According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 30.3 million Americans living with type 2 diabetes, that’s nearly 10% of the population.
1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with this disease every year, and a staggering 84.1 million have prediabetes, meaning a diagnosis is likely just around the corner without serious diet and lifestyle changes.
Type 2 diabetes accounts for $237 billion in medical costs every year, and it dramatically increases your risk for cardiovascular disease, which kills 1 in 4 Americans.
All of this for a disease that is almost completely preventable and reversible.
There is absolutely no reason for our epidemic-levels of type 2 diabetes and the many serious and even life-threatening conditions the disease leads to. That’s why today I want to explain what type 2 diabetes is, what causes it, and 6 simple steps you can take to prevent and even reverse it naturally.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
First, let’s cover what type 2 diabetes is and how it impacts your health.
Glucose, a type of sugar, is a main source of energy for the cells in your muscles and other tissues. Whenever you eat sugar, or foods like grains that are broken down into sugar, your pancreas releases insulin into your bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone that signals your cells to take in glucose and which lowers the amount of sugar circulating in your bloodstream. As your blood sugar level drops, your pancreas slows its secretion of insulin to maintain balance.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body does one of two things. It no longer produces enough insulin or doesn’t respond to the insulin that is there. In either case, this causes hyperglycemia which means you have too much glucose circulating in your bloodstream. Excess blood sugar, which is toxic and inflammatory, tears up the small blood vessels that carry fuel and oxygen to your organs, eventually leading to hypoperfusion and cell death.
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes often develop slowly and can include:
- Increased thirst and frequent urination
- Increased hunger
- Blurred vision
- Frequent infections
- Poor wound healing or sores
While these symptoms are bad enough, the real danger with type 2 diabetes is that it can lead to far more serious conditions.
As I said before, it is strongly linked with heart attacks, as well as strokes, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis, or the narrowing of the arteries. It can also lead to damage of the nerves, kidneys, eyes, and feet, as well as hearing loss and skin issues. New research has even found that high blood sugar levels may lead to Alzheimer’s. Some people are calling Alzheimer’s Type 3 diabetes.
Now that you understand what diabetes is and the serious impact it can have on your health, let’s talk about what causes it.
What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?
I see many patients in my clinic who have a family history of diabetes and worry that they are doomed to develop it too, but that doesn’t have to be the case!
Researchers have not found concrete evidence proving that type 2 diabetes is genetic. While you may be predisposed to develop diabetes, your environment plays a major role in how your genes are expressed and whether or not you develop the condition.
The primary risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes is being overweight, particularly if you store fat around your midsection. The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant your cells become to insulin.
Eating a poor diet, especially one high in refined sugars, living a sedentary lifestyle, dealing with chronic inflammation, and experiencing chronic stress all contribute to excess weight and can put you on the path to developing diabetes.
The good news is that using simple dietary and lifestyle changes you can reverse diabetes naturally, or prevent it altogether, breaking the family cycle.
6 Steps for Reversing Type 2 Diabetes Naturally
So let’s cover some simple steps you can take right away to reduce your risk.
1. Cut Out Added Sugar
This one is pretty much a no-brainer – the more sugar you eat the more resistant to insulin you become. The problem is that Americans today are consuming skyrocketing amounts of sugar, to the tune of 3 pounds of sugar a week! Knowing that, it’s no wonder we’re in the midst of a diabetes epidemic!
In my clinic, we work with you 1 on 1 to formulate a personalized dietary plan that addresses all sources of sugar, including complex carbohydrates, fruits, and starchy vegetables.
However, a great place to begin is by cutting out all added sugar. So ditch the sodas, baked goods, desserts, candy, and sugary cereals and you’ll be well on your way to reversing or preventing diabetes!
2. Minimize Grains
Grains such as those found in seemingly healthy foods like whole wheat bread and pasta are broken down into sugar in your digestive tract. Not to mention, most grains contain gluten, which can cause inflammation, leaky gut, autoimmunity, and a variety of other disease processes.
In most people battling chronic inflammation or disease, I recommend cutting out gluten entirely and minimizing the consumption of grains at least while we are trying to restore balance within the body.
3. Eat Real, Unprocessed Foods
Along with ditching sugar and minimizing grains, you want to focus on eating a balanced diet of real, whole foods that support healthy blood sugar levels.
Get plenty of dietary fiber from vegetables and leafy greens, which can slow your absorption of sugar. Healthy fats from sources such as avocados, coconut, and salmon also help balance your blood glucose. And finally, lean proteins from grass-fed, pasture-raised meat keep you fueled and energized for longer, decreasing sugar cravings. Remember, if your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize it, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.
As you incorporate healthier food choices and reduce sugar and carbohydrates, this will naturally reduce inflammation. By reducing inflammation this will help you optimize your weight and prevent the progression of several other chronic diseases including type two diabetes.
4. Exercise Regularly
With our modern, busy lives, exercise is often one of the first priorities to get pushed to the wayside, but this can have major consequences for your health. A sedentary lifestyle increases your risk for type 2 diabetes, the cardiovascular conditions that go along with it, and a whole host of other issues.
So make sure you’re staying active! Even if it’s just a 30-minute walk with your family after dinner or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, every little bit helps.
5. Reduce Your Stress and Get Plenty of Sleep
We all know the cliche about stress eating, but did you know that in addition to cravings, stress increases your inflammation levels, which can also lead to weight gain? Beyond that, stress stimulates the release of stored glucose from the liver elevating circulating blood sugar levels even when you’re not eating! I see plenty of people in the clinic who are eating low sugar, low-carb diets and still have blood glucose levels that are above normal. 99% of the time this is all related to stress!
By relieving stress regularly and getting plenty of sleep so your body has time to recover and maintain a state of balance so you can fight weight gain, sugar cravings, and prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.
So choose some of your favorite relaxing activities, meditation, prayer, getting outside, whatever works for you, and make it a part of your routine.
6. Fix Your Gut
So, I’m sure many of you were thinking what the heck does that gut have to do with diabetes? Ten years ago this may have sounded a little crazy, but what we know today is that the digestive tract and the Microbiome can have a huge influence on a variety of disease processes including diabetes.
If you have stealth infections in your gut, a deficiency of short-chain fatty acids, insufficient healthy flora, leaky gut, or other digestive imbalances, your risk of having metabolic complications like type 2 diabetes will be substantially higher.
This is why it is absolutely essential to do comprehensive Functional Medicine testing so you know exactly what’s going on in your digestive tract.
If you’re struggling with type 2 diabetes or have a family history and are concerned about your risk, it’s time to break the vicious cycle and figure out a real solution. Diabetes is no joke. Relying solely on medications will not reduce your risk for the problems that will kill you. Medications only give you false confidence that allows you to fuel the lifestyle that got you there in the first place.
This is a condition that in most cases is 100% preventable and reversible. There is no reason to continue living with your symptoms, simply waiting for more serious problems to develop. The time to act is now!
I have helped people from around the world reclaim their health using sustainable lifestyle habits so they can focus in on the things that matter most in life. I want to help you get some real answers too.
So if you’re ready to commit to the lifestyle changes that will stop the cycle and put you back on the road to optimal health, check out our Adaptation Program and book your free 10-minute consult with me.
The time to act was yesterday, but today is the next best thing!
About the Author: Dr. Seth Osgood is a Doctor of Nursing Practice, Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner and Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) Certified Practitioner. Dr. Osgood received his post-graduate training in Functional Medicine through the IFM and from working with Dr. Amy Myers. He has helped people from around the world improve their health utilizing a Functional Medicine approach.