A useful test that has usually been done in a laboratory is the measurement of blood HbA1c levels. This is the ratio of glycated hemoglobin in relation to the total hemoglobin. Persistent raised plasma glucose levels cause the proportion of these molecules to go up. This is a test that measures the average amount of diabetic control over a period originally thought to be about 3 months (the average red blood cell lifetime), but more recently[when?] thought to be more strongly weighted to the most recent 2 to 4 weeks. In the non-diabetic, the HbA1c level ranges from 4.0–6.0%; patients with diabetes mellitus who manage to keep their HbA1c level below 6.5% are considered to have good glycemic control. The HbA1c test is not appropriate if there has been changes to diet or treatment within shorter time periods than 6 weeks or there is disturbance of red cell aging (e.g. recent bleeding or hemolytic anemia) or a hemoglobinopathy (e.g. sickle cell disease). In such cases the alternative Fructosamine test is used to indicate average control in the preceding 2 to 3 weeks.
Known as gurmar, or “sugar destroyer,” in Aryuvedic medicine, Gymnema has consistently shown benefits in patients with diabetes. The most active part of Gymnema seems to be gymnemic acids, and many products list the percentage each capsule contains. Analyses of the herb for diabetes have shown it may be helpful in lowering high blood sugar levels. It can delay glucose absorption from the intestine. It was shown to regenerate pancreatic tissues, allowing more insulin to be produced, and help regulate insulin secretion. It also increases the utilization of glucose by the cell, reducing insulin resistance and decreasing appetite, especially for sweets. I usually use it in capsules, or in liquid form in some patients. Due to Gymnema having a very similar shape to glucose, it can fit into the taste bud receptors for sugar; it thus has unbelievable power to actually prevent the taste of sweets in the mouth for up to 1.5 hours. When I have a patient who is still struggling to not eat cake and cookies and so forth at parties or celebrations (or just in general), I will give her a tincture of Gymnema sylvestre. This is one of my favorite herbs for diabetes. In capsule form doses of 400 to 2,400 mg a day are recommended.
As a bonus, stress relief may help you sleep better, which is important because studies show that not getting enough sleep can worsen type 2 diabetes. Sleeping less than six hours a night has also been found to contribute to impaired glucose tolerance, a condition that often precedes type 2 diabetes. In fact, a review published in 2015 in Diabetes Care analyzed 10 studies that involved more than 18,000 participants combined and found the lowest risk of type 2 diabetes in the group of participants that slept seven to eight hours per day. That’s the minimum recommended amount of sleep for most adults, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
There has been a good amount of attention and time spent on discussing the “reversal” of diabetes, but there’s not been a lot of good facts to explain what this means. First, type 1 diabetes (an autoimmune disease) cannot be reversed, cured or avoided – period. It can be managed with insulin and made easier with good lifestyle choices like staying active and eating a healthy diet.
Low glycemic index foods also may be helpful. The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food causes a rise in your blood sugar. Foods with a high glycemic index raise your blood sugar quickly. Low glycemic index foods may help you achieve a more stable blood sugar. Foods with a low glycemic index typically are foods that are higher in fiber.
The main goal of diabetes management is, as far as possible, to restore carbohydrate metabolism to a normal state. To achieve this goal, individuals with an absolute deficiency of insulin require insulin replacement therapy, which is given through injections or an insulin pump. Insulin resistance, in contrast, can be corrected by dietary modifications and exercise. Other goals of diabetes management are to prevent or treat the many complications that can result from the disease itself and from its treatment.
Also called weight-loss surgery or metabolic surgery, bariatric surgery may help some people with obesity and type 2 diabetes lose a large amount of weight and regain normal blood glucose levels. Some people with diabetes may no longer need their diabetes medicine after bariatric surgery. Whether and for how long blood glucose levels improve seems to vary by the patient, type of weight-loss surgery, and amount of weight the person loses. Other factors include how long someone has had diabetes and whether or not the person uses insulin.1
As self-management of diabetes typically involves lifestyle modifications, adherence may pose a significant self-management burden on many individuals. For example, individuals with diabetes may find themselves faced with the need to self-monitor their blood glucose levels, adhere to healthier diets and maintain exercise regimens regularly in order to maintain metabolic control and reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular problems. Barriers to adherence have been associated with key psychological mechanisms: knowledge of self-management, beliefs about the efficacy of treatment and self-efficacy/perceived control. Such mechanisms are inter-related, as one's thoughts (e.g. one's perception of diabetes, or one's appraisal of how helpful self-management is) is likely to relate to one's emotions (e.g. motivation to change), which in turn, affects one's self-efficacy (one's confidence in their ability to engage in a behaviour to achieve a desired outcome).
Robert Ferry Jr., MD, is a U.S. board-certified Pediatric Endocrinologist. After taking his baccalaureate degree from Yale College, receiving his doctoral degree and residency training in pediatrics at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), he completed fellowship training in pediatric endocrinology at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.