What disease affects EVERY other American and one in four kids? Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. Type 2 diabetes in America has tripled since the 1980s and researchers estimate one in three Americans will have diabetes by mid-century. More than one-third of American adults are obese. And one in three Medicare dollars is spent on diabetes making it the biggest driver of our federal debt. Sadly, these numbers continue to increase. Overall, it’s not a pretty picture and experts predict things will only get worse.
I use the term “diabesity” to describe the continuum of health problems ranging from mild insulin resistance and overweight to obesity and diabetes. Diabesity is the underlying cause of most heart disease, cancer and premature death in the world.
Tragically, these conditions are also 100 percent preventable and reversible.
Most people believe diabetes is not reversible. That’s unfortunate, considering its numerous complications including kidney failure, amputation, stroke and dementia. I’ve also heard experts claim obesity is difficult to treat and maintaining long-term weight loss is almost impossible.
I wholeheartedly disagree. Science shows diabetes and obesity are preventable and reversible with aggressive nutrition and lifestyle modifications.
It is caused by the 152 pounds of sugar and 146 pounds of flour a year eaten on average by every American – that is a toxic drug dose of diabetes-causing food.
It is well known that massively obese patients can reverse their diabetes within a few weeks of getting a gastric bypass, even if they haven’t lost that much weight. Why? Because food is medicine and when you take disease-producing food out and put the right food in, the healing happens quickly. I recently had a patient lose 45 pounds and get off 54 units of insulin and all his diabetes medication. I implement these seven strategies every day with patients to prevent, treat, and reverse diabesity - without the drugs and surgery.
1. Pull the sugar. A diet full of empty calories and quickly-absorbed sugar, liquid sugar calories and refined carbohydrates – all of which convert to sugar – creates high insulin levels, eventually leading to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. Among the many problems of chronically high insulin levels include inflammation, high blood pressure, poor sex drive, increased risk for cancer and depression. The most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity or reversing its impact is to eliminate or dramatically reduce sugar in all its many disguises.
2. Stock up on whole, unprocessed foods. Whole, unprocessed real foods balance your blood sugar, reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, and improve your liver detoxification to prevent or reverse insulin resistance and diabetes. Choose a rich variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, plenty of omega-3 fats, coconut butter and olive oil, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Whole, real foods turn on all the right gene messages, promote a healthy metabolism, reverse insulin resistance and diabetes and prevent aging and age-related diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
3. Get the right nutrients. Supplements can make your cells more sensitive to insulin and more effective at metabolizing sugar and fat. Combined with the right diet and lifestyle modifications, they can help you balance blood sugar and reverse or prevent diabetes. Talk to your doctor about which supplements may be right for you and which whole foods are rich in the nutrients your body needs.
4. Get the right exercise. You needn’t spend hours at a gym to get exercise’s benefits. Even a 30-minute walk can help. Vigorous is the key for effective exercise that helps balance blood sugar and lower insulin levels. Get your heart rate up to 70 – 80 percent of its maximum capacity for 60 minutes, up to six times a week. Step it up a few notches with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training. Studies show HIIT can benefit Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Best of all, you can do it in just minutes a day.
5. Get sufficient sleep. Lack of sleep or poor sleep damages your metabolism, spikes sugar and carb cravings, makes you eat more and increases your risk for numerous diseases including Type 2 diabetes. One study among healthy subjects found even a partial night’s poor sleep could induce insulin resistance. That’s why you must prioritize sleep so you get eight hours of solid, uninterrupted shuteye every night. Create a sleep ritual that includes herbal therapies and creating total darkness and quiet.
6. Control stress levels. In the face of chronic stress, our levels of insulin, cortisol, and inflammatory compounds called cytokines all increase. This drives the relentless metabolic dysfunction that leads to weight gain, insulin resistance and eventually Type 2 diabetes. The links between stress, weight gain, mental disorders and blood sugar imbalances show that managing stress becomes a critical component of obesity and diabetes management. You can’t eliminate stress, but you can learn to control it. Meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, massage, laughing and dancing are among the best ways to manage stress and reverse Type 2 diabetes.
7. Measure to improve. Research shows that people who track their results lose twice as much weight and do twice as well. Begin by getting a journal to track your progress in. That could be as simple as a pad of paper, a notebook, a spreadsheet in your computer, or whatever is convenient and works for you. Now, what should you track? In addition to what you eat, you’ll want to get a baseline of all measurements: your weight, waist size, body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure (optional). Many patients become inspired when they see their results on paper.