By 2030, over 575 million people are predicted to have diabetes worldwide, with type 2 diabetes accounting for most cases. Changing one’s lifestyle before acquiring diabetes is crucial to minimizing one’s chance of experiencing serious health complications. Further, it may not be too late for recently diagnosed individuals to achieve remission and attain optimal health without needing insulin or other medications.
With lifestyle changes, including weight management, dietary improvements, sleep management, and other steps, people with pre-diabetics (no symptoms but higher than normal fasting blood glucose) can prevent the onset of diabetes mellitus.
Those with type 2 diabetes (lacking enough insulin or insulin resistance) can achieve diabetic remission (but not a complete cure) with appropriate changes in diet, weight management, and other factors.
Although diabetic remission can be achieved, patients are at increased risk for return of symptoms and disease recurrence. Preventing disease re-emergence requires regular medical exams and blood work.
Reduce diabetes risk by getting enough sleep, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol use, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising regularly.
By altering one’s diet, improving exercise and activity, achieving a healthy body weight, and getting sufficient sleep, you may be able to prevent negative health outcomes.
Treating diabetes naturally
Is it actually possible to reverse diabetes mellitus (DM) naturally through physical activity, lifestyle changes, diet alterations, and diligence? The answer varies from person to person. Variables, including one’s weight, age, other underlying diseases, and other factors, play a role in one’s ability to control diabetes without the need for medications. While the condition isn’t truly reversible, we can send it into remission.
Lifestyle changes may prevent medical intervention for those who still produce insulin but develop type 2 DM because of insulin resistance or insufficient production. However, for those whose body fails to produce insulin (type 1), natural treatments aren't an option, and failing to treat with medications, insulin, and doctor recommendations could lead to death.
The first step is recognizing that you may have a problem and understanding the risk factors that lead to the disease and which aspects you can modify by changing your day-to-day life to help prevent disease progression.
What is pre-diabetes?
Pre-diabetes means having higher than normal fasting blood sugar levels with no symptoms of DM. While DM isn’t reversible even with medications, changing daily habits can be life-saving and prevent disease onset for pre-diabetics.
Symptoms of diabetes
Recognizing the clinical signs of DM is key to knowing if you need to make life-altering decisions to prevent the onset or progression of DM. Early intervention helps lessen disease complications and may prevent the need for medications, leading to remission. Prompt medical attention is crucial if you notice the symptoms of DM. Signs of DM include:
- Feet/hand numbness or tingling
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Ravenous appetite
- Unintentional weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Increased infections
- Dry skin
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Risk factors for diabetes
Various factors play a role in the development of DM. Genetics, which you cannot alter, plays a role. Individuals with family members who have diabetes and certain ethnic groups are at a higher risk for developing the disease. Those who are already pre-diabetic are also at higher risk. Additional risks include:
- Age. With increasing age comes higher risk, though sadly, we are seeing it more and more in children.
- Too little exercise. Idleness and a sedentary lifestyle increase the risk of DM development.
- Medications. Prolonged use of steroids, some antipsychotics, and some diuretics can increase the risk.
- Overweight-obese. Those who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk.
- Gestational diabetes. People with a history of gestational diabetes are at increased risk for developing DM later in life.
- Low "good cholesterol" (HDL) levels. High cholesterol and abnormal LDL/HDL ratios increase risk.
- High triglycerides. High fat levels in the blood increase risk.
- Smoking. Nicotine may increase the risk of insulin resistance or damage the cells that produce insulin, impacting production.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Individuals with PCOS are often insulin resistant as a result of the condition.
- Those born with low birth weights. Research has shown that individuals born with low birth weights are at higher risk for heart disease and diabetes. The latter is thought to result from a lack of sufficient nutrients in utero, resulting in increased risks of obesity and insulin resistance.
Ten steps to diabetic remission or prevention of DM onset
Here are 10 steps to achieving diabetic remission or, if pre-diabetic, preventing the onset of DM.
Step 1: Seek help
Preventing diabetes or establishing remission in its early stages is possible, but doing so on your own may be challenging. Getting guidance is recommended to create sufficient, long-lasting lifestyle changes. DM patients, their friends and family members, and online resources for diabetes education, monitoring, and management may all be invaluable resources.
Step 2: Exercise regularly
By engaging in regular exercise and not living a sedentary lifestyle, you can improve mental health, increase bone density, aid in weight management, and lessen the risks of chronic diseases, including DM.
Step 3: Reach your ideal body weight
Usually, people diagnosed with type 2 DM are overweight to obese. Fat tissue increases the risk of insulin resistance and negatively impacts blood sugar regulation. Further, obesity can increase one’s risk of other diseases, including heart disease. Intermittent fasting, Atkins, and numerous other diets exist to help with weight loss. However, no specific diet has been proven more effective for diabetics, and some may come with risks.
