November is Diabetes month in Canada. There are a variety of different types of diabetes, however Type 2 Diabetes is the most common affecting 90-95 percent of all diabetes cases. It is astoundingly estimated that almost 10% of the entire world population is diabetic(1), making it one of the biggest global health challenges today.
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates an increasing trend towards younger and younger people developing diabetes, a trend that is very worrisome for future generations. If current demographic patterns continue, more than 592 million people will be affected with diabetes within a generation(2). Sadly, most diabetics find themselves clueless about how to reverse their condition – let alone prevent it in the first place. The bigger concern is that more than half of those with type 2 diabetes are NOT even aware they have diabetes(2).
However, all is not doom and gloom. Type 2 diabetes is almost 100% curable by making changes to your diet, lifestyle, and environment. Even mainstream media(8) has picked up on this and has been telling the masses! Below are my Top 7 Ways to Prevent and Reverse Type 2 Diabetes:
1. Sugar Blues
This may sound like an obvious solution, but it still amazes me how much refined sugar is being consumed daily – intentionally or not. Refined sugars that are added to processed foods, especially fructose and high fructose corn syrup, are the primary problem. According to one study, drinking just ONE soda (or other sweetened drink) per day can raise your risk of developing diabetes by 25 percent(4). If you are of the ilk that “I can’t quit sugar, I don’t know what I’d do without it!” – you are not alone… Sugar is now proven to be more addictive than some of the most addictive street drugs. Stubborn cravings aside, it IS possible to beat the sugar addiction. Believe me, this will be hard to comprehend but once you ditch sugar and FEEL the difference, you’ll wonder what you were ever doing consuming so much of it in the first place.
2. Quit Corn and Minimize Grains
If you look at a traditional food guide/pyramid, you will notice that the bottom is represented by the grain section. This is recommending that the biggest part of our diet should consist of 8-10 servings or grains per day. If keeping healthy is the goal of this antiquated chart, then his is absolute rubbish. Having grain as our dominant food group has been long since disproven to be healthy – in fact it has been shown to be downright unhealthy for many. It’s not that having some grains are bad, it’s the AMOUNT we consume and the way they have been processed. Most commercially available grains (gluten free or not) produce a spike in our insulin levels. Yes, corn is a grain not a vegetable! If you want to see your sugar levels balance fast, leave the grains out for 3-4 weeks. Side benefit, most people lose weight doing this as well…
3. Up Your Activity
Once again, probably not a shocker that I am mentioning this. Still, most people who are pre-diabetic or have diabetes are not getting enough activity. Physical activity helps your body regulate essential hormones responsible for not only controlling sugar levels, but also cravings. This does not require you to join a fancy gym membership, rather just get MOVING. Moving vigorously is the key for effective exercise that helps balance blood sugar and lower insulin levels. Get your heart rate up to 70 – 80% of its maximum capacity for 60 minutes, up to six times a week. Step it up a few notches with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training. Studies show HIIT can benefit Type 2 diabetes(5). The rates of sedentary children have sky-rocketed in the last 2 decades – and so has obesity and diabetes. It’s no wonder one of my esteemed colleagues, Dr. Mark Hyman, coined the term ’Diabesity’!
4. Avoid Processed Meats
I am not vegan, not by a long shot. However, I do believe that we as a society would benefit tremendously by consuming more vegetables. In fact, getting 8 servings per day of dark, colorful vegetables is a great rule of thumb. Further, eating high quality meat, poultry and fish is not a problem for many and can be very helpful in preventing/reversing diabetes. The problem is the quality and processing of meat and meat products. Most processed meats are filled with preservatives and added sugars, thus impairing our detoxification pathways and stressing our pancreas, the organ that produces our insulin to balance sugars. One recent study from Harvard showed those with higher intake of processed meats have a 20% increased risk of Type 2 diabetes(3). Stick with real, non-processed meats, and get grass fed and organic as often as possible.
5. Don’t Skimp on Sleep
Many of us take our sleep for granted or think that sleep is merely a luxury, or something only lazy people need. Science continues to pour in consistently demonstrating that lack of sleep/poor quality of sleep not only damages your metabolism, spikes sugar and carb cravings – but makes you eat more and gain weight. As a result, this increases your risk for numerous diseases including Type 2 diabetes. One study among healthy subjects found even a partial night’s poor sleep(6) could induce insulin resistance. That’s why I stress to every one of my patients that we must prioritize getting 7-8 hours of solid, uninterrupted shuteye every night.
6. Optimize Your Nutrient Levels
I constantly stress that no matter what your diagnosis, it is important for every individual to understand they are biochemically unique. This is important to comprehend as we all have different nutritional requirements than their neighbor, spouse, and even our parents. This of course, goes for Diabetes patients as well. While all nutrients are critical for optimal health, some of the most common nutrient deficiencies found in both pre-diabetics and diabetics are the following: Omega 3’s, B Vitamins, Magnesium, Chromium, Alpha-lipoic acid, and Vitamin D(7). Luckily there are tests available to help determine your unique nutrient requirements. Be sure to work with a certified Functional Medicine doctor to help you (and your family) detect and correct any possible deficiencies that are impairing your optimal health. When you test, you don’t guess.
7. Buffer Your Stress
In the face of chronic stress, our levels of insulin, cortisol, and inflammatory compounds called cytokines all increase(9). This drives the relentless metabolic dysfunction that leads to weight gain, insulin resistance, and eventually Type 2 diabetes. The links between stress, weight gain, and blood sugar imbalances show that managing stress becomes a critical component of diabetes management. Most of us can’t eliminate all stress – but we can learn to control it. Meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, massage, laughing, dancing etc., are all fantastic ways to manage stress and thus help reverse Type 2 diabetes.