Type 2 Diabetes encompasses a number of different diseases that all affect the body's ability to either make or use the hormone insulin. While some of these diseases are autoimmune and sometimes genetically linked, many are primarily affected by lifestyle choices made gradually over many years.
While certain lifestyle changes are key to managing diabetes, whether you can actually turn back time, reverse the signs of aging, and make your body work as if you never had diabetes is a different story. That depends on how long you've had Diabetes, what factors likely increased the risks for Diabetes, your typical lifestyle patterns, the severity of your glucose resistance, and genetics.
The term 'reversal' is used when people can go off medication but still must maintain a healthy lifestyle routine in order to stay off. They won't necessarily reverse the functional aspects that led to Diabetes. Instead, by leading a healthy lifestyle, these people will reduce the added stress that a poor diet and sedentary activity put on the body, and making the body's ability to control blood sugars easier.
Losing weight and keeping it off is the main way to help you better control your blood sugar. For some people, reaching a healthier weight will mean taking fewer medications, or in very rare cases, no longer needing medications at all.
Losing 5% to 10% of your body weight and gradually increasing exercise to 150 minutes per week may help you slow or stop the progression of type 2 diabetes.
This is relative to the person. If you have more weight to lose, even losing the minimum, 5% will be enough to see a change in your glucose. If you are sedentary most of the day, 5 or 10 minutes per day of exercise like going down the driveway and back up 5 times or taking a walk in the mall will make a big difference. However, if you already exercise 20 minutes per day, bumping it up to 30 will show a difference in your numbers, but gradually less. So do something that gets you moving, and aim for a goal of 30 minutes or more, 5 days per week.
In one study, people with type 2 diabetes exercised for 175 minutes a week, limited their calories to 1,200 to 1,800 per day, and got weekly counseling and education on these lifestyle changes.
Within a year, about 10% got off their diabetes medications or improved to the point where their blood sugar level was no longer in the diabetes range, and was instead classified as pre-diabetes.
Results were best for those who lost the most weight or who started the program with less severe or newly diagnosed diabetes. 15% to 20% of these people were able to stop taking their diabetes medications.
What's more, new research is beginning to shed light on what types of exercise are most beneficial for people with Diabetes in controlling their blood sugars. Resistance training, or muscle strengthening is now thought to be very effective initially in improving blood sugar outcomes. However, as the body adjusts and becomes stronger, increased resistance or weight is thought to be important to see continued results.
Moreover, lasting results in weight and insulin resistance is seen when the person combines strengthening with an aerobic workout. Swimming, riding a bicycle, or a combination of weight training with aerobic activity like jogging or running is also a good combination to help reduce diabetes effects and reach a healthy weight.
There are many companies making herbs and supplements that may make a claim that these products will lower blood sugars or reverse Diabetes. There is some links between bittermelon, cactus leaf, and one variety of cinnamon that may help lower glucose, but the research does not show a strong enough correlation to be widely recommended, and may not work for most conditions.
If you make changes to your diet and exercise routine, and your diabetes doesn’t improve, it's not your fault.
When in the early stages of Diabetes, making a change to lifestyle has a greater effect on Diabetes outcomes than if you had Diabetes progressing for the last 10 years before beginning to make a change.
Your weight and lifestyle aren’t the only things that matter. Your genes also influence whether you get type 2 diabetes. Some thin people are living with type 2 diabetes, too. If you don't have any extra weight to lose, lifestyle modifications may still help.
Still, your weight and lifestyle are things you can change, and they are important parts of your overall health.
You are reading this because you want to be in your best health, not someone else’s. Diet and exercise alone might be enough to control diabetes for some people, especially in the beginning. For others, a combination of medication and healthy habits will keep them at their best.
If you have been able to keep your A1C less than 7% on lifestyle changes alone, continue this. If you need to go on medication, do what's necessary for your health to keep your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol all in control.