefit from supplementing with 300-400 grams of magnesium per day in addition to dietary sources.
Other functional medicine therapies to reverse or prevent type 2 diabetes
Acupuncture and other holistic therapies improve blood sugar control and can reduce the risk of diabetes. Acupuncture stimulates certain points to increase circulation, balance energy flow, and decrease pain and inflammation which may increase the risk of developing diabetes.
IV drip therapy includes glutathione and L-carnitine which are helpful in reducing body fat that can increase your risk of developing diabetes.
Learn more about IV therapy at CentreSpringMD>>>
Work with an Integrative Doctor to Manage or Reverse Type II Diabetes
Diabetes is a complicated disease that can be difficult to reverse. However, integrative medicine provides a comprehensive approach to address the underlying insulin resistance, inflammation, and other causes that are at the root of type 2 diabetes.
Work with our experts in nutrition, health coaching, and functional therapies for help reversing your type 2 diabetes.