Embark on the weight-loss journey under a doctor’s supervision. Before choosing a weight-loss program, discuss it with a medical professional to ensure it is right for you. Fad dieting may put you into remission but often sets one up for recurrence. Learn how to make permanent life-altering choices and keep the weight off.
Step 4: Ensure a healthy diet
Make healthy choices. There is no scientifically proven diabetes-specific diet. What works for one may not work for another. However, decreasing your daily intake of foods high in carbohydrates and sugars is a good first step. Further, watching calories and eating an appropriate portion size can positively impact overall health.
Eating a well-balanced, appropriately portioned diet with healthy servings of fruits, vegetables, fats, grains, and proteins helps to ensure optimal health. However, what that well-balanced diet consists of will vary from one to another. If you aren’t sure, consult a dietician to help establish a nutrition plan that works for you.
Step 5: Healthy beverage selections
Replace sugary beverages with water or other healthy drinks and minimize alcohol consumption, which is high in carbohydrates and calories and is metabolized by the liver into fat, increasing the risk of insulin resistance.
Step 6: Get plenty of sleep
How much sleep each individual needs varies, but 7–8 hours per day is ideal for most people. Sleeping allows the body to destress, heal, and rejuvenate. Lack of sleep increases our risk of illness and weakens our immune systems.
Step 7: Smoking cessation
We all know that smoking increases one’s risk of heart disease, stroke, and many cancers. However, did you know that nicotine can also decrease the ability of your body to respond properly to insulin or cause damage to the cells that make insulin, preventing production? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who smoke are at up to 40% higher risk of developing type 2 DM than those who don’t light up. If you want to quit smoking, contact a healthcare provider for options to assist in this endeavor.
Step 8: Education
Get diabetes management or prevention counseling. Education can improve health outcomes. This can help you identify foods or activities that increase your risk of developing disease. You can learn what nutrients increase the chances of developing DM, what ingredients increase blood glucose levels rapidly vs. slowly, and what meals and snacks are better to minimize peaks and troughs in these levels.
Additionally, you can identify ways to improve your overall health, activity level, body condition, and more. Further, you can find resources, support groups, and other aids to assist you in your life-long journey.
Step 9: Rule out sleep apnea
Get evaluated for sleep apnea. Have a sleep study performed by a professional and ensure you are getting enough sleep and aren’t having periods without breathing (apnea) during sleep. As noted already, getting insufficient sleep can wreak havoc on our bodies. Sleep disorders can increase our risk of numerous problems, including DM.
Step 10: Regular check-ups and blood work
Even if you achieve remission, you are still at risk, and regular doctor’s visits and blood work evaluations can catch problems early. If you develop DM symptoms, don’t wait — get evaluated ASAP. It may be DM or something else, but either way, clinical signs are a way for your body to tell you something is amiss, and early action can prevent illness.
Herbs and supplements
What about supplements and herbs? Scientific evidence exists for medications used to treat diabetes. However, there is a lack of research supporting the use of supplements or herbs in managing or preventing DM onset. Thus, before taking any supplement or herb, talk with your healthcare provider.
Opting for a supplement or herb over lifestyle changes and medications could lead to irreversible disease complications and ill effects on your eyes, kidneys, nerves, and more. Further, many supplements interact negatively with other supplements and various drugs, and taking a supplement without consulting a healthcare professional could cause more harm than good.
For those with type 2 DM, remission is possible. However, taking the necessary steps to ensure success is critical. Those who achieve weight loss and maintain it, those with lower average blood glucose levels, and those who have only recently been diagnosed as diabetic are most likely to achieve remission. This remission is best achieved through a combination of measures, including sufficient exercise, reaching one’s ideal body weight, and following all doctor’s recommendations for health maintenance.
Early steps can reverse pre-diabetes and diabetes
Remember that while we can prevent the onset of DM for pre-diabetic patients and possibly reverse the early stages of DM for those who become clinical (reach remission), we cannot fully erase a person’s risk for disease. Genetic factors play a role in the development of DM, and failing to consistently stick to any lifestyle changes (including diet, exercise, and overall health choices) can lead to a recurrence of a diabetic or pre-diabetic state.
Ensure you are evaluated by your healthcare provider often and regularly. If you start to have increased thirst and urination, unexplained weight loss despite a ravenous appetite, or other signs develop, you don’t want to wait. Seek care. Changes in health could signify that natural methods are insufficient to prevent the ill effects of DM. Achieving remission of active DM or preventing pre-diabetes from advancing will take perseverance, patience, time, and energy, but it is feasible.
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- JAMA Network Open. Association of Birth Weight With Type 2 Diabetes and Glycemic Traits: A Mendelian Randomization Study.
Show all references
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking and Diabetes.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and Diabetes.
- Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine. Birth weight and type 2 diabetes: A meta-analysis.