The statistics about diabetes is staggering! In 2012, roughly one out of 10 Americans had the disease. That is 29 million people! Most have type 2, the kind that is used to be adult-onset but is now increasingly showing up in teens.
Diabetes has become an epidemic. People who have the illness are just the tip of the iceberg. In 2012, 86 million American adults age 20 and older had pre-diabetes, but 90 percent of them were oblivious of their health condition. Up to 70 percent of these people will eventually develop the full blown disease in their lifetime. Counting both diabetics and pre-diabetics, diagnosed and un-diagnosed, they totaled nearly 115 million in America, or roughly one in three!
Diabetes is a serious disease and it threatens every part of the body with many severe complications. Unfortunately, most people who have the disease do not recognize its graveness as it has hardly any symptoms in its early stages. The purpose of this article is to bring awareness to those who are at risk of developing the disease. It also discusses various effective ways to prevent and reverse the illness naturally before too much damage is being done.
How Do You Develop Diabetes?
Doctors generally use blood sugar levels to diagnose pre-diabetes (PD) and diabetes (D). The following are three commonly used tests:
Fasting Blood Sugar (1)
D >126 mg/dL
PD 100-126 mg/dL
Normal <100 mg/dL
Hemoglobin A1C (2)
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (3)
D >200 mg/dL
PD 140-200 mg/dL
Normal <140 mg/dL
1 Eight-hour fast required.
2 No fasting required. Measures 3-month average of blood sugar levels.
3 Eight-hour fast required. Measures blood sugar levels 2 hours after taking in a standard dose of glucose.
For type 2 diabetes to develop, the body first becomes resistant to the hormone insulin, a condition called impaired insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance. Insulin is secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas in response to a rise in blood sugar after a meal. It works to allow the sugar in the bloodstream to enter the cells, where it can be converted to fuel immediately or stored for later use.
If what you eat is always causing a big surge in blood sugar, insulin levels will become chronically elevated. Overtime, the body becomes overwhelmed and eventually deafened to the signals sent by the insulin. When this occurs, the cells no longer get the message to let the blood sugar in, and excess sugar stays in the blood. In response, the pancreas has to make even more insulin to overcome this resistance. At some point, the pancreas can no longer pump out enough insulin and the blood sugar stays high all the time. This is how the disease is developed.
Clearly, type 2 diabetes is not a disease about the dysregulation of blood sugar or the inability of the body to produce enough insulin. Conventional treatment, which prescribes either insulin or drugs that raise insulin to lower your blood sugar, does not address the underlying problem of the disease – insulin resistance. In fact, by giving more insulin, it will actually worsen your insulin resistance over time. This is exactly why drug treatment has not gotten us anywhere and the number of people having this disease keeps increasing.
It can lead to serious consequences. Once a person has the disease, there are so many different branches of complications that can occur.
Brain. It raises the risk of Alzheimer’s disease which is a form of dementia.
Eyes. It increases the risk of diabetic retinopathy, damage to the small blood vessels in the retina that may result in loss of vision.
Feet. It causes 60 percent of foot and leg amputations that are not caused by accidents.
Gums. It raises the risk of gum infections.
Heart. The risk of heart attack or stroke is 2-4 times higher in people with the disease. People with pre-diabetes have a 20 percent increased risk of heart disease compared to those with normal blood sugar.
Liver. People with the disease are more likely to develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Nerves. About 60 percent of people with the disease have nerve damage that can cause numbness, burning, tingling, or pain in the hands or feet, and carpal tunnel syndrome (pain in the wrist).
Kidneys. It is the leading cause of kidney failure.
Top 4 Risk Factors For Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is not inevitable and you do not have to be part of the epidemic. Up to 90 percent of this illness is preventable by diet and lifestyle modifications. The disease takes years and sometimes, decades to develop. Therefore, be aware of the following that greatly elevates your risk of developing the disease.
1. Being overweight or obese
Being overweight is a primary risk factor. The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant is your cells to insulin. Therefore, it really pays to stay within a healthy weight.
However, you don’t have to be overweight to develop the disease. If your body stores fat primarily in your abdomen, your risk is greater than others who have fat stored in your hips and thighs.
