The first hint that type 2 diabetes is a fully reversible syndrome came from bariatric surgery. Almost a quarter century ago, Pories et al. (12) demonstrated that blood glucose levels normalized in obese people with type 2 diabetes undergoing bariatric surgery and that 10 years later, almost 90% remained free of diabetes. The phenomenon was more recently tested in a randomized prospective study comparing gastric banding with intensive medical therapy for type 2 diabetes (13). This least invasive type of surgery was most suitable for the randomized study, although it was associated with lower rates of diabetes reversal than other procedures. Mean fasting plasma glucose fell to normal levels in the surgically treated group but declined only modestly in the intensive medical treatment group despite oral agents and insulin (Fig. 1) (13). Remission of diabetes was related to the degree of weight loss rather than to group allocation and was achieved in 73% of the surgical group and 13% of the intensive medical treatment group because surgery was more effective in achieving weight loss as previously described (14). Type 2 diabetes can be reversed by applying a surgical procedure that diminishes fat mass.
Insulin pumps are small, computerized devices, about the size of a beeper that you wear on your belt or put in your pocket. They have a small flexible tube with a fine needle on the end. The needle is inserted under the skin of your abdomen and taped in place. The pump releases a carefully measured, steady flow of insulin into the tissue. Insulin pumps can cost $6,000 to $10,000 for the pump, with additional costs for necessary supplies to use the pump.Using a pump means you will have to monitor your blood sugar level at least four times a day. You program doses and make adjustments to your insulin, depending on your food intake and exercise program. Some health care providers prefer the insulin pump over injections because its slow release of insulin imitates a working pancreas.
Second, all minerals and vitamins should be taken in the most absorbable, bioactive forms. This makes the product a little more expensive, but there is a huge difference in the body’s ability to absorb and metabolize different forms of nutrients. I recommend Pure Encapsulations’ Polyphenol Nutrients to my patients, as part of a natural home remedies protocol for diabetes.
Fasting is the simplest and fastest method to force your body to burn sugar for energy. Glucose in the blood is the most easily accessible source of energy for the body. Fasting is merely the flip side of eating – if you are not eating you are fasting. When you eat, your body stores food energy. When you fast, your body burns food energy. If you simply lengthen out your periods of fasting, you can burn off the stored sugar.
If your cells aren’t responding to insulin, your pancreas produces more to turn up the volume on the signal that glucose is available and the cells should absorb it. When your pancreas can keep up, blood glucose stays within healthy ranges, and all is well. When your pancreas starts to poop out, you end up with insulin deficiency, which leads to blood sugar fluctuations and weight gain.
Insulin therapy is taken by diabetics who have type 1 diabetes mellitus, or IDDM, i.e., insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. In this condition, body is not able to produce any insulin, therefore, it has to be administered externally. Patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus are either resistant to insulin or have relatively low insulin production, or both.
Medications and insulin do nothing to slow down the progression of this organ damage, because they do not eliminate the toxic sugar load from our body. We’ve known this inconvenient fact since 2008. No less than 7 multinational, multi-centre, randomized controlled trials of tight blood glucose control with medications (ACCORD, ADVANCE, VADT, ORIGIN, TECOS, ELIXA, SAVOR) failed to demonstrate reductions in heart disease, the major killer of diabetic patients. We pretended that using medications to lower blood sugar makes people healthier. But it’s only been a lie. You can’t use drugs to cure a dietary disease.
Focus on low glycemic index foods: While reducing fat and increasing fiber can significantly improve insulin sensitivity, low glycemic index (GI) foods reduce after-meal blood glucose levels. Low GI foods include pumpernickel or rye bread, oats, beans, bran cereals, most fruit, and sweet potatoes, compared to higher GI foods such as white potatoes, processed foods, and cold cereals.
There are many promising studies suggesting chromium supplementation may be effective, but they are far from conclusive. For example, a small study published in the journal Diabetes Care compared the diabetes medication sulfonylurea taken with 1,000 mcg of chromium to sulfonylurea taken with a placebo. After 6 months, people who did not take chromium had a significant increase in body weight, body fat, and abdominal fat, whereas people taking the chromium had significant improvements in insulin sensitivity.
The bottom line is that diabetes can be bad news—but this doesn’t have to be the case. Interventions can prevent or delay the disease in people with prediabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a large study of people at high risk of diabetes, has established a prevention plan that’s both feasible and cost-effective. The DPP showed that weight loss and increased physical activity reduced the development of type 2 diabetes by 58% during a three-year period.
