Can You Reverse Diabetes with Diet?
Some experts claim that Type 2 diabetes can be cured with a special diet. Is there any truth to this claim?
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Recently, a reader forwarded me a link to a book about a diet that supposedly would cure type 2 diabetes. “My mom is a type 2 diabetic,” she wrote, “but I find it hard to believe that you can reverse it.” So, is this book for real? Can type 2 diabetes really be reversed with a diet? Let’s take a closer look.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Basically, having Type 2 diabetes means that your blood sugar is too high—and this can be due to a number of factors. For newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics, the problem is usually that the cells have become insensitive to the effects of insulin, a hormone which normally moves glucose (or sugar) from the blood into the cells. In other words, the insulin is knocking, but the cell isn’t answering the door, so the glucose stays out on the street—or in this case, in the bloodstream.
See also: What is Type 2 Diabetes?
What Problems Can High Blood Sugar Cause?
You don’t want a lot of sugar hanging around in your blood. Chronically high blood sugar damages your blood vessels and nerves, which can eventually lead to blindness, hearing loss, or even the loss of limbs. It also forces your kidneys to work harder and can eventually lead to kidney failure. High blood sugar also increases your risk of heart disease.
See also: Why Is Sugar Bad For You?
If you’re diabetic, getting and keeping your blood sugar under control can help prevent or minimize these complications. Unfortunately, damage to the nerves, kidneys, or other tissues may not be reversible once it has occurred.
OK, enough with the scary stuff. Suffice it to say that a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes—or even a warning that you’re moving in that direction—is something you want to take very seriously.
How is Type 2 Diabetes Treated?
Type 2 diabetics are often given medications that increase insulin sensitivity. In other words, these drugs help your insulin knock a little louder so that your cells get the message and open the door. But there are other non-pharmaceutical ways to increase your insulin sensitivity. It depends on how high your blood sugar is and how long it’s been elevated, but in many cases, people can bring their blood sugar back down to healthy levels using diet and lifestyle changes alone.
Unless your blood sugar is very high or there are other complications, it’s usually worth a try to see whether you can get those blood sugar levels down on your own. But if your doctor feels that you need medication, this does not let you off the hook. Following the advice I’ve outlined below will make your medication work better and reduce the risk of complications.
Type 1 diabetics, on the other hand, cannot be cured by diet alone. It’s not that their cells are insensitive to the effects of insulin. It’s that their bodies are not able to produce enough insulin to do the job. Although good diet management is very important for type 1 diabetics, they also require insulin injections. The vast majority of diabetics, however, are type 2.