A good way to determine whether you are at risk is to use the waist-to-hip ratio. Measure your waist at the smallest circumference of your natural waist, just above your belly button. Then measure the circumference of your hips at the widest part across your buttocks. Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement to get the ratio.
The less active you are, the greater your risk. Physical activity helps you control your weight, uses up glucose as energy, and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
A study from the National Cancer Institute found that people who were sedentary for more than 7 hours a day – even if they exercised every day – had a 61 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and a 22 percent higher risk of dying from cancer, compared to those who were sedentary for less than an hour.
Sitting, in general, is associated with dying from all causes. For people who do not exercise at all, the risks skyrocket – a 47 percent increased risk of dying from all causes and a 100 percent greater chance of dying from cardiovascular disease!
Therefore, if you have a job that requires prolonged sitting, make a point to get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour. In addition, aim for at least 30-60 minutes of exercise everyday. Even walking is extremely beneficial for those who have been inactive all their life.
3. Sugary Drinks
There is compelling evidence for avoiding all sugar-sweetened as well as artificially sweetened beverages. These include soft drinks, sport drinks, energy drinks, sweetened teas and coffees, fruit drinks, and fruit juices.
A 22-year study that involved 114,000 health professionals showed that those who drank a sugary soft drink at least once a day had about a 30 percent higher risk than those who drank one less than once a month. Even those who drank fruit juice at least once a day had a 21 percent higher risk than those who drank juice less than once a week.
Most forms of sugar contain both glucose and fructose. Table sugar is half glucose and half fructose. It is well known that glucose raises blood sugar levels but what about fructose which is supposed to have a much lower glycemic index (effect on blood sugar) than glucose?
Researchers found that glucose and fructose are metabolized very differently by the body. After eating fructose, 100 percent of the metabolic burden rests on the liver. With glucose, the liver has to break down only 20 percent.
Fructose activates a powerful biological switch that causes weight gain (especially the dangerous belly fat) and impairs insulin sensitivity, setting the stage for the development of diabetes. Additionally, fructose elevates triglycerides (a form of fat in the blood), LDL (bad) cholesterol, blood pressure, and causes gout and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Therefore, it is only wise to limit not just your glucose but also fructose consumption. High concentrations of fructose are found in fruit juice and sweeteners like table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, and even honey.
4. High-Carbohydrate Diet
For the last 50 years, Americans have been told to eat a high complex carbohydrate, low saturated fat diet. Even diabetics have been advised to eat 50-60 percent of their daily calories in complex carbs. Similarly, conventional wisdom states that whole grains are part of a heart-healthy diet. Cereal commercials make the same claim. All these seriously flawed dietary recommendations are the reason why diabetes rates are shooting sky high in America.
The truth is that all carbs that are not fiber will be quickly metabolized by the body into simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose. If you are already pre-diabetic or diabetic, you cannot keep overloading your body with carbs, even the whole grain version.
How To Reverse Diabetes Naturally
Diabetes drugs may be able to control your blood sugar levels but they hardly address the root cause of the disease. To reverse the illness, your goal is to regain insulin sensitivity, which entails modifying your diet and lifestyle. If you are currently on medications and you start adopting these changes, your doctor may need to adjust your medications as your insulin sensitivity improves.
The following are the most important strategies for reversing the disease. They do require self-discipline and are most effective when your disease is still in its early stages. Do not wait till you develop some of the serious complications, by then, it may be too late.
Eliminate all forms of sugary foods and drinks as well as grains.
- Stay on a low-carb diet by cutting out all grains and sugars.
- Do not use artificial sweeteners as they worsen your insulin sensitivity. Instead, use stevia, which is a naturally sweet herb. They come in liquid, powder, and tablet forms.
- Consume these starchy vegetables sparingly due to their high carb content – winter squashes, jicama, beets, carrots and eggplants. Avoid potatoes and corn.
- Beware of fruits which are high in fructose. Limit yourself to a piece of fruit a day and always have it after eating protein and fats so that it has less of an effect on your blood sugar.
- Do not over consume beans as they are also high in carbs.
- You can eat as much green leafy vegetables as you like as they have very little effect on your blood sugar.
Eat high-quality protein and healthy fats
- When selecting animal-based protein, be sure to opt for organically raised, grass-fed, or pastured meats, eggs, and diary to avoid potential health complications caused by genetically engineered animal feed, pesticides, antibiotics, and growth hormones.