The problem, of course, has not been solved — the sugar bowl is still overflowing. You’ve only moved sugar from the blood (where you could see it) into the body (where you couldn’t see it). It’s putting a band-aid over a bullet hole. So, the very next time you eat, the exact same thing happens. Sugar comes in, spills out into the blood and you take medication to cram the sugar back into the body. This works for a while, but eventually, the body fills up with sugar, too. Now, that same dose of medication cannot force any more sugar into the body.
Triglycerides are a common form of fat that we digest. Triglycerides are the main ingredient in animal fats and vegetable oils. Elevated levels of triglycerides are a risk factor for heart disease, heart attack, stroke, fatty liver disease, and pancreatitis. Elevated levels of triglycerides are also associated with diseases like diabetes, kidney disease, and medications (for example, diuretics, birth control pills, and beta blockers). Dietary changes, and medication if necessary can help lower triglyceride blood levels.
Milk thistle is an herb that has been used since ancient times for many different ailments and is considered a tonic for the liver. The most studied extract from milk thistle is called silymarin, which is a compound that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is these properties that may make milk thistle a great herb for people with diabetes.
Some studies suggest that low magnesium levels may worsen blood glucose control in type 2 diabetes. There is also some evidence that magnesium supplementation may help with insulin resistance. For example, a study examined the effect of magnesium or placebo in 63 people with type 2 diabetes and low magnesium levels who were taking the medication glibenclamide. After 16 weeks, people who took magnesium had improved insulin sensitivity and lower fasting glucose levels.
Parslane seeds have strong medicinal value and have been used to keep a check on blood sugar since ages. The compounds of parslane seeds help the body to produce insulin in a natural manner. Just consume a teaspoonful of parslane seeds with half a coup of water on a regular basis (everyday) for 4-5 months. It is one of the simpler, but effective home remedies for diabetes.
The chart above gives averages. Follow your doctor’s advice on when and how to take your insulin. Your doctor might also recommend premixed insulin, which is a mix of two types of insulin. Some types of insulin cost more than others, so talk with your doctor about your options if you're concerned about cost. Read about financial help for diabetes care.
Swift urges RDs to be informed and stay up-to-date as complementary and alternative medicine data evolves. Use a “whole systems, whole person” approach to health and healing. The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health is a good place to start. “They have an outstanding program on diabetes care that’s multidisciplinary and integrative,” Swift says. You also can receive continuing education credits for attending.
Cinnamon has the ability to lower blood sugar levels and improve your sensitivity to insulin. A study conducted at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif. found that the consumption of cinnamon is associated with a statistically significant decrease in plasma glucose levels, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Cinnamon consumption also helped increase HDL cholesterol levels. (15)
If the T2DM has been recently diagnosed, there is a greater likelihood of being able to reverse the disease. Doing this requires losing approximately 5-10% of current body weight, balancing carbs and protein and engaging in daily physical exercise. A diabetes educator (C.D.E.) is the expert who can help put together a plan for realistic and permanent lifestyle changes.
Together with evidence of normalization of insulin secretion after bariatric surgery (84), insights into the behavior of the liver and pancreas during hypocaloric dieting lead to a hypothesis of the etiology and pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes (Fig. 6): The accumulation of fat in liver and secondarily in the pancreas will lead to self-reinforcing cycles that interact to bring about type 2 diabetes. Fatty liver leads to impaired fasting glucose metabolism and increases export of VLDL triacylglycerol (85), which increases fat delivery to all tissues, including the islets. The liver and pancreas cycles drive onward after diagnosis with steadily decreasing β-cell function. However, of note, observations of the reversal of type 2 diabetes confirm that if the primary influence of positive calorie balance is removed, then the processes are reversible (21).
Insulin therapy creates risk because of the inability to continuously know a person's blood glucose level and adjust insulin infusion appropriately. New advances in technology have overcome much of this problem. Small, portable insulin infusion pumps are available from several manufacturers. They allow a continuous infusion of small amounts of insulin to be delivered through the skin around the clock, plus the ability to give bolus doses when a person eats or has elevated blood glucose levels. This is very similar to how the pancreas works, but these pumps lack a continuous "feed-back" mechanism. Thus, the user is still at risk of giving too much or too little insulin unless blood glucose measurements are made.
Genetic factors do play a role in any disease, but I put this factor last for a reason. Genetic predisposition to a given disease will increase the chances of getting the disease, but not in a vacuum. People with a strong predisposition to liver disease manage to avoid it, and some with a family history of heart disease remain heart-attack free. Even studies among identical twins show that in most cases, twins will get the same diseases, even in different environments, but sometimes they don’t. This means there are other factors involved (see above).
