Reversing diabetes is a term used to describe interventions that reduce dependency on type 2 diabetes medications, effectively reversing the progression of the illness.
With time and dedication, type 2 diabetes can be reversed and the results can be very rewarding with less tiredness and better all round health.
Loss of body weight can be particularly beneficial in helping to reverse the progression of diabetes.
In some cases, people may find they are able to come off medication, although blood sugar levels should be checked regularly as reversing progression of diabetes is not a cure.
Do not come off medication unless advised to by your healthcare team.
Understanding how diabetes progresses
The most common cause of type 2 diabetes is obesity related, which generally follows a vicious cycle pattern:
- Diet high in refined carbohydrates, saturated and trans fats, whilst low in fibre, essential vitamins and minerals.
- Insulin levels in the bloodstream increase to cope with the high and quick acting carb intake.
- Weight is put on around the belly (central or truncal obesity).
- Consistently high insulin levels and weight gain lead to the body’s cells becoming resistant to insulin.
- High insulin levels also help to increase weight gain.
- Insulin resistance leads to an increase in sugar levels, particularly after meals.
- The pancreas produces more insulin to cope with rising blood sugar levels.
- High sugar levels leads to feelings of lethargy and high insulin levels lead to feelings of hunger.
- Hunger often leads to overeating and lethargy to less activity being taken.
- Overeating, less activity and high insulin levels all lead to further weight gain and more insulin resistance.
- Consistently high demand on the pancreas to produce extra insulin leads to damage to the pancreas’ insulin producing beta cells.
- Beta cell damage leads to the body struggling to produce enough insulin, and steeper rises in blood sugar levels leads to the symptoms of diabetes, such as thirst and a frequent need to urinate, becoming more recognisable.
Reversal of diabetes refers to type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes has traditionally been viewed as a condition which gets progressively worse over time. In more recent years, there has been more evidence showing that people can reduce the severity of diabetes to halt and even reverse its progression.
Type 2 diabetes is characterised by the body struggling to respond to its own insulin. As a result, the body needs to produce more insulin to bring down glucose levels.
Research from the Joslin Diabetes Centre states that if the body struggles to keep blood glucose levels steady, the cells which produce insulin will begin to lose their ability to produce insulin. If too many insulin producing cells lose their ability to function, insulin will need to be injected to keep blood glucose levels stable.
Researchers have been able to show that diabetes can be reversed by Bariatric surgery resulting in significant weight loss and very low calorie diets.
These methods have enabled a significant number of study participants with type 2 diabetes to come off diabetic medication. Researchers have hypothesised that the improvement in blood glucose control, as a result of weight loss, may be related to a loss of fat from around organs such as the liver and pancreas.
If you are obese, you may qualify for weight loss surgery. If weight loss surgery is not an option, your doctor may help you to commence a very low calorie diet.
Very low calorie diets are regarded as extreme diets and these should not be undertaken without the support of your health team.
Breaking the progressive cycle of type 2 diabetes
To reverse diabetes you need to be able to break the above cycle by taking the strain off your insulin producing cells.
The best ways to take some of the heat off your insulin producing cells are to eat a diabetes friendly diet, cut down on drinking and improve your insulin sensitivity by ensuring you keep a good level of activity into your day.
What is an appropriate diabetic diet?
An appropriate diabetic diet is one that is not so high in carbohydrates and whereby the carbohydrates you do eat are more slowly absorbed.
The more carbs you eat the more insulin your body will need to produce so it makes sense to cut down on the volume of carbs you are eating. Eating carbs that are more slowly absorbed is well advised as it means your blood sugar will not rise so sharply after a meal.
Foods with carbohydrates that are more slowly absorbed are said to have a low glycaemic index. Another way to pick appropriate foods is to pick those that have less carbohydrates and higher amounts of fibre.
- Read more on which foods help diabetes
Cut down on drinking alcohol
Drinking alcohol means taking in more calories and therefore helps to contribute to weight gain around your middle which is one of factors that promotes insulin resistance and makes diabetes worse. It therefore makes sense to try to cut back on the amount of alcohol you drink.
Get more activity in your day
One of the advantages of getting more activity into your day is that exercise helps to improve insulin sensitivity.
This is a good thing as the more sensitive you are to insulin, the less insulin your body will need to produce.
So getting a bit of extra activity into each day can help to take some of the strain off your pancreas.
- Read more about keeping active
Can a raw food diet reverse pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes?
A raw food diet is a diet that is high in uncooked fruit and vegetables.
The diet is low fat, low GI diet high in fibre, vitamins and minerals.
It is therefore a diet which can be beneficial in helping to reverse diabetes.
However, the raw food diet is relatively low in nutrition such as protein, fat, iron, calcium and vitamin D. It is therefore recommended that you check with a doctor or dietitian about how the diet could affect you if you are thinking of trying it.
Is it possible to reverse type 1 diabetes?
At the moment type 1 diabetes cannot be reversed. Type 1 diabetes is an anti-immune disease and therefore to reverse the disease would be to find a way to prevent the body’s immune system attacking its own insulin producing cells.
Research is currently being undertaken to find a type 1 diabetes vaccine which could help to do this.