Reversing Type 2 Diabetes, An Illness of Lifestyle

Reversing Type 2 Diabetes, An Illness of Lifestyle

By Helena Amos, M.Ac., L.Ac., Euro. Physician

It’s important to consider our health concerns when we make our food choices, and that’s especially true during the holiday season. This is tough to do given all the amazing food this time of year, and all the opportunities for celebrating with eating. But healthy choices can be very tasty, too, and we can modify our eating behaviors accordingly while still enjoying ourselves during the holidays, and all year long.

One health condition particularly susceptible to the pitfalls of unhealthy eating — and an unhealthy lifestyle in general — is Type 2 Diabetes, also known as Diabetes Mellitus (DM). The condition has been known since ancient times, but it’s predicted that every tenth person on the planet will have it by 2040 if we don’t stop it from reaching pandemic proportions.

To do that, we must first understand what insulin sensitivity, prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes are, recognize the symptoms, and learn how to prevent and treat them properly.

The Basics of Diabetes

The pancreas, a large gland of the digestive system, is directly involved in the development of diabetes. It is located on the left side of the abdominal area just below the left side of the rib cage. The gland secretes a pancreatic juice full of digestive enzymes to break down protein, carbohydrates and fat.

The pancreas also functions to produce insulin by beta cells. Unlike Type 1 Diabetes, which is characterized by beta cell deficiencies and can develop early in life, Type 2 Diabetes happens when there are enough beta cells but the insulin receptors of the cells are broken — or resistant — due to an excess amount of sugar, simple carbohydrates or alcohol consumption. When this occurs, insulin cannot deliver glucose into the cells, depriving the cells of energy, and allowing extra glucose to circulate in the bloodstream, which turns into fat surrounding and penetrating internal organs. Obesity causes fat cells to act as their own hormonal tissue, triggering hunger and more storage of fat in the organs and outside tissues — it is a vicious cycle and an important one to break.

The appearance of Type 2 Diabetes is not something that happens overnight. Rather, it begins due to a compounding of unhealthy lifestyle factors that lead to prediabetes, or insulin resistance syndrome, which can eventually turn into a full-blown diagnosis. Obesity, diets high in junk food and simple carbohydrates, and lack of exercise and quality sleep are dangerous precursors. In addition, certain medications, and hormonal disorders can exacerbate early conditions.

Warning signs for insulin resistance, or prediabetes, include an increasing waistline (over 35-40 inches); dark spots on the skin around elbows, knees; skin tags; and elevated or high normal levels of blood glucose and triglycerides, blood pressure over 140/80; and when HDL cholesterol is lower than 40mg//l.

The primary causes of Type 2 Diabetes are directly related to unhealthy food choices and habits. These include:

• Poor diet

• Excess weight

• Lack of physical activities

• Depression and/or high stress levels

• Chemical toxicity

• Viral or bacterial infections

• Certain medications

Furthermore, while there is no evidence of a genetic predisposition to DM, other conditions can be secondary causes of diabetes. For instance, hormonal imbalances such as hypothyroidism, polycystic ovary syndrome, and Cushing’s disease exacerbate symptoms associated with diabetes, thereby contributing to its development.

There are several symptoms that can alert to the presence of insulin resistance or diabetes, including:

• Unexplained fatigue

• Unexplained weight gain

• Frequent urination, especially at night time

• Constant hunger and thirst

• Numbness, neuropathy in extremities

• Vaginal infections

• Poor vision

• Heart and circulation problems

• High blood pressure

Late, or longer-term, consequences of Type 2 Diabetes can include:

• Hypoglycemia – episodes of sweating, dizziness, disorientation, excessive hunger, nausea

• Atherosclerosis – excess glucose in the blood causes small arteries to close up, shutting off blood supply and nerve supply

• Diabetes neuropathy – tingling and numbness of extremities

• Kidney damage (diabetic nephropathy)

• Diabetic retinopathy, vision loss

• Trophic ulcers, gangrene of extremities

• Strokes, ischemic heart disease

Breaking the Cycle: Diabetes Prevention and Treatment

The prevention and reversal of diabetes mellitus is possible with the proper quality and quantity of foods and physical exercise to encourage increased metabolism, to reduce the size of the stomach, and to promote a healthier lifestyle that supports lifelong wellness.