Poor glycemic control refers to persistently elevated blood glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin levels, which may range from 200–500 mg/dl (11–28 mmol/L) and 9–15% or higher over months and years before severe complications occur. Meta-analysis of large studies done on the effects of tight vs. conventional, or more relaxed, glycemic control in type 2 diabetics have failed to demonstrate a difference in all-cause cardiovascular death, non-fatal stroke, or limb amputation, but decreased the risk of nonfatal heart attack by 15%. Additionally, tight glucose control decreased the risk of progression of retinopathy and nephropathy, and decreased the incidence peripheral neuropathy, but increased the risk of hypoglycemia 2.4 times.
Diabetes is a growing global epidemic that affects millions of people worldwide, but recent studies on various natural remedies for diabetes provide hope for reversing this disease. From adopting a fasting-mimicking diet to incorporating superfoods like spirulina and ginseng, there are lots of natural options that provide long-lasting results. Committing to healthy choices and positive lifestyle changes has helped many people overcome the disease, proving that Diabetes does not have to be a life sentence.
Recently, a small clinical trial in England studied the effects of a strict liquid diet on 30 people who had lived with Type 2 diabetes for up to 23 years. Nearly half of those studied had a remission that lasted six months after the diet was over. While the study was small, the finding offers hope to millions who have been told they must live with the intractable disease.
People with type 1 diabetes (T1D) can live long, happy lives with proper care and disease management. Advancements in medication types and delivery methods give people the freedom to choose which treatment options work best with their particular circumstance. T1D prognoses can be greatly improved with a combination of treatments and lifestyle choices.
Given the consequences of diabetes, self-management is something I want to encourage, not discourage. Without a commitment from the patient to take an active role in managing their diabetes, any treatment plan is doomed to fail. So is self-treatment with supplements a wise idea? There’s an array available, and patients regularly ask about the latest treatment “Big Pharma doesn’t want you to know about”. That treatment used to be chromium. Ginseng was popular for a time, too. Fenugreek and bitter melon are used as well. The treatment that seems most popular now is cinnamon. Like any other herbal remedy, most sources will tell you that it’s been used for “thousands of years” as a medicinal herb. As a treatment for diabetes, I have my doubts. While reports of diabetes go back to 1552 BCE, the ability to effectively measure any diabetes treatment only goes back a few decades. Interest in cinnamon as a treatment seems to have started with in vitro tests but gained some plausibility in 2003, when a study from Alam Khan suggested several grams of cassia cinnamon per day could lower fasting blood glucose. Khan randomized Type 2 diabetes to 1g, 3g, or 6g of cinnamon for 40 days. All three groups improved their fasting blood glucose, and blood lipid levels, but there was no effect on A1C.
“I have many ways to help patients manage diabetes, but it’s very hard to reverse,” says Dr. Rita Louard, director of the Clinical Diabetes Program at Montefiore Health System in Bronx, New York. Still, some diabetes experts will use the word “reverse” when talking about this topic, Louard says, acknowledging the controversy that exists when discussing diabetes reversal.
I’m glad you talk about personal tolerance. My doc wants me to go on a ketogenic diet, but even when on the Autoimmune Paleo Diet, my adrenals would go a bit nuts. I can’t go any longer than 6 hours without food overnight…my adrenals start pumping out the adrenalin after about 3 to 6 hours of sleep (no matter what I eat or don’t eat before bed) and I wake up with anxiety. Adding a bit of carbs (3/4 cup at dinner and 1/2 cup at lunch) has allowed me to go a full 6 hours (would love 7 or 8) but it still feels terrible when I wake up.
The idea of “reversing” is describing the well managed type 2 diabetes that can be maintained without the outcome of complications (eye disease, kidney disease, etc.). And it is totally possible to have type 2 (or type 1 diabetes for that matter) and have no complications – however, this takes careful management and is largely driven by the patient and their access to quality healthcare.
Taking a fish oil supplement can help improve markers of diabetes by reducing triglyceride levels and raising HDL cholesterol levels. Research published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences shows that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are necessary for proper insulin function, preventing insulin intolerance and reducing inflammation. (16) To use fish oil as a natural remedy for diabetes, take 1,000 milligrams daily.
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.
Pramlintide (Symlin) was the first in a class of injectable, anti-hyperglycemic medications for use in addition to insulin for type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. Pramlintide is a synthetic analog of human amylin, a naturally occurring hormone made by the pancreas to help control glucose after meals. Similar to insulin, amylin is absent or deficient in person with diabetes.