- Only eat small, wild-caught fish to avoid taking in mercury as well as contaminants from farmed fish. Tuna, mahimahi, swordfish, halibut, and sea bass should be avoided as they tend to live longer and have the highest concentration of mercury.
- Nuts and seeds are good sources of protein and are naturally low in carbs. The most beneficial nuts are almond, macadamia, cashew, hickory, pistachio, pecan, filbert, and brazil. Among all the seeds, flax is the best. Always grind it fresh (to avoid oxidation) and sprinkle on food. Do not eat them whole as they tend to pass out whole.
- Healthy fats include saturated and monounsaturated fats. Examples of healthy saturated fats are animal fats from organically-raised or grass-fed animals and coconut oil. Examples of monounsaturated fats are avocados, olive oil and nuts (see above).
- Avoid trans fat and vegetable oils derived from canola, corn, cottonseed, grapeseed, soy, safflower, and sunflower. They are either genetically modified or very high in omega-6 fatty acid, which in excess promotes inflammation in the body. Additionally, the way these oils are processed results in oxidized or rancid oils by the time they are bottled.
- Studies have shown that regular exercise (5-7 times per week), even without weight loss, improves insulin sensitivity. Roughly half of the body weight is skeletal muscle. That is where most of the blood sugar goes. When you have pre-diabetes and diabetes, your cells in the muscles get resistant to taking up blood sugar. With exercise, it dramatically enhances the ability of muscles to take up more sugar. Any exercise that involves large muscle groups, like walking, stair climbing, cycling, swimming, or running, would be effective.
- High intensity interval training is even better than endurance exercise in improving insulin sensitivity. Interval training is alternating periods of relatively intense exercise with periods of rest or light exercise for recovery. The time commitment is less demanding, around 20 minutes per session, three times per week. Interval training is not any more dangerous than other forms of exercise, however, people who have medical conditions should get clearance from their doctors before engaging in any exercise program. The greater risk is sitting on the couch all day.
Maintain a healthy weight
- If you incorporate the diet and lifestyle changes suggested above, your insulin sensitivity will improve and the weight loss will follow in time. Use the hip-to-waist ratio as a guideline for measuring your progress.
Limit alcohol intake
- Alcohol is very similar to fructose, both are metabolized by the liver and converted to fat. After consuming an alcoholic beverage, 10 percent of the ethanol gets broken down by the stomach and intestine and another 10 percent is metabolized by the brain and other organs. This is why you get the “buzz” from drinking alcohol. The remaining 80 percent hits the liver.
- Drinking too much alcohol causes insulin resistance in the liver, fatty liver disease, and liver cirrhosis.
- If you drink, limit intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink for women. One drink is 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol), 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol), or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (40% alcohol). Bear in mind that beer is relatively high in carbs, whereas wine and sweetened cocktails contain sugar.
Maintain optimal vitamin D levels year-round
- New evidence strongly supports the notion that vitamin D is highly beneficial for people with diabetes. Hence, optimize your vitamin D level through appropriate sun exposure or supplements. If you take a vitamin D3 supplement, you also need to balance it off by taking vitamin K2. Most people need about 5,000 I.U. of vitamin D3 a day to achieve the ideal range of 50-70 ng/ml. Do a blood test every year to make sure your level is optimized.
Increase your omega-3 intake
- Omega-3 fatty acid helps reduce inflammation and cuts down the risk of degenerative diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Take a high quality, contaminant-free omega-3 supplement. To reduce inflammation, you need to take at least 2-3 grams of omega-3 a day.
Optimize your gut health
- Your gut flora is the key to a strong immune system. The more good bacteria you have, the better your body will function overall. Unless you are eating fermented foods (such as cultured vegetables) on a regular basis, consider taking a daily probiotic supplement.
Manage your stress
- When you are stressed, stress hormones like epinephrine and cortisol kick in to raise blood sugar and help boost energy when it is needed most. Think of the fight-or-flight response. Therefore, find ways to reduce and manage your stress. Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and positive mental imagery.
Get adequate sleep every night
- Insufficient sleep appears to raise stress and blood sugar, leading to insulin resistance and weight gain. Make sure you get 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night.