Before we talk about how type 2 diabetes can be reversed, you first need to understand the primary causes, which are diet and stress.
When we eat sugar, or any type of carbohydrate, our blood glucose levels rise, the pancreas then releases insulin and instructs our glucose (glut) receptors to open. At this point glucose is either burned for energy, stored in the liver or muscle as glycogen or stored in the cell as fat. Blood glucose levels drop back to normal and insulin stops releasing. Glycogen is then available immediately for energy as needed, and fat is stored for long-term energy. This is a normal response to glucose.
However, if one is consuming a lot of sugar or carbohydrates on a regular basis, then too much glucose gets stored as fat and the glut receptors object. They refuse or “resist” to store anymore sugar as fat by becoming inactive (called insulin resistance) and not responding to the instructions of insulin. Then the pancreas says, “well we have to get this sugar out of the bloodstream, so I’m going to release more insulin to force you glucose receptors to open up.” Then the glucose receptors become even more resistant and say, “no, I’m not going to open up,” and the pancreas releases even more insulin, and so on and so on. This results in high levels of insulin in the bloodstream (known as hyperinsulinism) in an attempt to force the receptors to open up and store more fat and bring blood glucose levels back to normal.
If this vicious cycle continues, the glut stop working completely. They say, “no I refuse to let you store anymore fat, we have way too much.” They stop responding at all to insulin, which means there are now very high levels of insulin in the bloodstream and high levels of sugar in the blood as well. Then, eventually, the pancreas becomes exhausted from this futile battle and it no longer produces insulin, which means blood glucose levels stay high. You have now arrived at type 2 diabetes.
When we experience stress, epinephrine is released and it triggers the liver to start dumping its glycogen back into the bloodstream, which means blood glucose levels rise, because we need lots of energy when we are under stress. As we learned in the previous paragraphs, when glucose rises, then insulin is released to bring it back to normal. If their are high levels of chronic stress, then glycogen (sugar) will be released continuously and thus so will insulin. If this continues for an extended period of time, then the glucose receptors will respond with resistance, insulin will go even higher, and then eventually the pancreas stops producing insulin. If one is already insulin resistant, then stress will perpetuate it and drive one towards type 2 diabetes. However, even if one is not eating sugar, the stress alone can result in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Thus, this should make it very clear as to not only why stress and diet are the primary underlying causes of type 2 diabetes, but how it is connected to obesity as well, and why the two often occur together. The more sugar in the body the more fat that is stored. Obesity doesn’t really cause type 2 diabetes; it’s just that the primary underlying factor that causes type 2 diabetes (insulin) is also the underlying factor that causes obesity.
You should also be aware that when sugar is converted into fat, it is in the triglyceride form, and when the glucose receptors become resistant and don’t allow fat to get into the cell, then it is transformed into very low density lipoprotein particles, (called LDL on cholesterol tests) and is recirculated throughout the bloodstream. This explains why people with type 2 diabetes often have an increase in their LDL cholesterol and their triglycerides. But, something most people do not understand is that LDL presents as either large and buoyant particles or small very low-density lipoprotein particles called VLDL. It is actually the VLDL that increases the risk of clogged arteries and heart disease, not the LDL. On cholesterol tests, the LDL and VLDL are lumped together.
However, the good news is that almost all type 2 diabetes is reversible if one takes the following steps:
- Eliminate Carbohydrates
It is a myth perpetuated by the food industry that we are supposed to consume carbohydrates for energy. The human body is supposed to run off of fat and protein, and it will do so, if you eliminate the carbohydrates. Fat and protein can be converted into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis.
That means all carbohydrates should be removed, not just the refined ones, including whole grains, potatoes and other starchy foods. All carbohydrates are broken down into sugar and all sugar prompts an insulin response. Anything that prompts an insulin response will contribute to type 2 diabetes. If you eat foods that do not call upon insulin, then insulin sensitivity will return and you can reverse the vicious process.
It’s vital to be aware that alcohol is the most refined sugar you can consume, so it must be avoided as well. You should also take note that caffeine and nicotine also prompt an insulin response, because they each provoke the liver to dispense sugar, in the form of glycogen, into the bloodstream, and must be averted in order to reverse type 2 diabetes.
The diet that is best for preventing and reversing type 2 diabetes, and promoting overall good health in general, consists primarily of animal protein including red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, low starch vegetables and a small amount of nuts, seeds and fruit. This is known as the Paleo diet and it works because it is the diet that the human body is genetically designed to follow, which came about through the process of evolution.
- Manage Your Stress
If you engage in a variety of stress management techniques on a daily basis, then you will reduce the amount of glycogen your liver will put into the bloodstream, and thus stop the constant insulin response. However, it’s very important to be aware that there are many types of stress besides emotional, and each one must be addressed.
There’s toxic stress that comes from exposure to environmental toxins, there’s oxidative stress, spiritual stress, structural stress, immune stress, infectious stress and even type 2 diabetes falls under the category of endocrine stress and metabolic stress. So the very condition you are trying to reverse perpetuates itself by causing more stress on the body.
Some of the best ways to manage your stress besides exercise include mindfulness, deep breathing exercise, mindfulness based meditation and smiling.
Exercise is another essential step in the process of reversing type 2 diabetes for a couple of reasons. One, it burns off the sugar that is stored so that the pancreas doesn’t need to release insulin, which ultimately increases insulin sensitivity. As we mentioned above, as the fat that is stored begins to disappear, then the glucose receptors will become more sensitive to insulin and balance will return.
Furthermore, exercise is one of the most excellent ways to manage your stress, because it turns off the stress response system. The more stress you have, the more important it is to exercise.
However, that doesn’t mean you should start spending hours on the treadmill or gym or running marathons. Too much exercise or endurance type exercises like traditional cardio and aerobics are actually perceived by the body as stress, which will prompt an insulin response. Exercise should be mild and gentle. Exercise should be a combination of a lot of slow moving combined with occasional bursts of short intensity.
When one follows the three steps above, then blood glucose levels will begin to normalize, which means that insulin will not be needed all the time. If insulin backs off, and fat begins to burn away, then in time, the glucose receptors will realize that they don’t need to be resistant anymore, and they will begin responding to insulin again and the pancreas can resume its duties. Other problems like high triglycerides and cholesterol will normalize as well.
Other factors that may affect insulin include menopause, andropause, sleep deprivation, aging, and nutritional deficiencies.
Not only is reversing type 2 diabetes achievable with these changes in diet and lifestyle, but it can also be completely prevented by making these changes before hand. No one is a victim of type 2 diabetes, it is completely preventable by the choices you make in food and the manner in which you live. It’s as simple as that.
- Gant, Charles, M.D. Endocrine Stress Webinar. www.cegant.com/seminars
- Dr. Al Sears, PACE: The 12-Minute Fitness Revolution. Wellness Research & Consulting, Inc., 2010.
- Cordain, Loren. The Paleo Diet. Wiley, 2001