Diabetes has become one of the largest medical issues of our time. According to CDC statistics given in January 2014, an estimated 29.1 million adults and adolescence living in the United States have diabetes. Of that number, 7.2 million are not even aware they have it.
Roughly 5% of all diabetic cases fall into the category of Type 1 with the remaining majority being Type 2. The primary difference between the two conditions is their relationship with insulin. Those with Type 1 diabetes don’t produce enough insulin whereas those with Type 2 diabetes produce enough insulin but the body has become resistant to it.
Many believe that those with a predisposition of developing Type 2, or if they have already been diagnosed, have no hope of reversing it. However, this conclusion discounts the many causal factors that can be avoided or resolved through lifestyle change and reliance on standardized treatment methods. Understanding Type 2 diabetes, insulin, and relevant methods of treatment may help reduce a large number of diabetic cases in the United States and may even help you or a loved one!
Overview of Type 2 Diabetes
Both forms of diabetes are greatly influenced by hormonal and nutritional imbalances. Generally, Type 2 diabetes develops later in life and is sometimes called adult-onset diabetes (the reason for this delayed occurrence will be discussed later).
Once diabetes has been diagnosed, the immediate threat level is relatively low. However, if you don’t act to reverse your condition you are putting yourself at greater risk from long-term health issues.
Some of the most common issues that arise from Type 2 include increased risk of heart disease and stroke, weakened nervous system, and major organ failure.
Diabetics are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease and diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure. Due to the serious nature of these conditions, and the expansive reach of the disease, diabetes is a truly frightening condition.
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of diabetes and visiting a doctor for confirmation can help you ensure you’re getting the care you need before otherwise avoidable damage has been done. The following symptoms are often signifiers of Type 2 diabetes:
- Increased thirst
- Greater appetite or hunger
- Abnormal fatigue
- Skin disorders
- Poor regeneration and healing
- Increased urination
- Weight gain and inability to lose weight
- Numbness in the extremities
- Poor circulation impacting the feet
Insulin and Type 2 Diabetes
Hormonal imbalance or malfunction is a major component of Type 2 and often central to a diabetic’s issues. The primary element involved in diabetes is a hormone known as insulin. In Type 2, insulin is effectively produced by the pancreas but the body has become resistant to it. This is also known as insulin resistance. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) insulin resistance is responsible for 42% of heart attacks, decidedly making it the leading cause.
Another effect of insulin resistance is lower energy production in cells, tissues, glands, and organs. The efficacy of insulin is critical to not only diabetics but to all because it is necessary for proper conversion of glucose into cells to be used as energy. Those with poor insulin function or production experience increased blood glucose levels. Glucose remaining in the blood cannot be used effectively resulting in reduced functionality throughout the body.
The body’s initial response to an influx of glucose is to produce more insulin. This response may be effective for some time, even years, but it simply acts as a biological band-aid to the real problem. Long-term overproduction of insulin does prevent diabetes for a time but it can only last so long. This is why Type 2 diabetes frequently appears later in life.
Weight loss, a major issue for many diabetics, and insulin resistance are a paradoxical couple. Insulin resistance makes it increasingly difficult to lose weight because without proper insulin response the body wants to hold on to fat. Unfortunately, insulin also makes one hungry so by craving more foods while simultaneously holding on to calories, the body begins to get heavier and heavier.
With nutrition and hormones being such critical factors in Type 2, it may not come as a surprise that treating the condition is centered around optimizing hormone production and receptivity.
Testing the Treatments
Treating Type 2 requires that the body become sensitive and receptive to insulin rather than supplying it with more. Unfortunately, the response from many practitioners when treating diabetes is to simply increase their insulin intake or specific diabetes medication. This method of treatment simply pushes the problem away temporarily without giving a true solution. To effectively reverse Type 2, you must explore other methods.
According to The New England Journal of Medicine, Walter Willet, MD, PhD and his associates working at Harvard School of Public Health presented that 91% of all Type 2 diabetes cases are reversible by improving diet and lifestyle. Recent research is showing that this is possible using an approach to nutrition that many people overlook.
There are three macronutrients that we consume as part of our diet; carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Carbohydrate consumption results in significant blood glucose spikes. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has stated that carbohydrate intake is the single greatest factor in spiking blood sugar levels, which is highly undesirable as a diabetic. Proteins are a better option with less impact on blood glucose. However, fat has hardly any effect on glucose levels making it the best macronutrient regarding blood sugar regulation.
Commonly prescribed medication for diabetes often come with a recommendation to eat a certain amount of carbohydrates to ensure glucose levels don’t drop too far. However, research shows that by severely limiting or simply removing carbohydrates from your diet could be more effective. Aggressively replacing carbs with fat lowers glucose, blood sugar, and insulin levels. Increasing fat intake in lieu of carbs allows for fewer glucose spikes and fluctuations, which may just be the key to reversing Type 2 diabetes.
Eating Happily to Treat Diabetes
It may seem counterintuitive, but by increasing fat intake and reducing carbs, insulin levels are more likely to stabilize and allow for greater weight loss. Eliminating foods with a high glycemic index (GI), including starches, sugars, and white flour are the first step to improving the diabetic diet.
Furthermore, it is important to avoid products that are labeled light, low-fat, or fat-free because it signifies that the good healthy fat has been replaced with carbohydrates or chemicals during processing. Always look to eat real food that has not been processed to ensure quality nutrient content.
Building your understanding of the complexities of insulin, carbohydrates, and diabetes is important if you want to reverse Type 2 diabetes. Executing new lifestyle and dietary practices can help you achieve diabetic reversal while still enjoying life.
For even more information on the different forms of diabetes, watch this interview with Dr. Holtorf: