There has been a slew of studies done on the topic of alternative and naturopathic treatments and natural remedies for diabetes, and many of them exhibit long-lasting, beneficial results. While conventional medicine tends to treat only the symptoms of disease, alternative medicine focuses on both the underlying causes of the ailment, as well as the symptoms, evaluating the body as an interconnected whole.
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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.
“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.
During this 8-week study, β-cell function was tested by a gold standard method that used a stepped glucose infusion with subsequent arginine bolus (21). In type 2 diabetes, the glucose-induced initial rapid peak of insulin secretion (the first phase insulin response) typically is absent. This was confirmed at baseline in the study, but the first phase response increased gradually over 8 weeks of a very-low-calorie diet to become indistinguishable from that of age- and weight-matched nondiabetic control subjects. The maximum insulin response, as elicited by arginine bolus during hyperglycemia, also normalized. Pancreas fat content decreased gradually during the study period to become the same as that in the control group, a time course matching that of the increase in both first phase and total insulin secretion (Fig. 3). Fat content in the islets was not directly measured, although it is known that islets take up fat avidly (24) and that islet fat content closely reflects total pancreatic fat content in animal models (25). Although a cause-and-effect relationship between raised intraorgan fat levels and metabolic effect has not yet been proven, the time course data following the dietary intervention study are highly suggestive of a causal link (21).
The essential feature of type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes is that our bodies are completely filled with sugar. It’s not just too much sugar in the blood. That’s only part of the problem. There’s too much sugar in our entire body. Imagine our bodies to be a sugar bowl. A bowl of sugar. When we are young, our sugar bowl is empty. Over decades, we eat too much of the wrong things — sugary cereals, desserts and white bread. The sugar bowl gradually fills up with sugar until completely full. The next time you eat, sugar comes into the body, but the bowl is full, so it spills out into the blood.
These are a relatively new class of drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes. They are oral medications that work by blocking the kidneys' reabsorption of glucose, leading to increased glucose excretion and reduction of blood sugar levels. The US FDA approved the SGLT2 inhibitors canagliflozin (Invokana) in March 2013 and dapagliflozin (Farxiga) in January 2014.