Is It Possible to Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?
When browsing online, you could be forgiven for thinking reversing diabetes might just be a case of eating a specific diet or taking a combination of drugs, homeopathic or otherwise.
Even on social media channels, well-meaning folk share posts and articles about “curing” diabetes, but is there any truth to the rumor that you can reverse the disease?
Well it’s certainly true that if you have been diagnosed with borderline diabetes (also sometimes known as prediabetes) there are steps you can take to cut down on the likelihood of developing the full-blown disease.
Prediabetes is when blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be classed as diabetes. It’s a kind of “gray area” between normal blood sugar and diabetic levels.
In the UK, around 7 million people are thought to have prediabetes. In 2012, 86 million Americans aged 20 and older were diagnosed with prediabetes; this figure was up from 79 million in 2010.
The good news is that cases of prediabetes identified early on can be reversed, preventing them from progressing into full-blown type 2 diabetes.
The two main things people with borderline diabetes can do to lower the chance of developing type 2 diabetes is to change their diet and lifestyle. By making these changes, blood sugar levels may be returned to normal.
A consultation with a doctor and possibly a specialist nutritionist would be the first step — they will be able to show you where you can make changes which may well impact your overall health for the better.
Can You Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?
But what about full-blown type 2 diabetes? Are there any circumstances it can be reversed?
First we need to establish what we mean by reversing or curing diabetes.
Reversing diabetes is a term that usually refers to significantly reducing insulin resistance in those with type 2 diabetes. In doing so, it may be possible to reduce dependency on diabetes medication.
Some people may be able to get their blood glucose levels down to normal levels without the use of any meds; this is referred to as remission from diabetes.
As well as lowering blood glucose, results can be very rewarding with less tiredness and better all-round health. After all, diabetes and high blood glucose is linked to heart, nerve and sight issues.
How Can We Do This?
Losing weight seems to be the key, often alongside a very low-calorie or low-carb diet. Of course you should never start a drastic diet without checking with a doctor first!
Researchers have found that performing bariatric surgery can sometimes reverse diabetes. The patient must stick to a very low-calorie diet afterwards.
Low-carbohydrate diets are known to result in lower levels of insulin needing to be produced by the body and can therefore result in reduced insulin resistance. However, they’ve had mixed reviews when it comes to how much they can affect blood glucose levels.
A study published in 2014 by the Second University of Naples showed that a low-carbohydrate Mediterranean diet was able to achieve significant rates of remission in people with type 2 diabetes. The study showed that after one year of following the diet, 15 percent of participants achieved remission, and after six years, five percent had achieved remission.
What About Alternative Medicines?
Look up “natural diabetes remedies” online and you will be offered a huge array of suggestions ranging from aloe vera, bilberry extract, and bitter melon, to the sort of ingredients you might find in your kitchen — cinnamon, fenugreek, ginger and okra.
These plant-based therapies have been shown to have some anti-diabetic effect in studies and are commonly offered by Chinese and Ayurverdic practitioners. Most western doctors would warn against using them, especially alongside diabetes meds, including insulin.
Other alternative remedies that have shown anti-diabetic properties include garlic, fig leaves, milk thistle, ivy gourd and Gymnema sylvestre.
Experts agree that further research should be done with these and other substances, but general advice is, for now, diabetic patients should always consult with their regular medical team before supplementing or substituting them for any prescribed medicine.
So in conclusion, it seems it is indeed possible to reverse diabetes, by which I mean to get blood glucose to “normal” levels.
Unfortunately, as of yet there doesn’t appear to be a magic pill to pop or any quick fix cure. Working at weight loss, keeping weight down to within recommended margins, eating a healthy diet and living an active life gives those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes the best chance of a “cure.”