Certain foods negatively affect your blood sugar levels, cause inflammation and trigger immune responses. As a general nutritional guideline, avoid GMOs foods, processed food, homogenized oils, and artificial sweeteners. To reverse diabetes naturally and for the long-term, the first step is to remove, or limit, these following foods from your diet:

1. Refined sugars, sodas, fruit juices and other sweet beverages. These forms of sugar enter the bloodstream rapidly and can cause extreme elevations in blood glucose. Your best option is to switch to stevia, a natural sweetener and healthier sugar substitute that won’t have as much of an impact. Also, try to derive sweetness from fruits and vegetables directly.

2. Gluten and processed grains. Simple processed gluten-containing grains such as wheat, barley, oats, and rye contain large amounts of carbohydrates that are broken down into sugar within only a few minutes of consumption. Gluten can cause intestinal inflammation, which affects hormones like cortisol and leptin, and can lead to spikes in blood sugar. Depending on severity of diabetes or hypoglycemia, all grains can be removed, or small amounts of ancient sprouted grains can be allowed.

3. Dairy. Stay away from conventional milk, which can cause inflammation similar to gluten products. Use goat, sheep or A2 milk instead. Wisely chosen dairy can, however, be a great source of protein.

4. Alcohol. Alcohol can dangerously increase blood sugar and cause liver degeneration.

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is going to mean different things to each individual, so it’s important to work with a health professional to identify your issues and your health targets. Along with regulating diet, there are additional strategies to adopt, such as establishing the amount of daily calories your body needs, and following it. Use one of several available free calorie-counting apps to help with monitoring and tracking.

Next, focus on healthy eating routines. Watch portion sizes at meals, and consider using an app like My Fitness Pal or Fat Secret to assist with tracking. Try to eat some kind of protein with each meal, or even nuts, which will slow down sugar ingestion, keep blood glucose from rising, and stave off hunger. And work to include more of the following food groups:

• All lean protein: lean beef, turkey, fish, and chicken, as well as rice and pea protein powders, other lean meats and seafood.

• Fresh vegetables; cooked vegetables for starch

• Low glycemic fruit, like cherries, grapefruit, apples, pears, strawberries, all berries; not more than two portions a day

• Seeds and nuts, and their butters

• Occasional sprouted bread, 1-2 small pieces a day

• Thin-skinned legumes like all lentils

• Small portions of quinoa or brown rice

If you suspect insulin resistance, or you have already been diagnosed with it or Type 2 Diabetes, you can complement your recovery process by working with a healthcare professional who employs holistic and/or Functional Method approaches. These modalities can assist with the reversal of diabetes by addressing the root causes for more successful outcomes. They involve:

• Setting up a diet and calorie plan

• Establishing a physical fitness program to get your body moving with regular exercise that includes cardio, weight training and body work like Yoga or T’ai Chi

• Helping with a detoxification process, depending on and varying with the individual

• Assisting with the reversal of common “fatty liver” issues

• Putting gastrointestinal organs back on track to normalize stool, gall bladder/bile production and more

• Providing necessary supplements for natural weight loss and metabolism as well as immunity and more

• Performing acupuncture, which is well known for detoxification, GI tract normalization, rebuilding pancreas and liver, and weight loss protocols including ear acupuncture to reduce food cravings and metabolism boosting; it is also very helpful for balancing body, mind and spirit to eliminate anxiety and stress.

Indulging during the holidays is just as traditional as giving gifts and decorating our homes for the season. But if you are living with diabetes, working to reverse prediabetes, or managing insulin sensitivities, this time of year is particularly challenging. However, by making smart, mindful nutritional and lifestyle choices now, and all year long, you can enjoy all the joys that come with holidays and the lasting benefits of carrying healthy habits forward.

If you suspect insulin resistance, or have been diagnosed with that or Type 2 Diabetes, schedule a consultation with us to develop a treatment plan to complement your recovery process. Contact our office: 301-881-2898 or email

Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash

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