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.
Some studies show that certain plant foods may help your body fight inflammation and use insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar. Cinnamon extracts can improve sugar metabolism, triggering insulin release, which also boosts cholesterol metabolism. Clove oil extracts (eugenol) have been found to help insulin work and to lower glucose, total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides. An unidentified compound in coffee (not caffeine) may enhance insulin sensitivity and lower the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
The extent of weight loss required to reverse type 2 diabetes is much greater than conventionally advised. A clear distinction must be made between weight loss that improves glucose control but leaves blood glucose levels abnormal and weight loss of sufficient degree to normalize pancreatic function. The Belfast diet study provides an example of moderate weight loss leading to reasonably controlled, yet persistent diabetes. This study showed that a mean weight loss of 11 kg decreased fasting blood glucose levels from 10.4 to 7.0 mmol/L but that this abnormal level presaged the all-too-familiar deterioration of control (87).
Alternative medicine for diabetes is big business, because the public health burden of diabetes is massive, and growing. In 1985, the worldwide prevalence was 30 million people. In 2000, it was 150 million. By 2030, it could be 250 million. Why are more people being diagnosed with diabetes? Obesity, sedentary lifestyles, and an aging population. At its core, diabetes is a disease of sugar (glucose) management. Insulin, secreted by the pancreas, allows cells to use glucose. When the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin, it’s called Type 1 diabetes. This is an autoimmune disease that strikes early in life, and was a death sentence until insulin was discovered. When the pancreas can produce insulin, but the amount is insufficient, or when there’s a problem with the uptake of insulin into cells, it’s termed type 2 diabetes. 90% of all diabetes is type 2. Typically a disease of older adults, type 2 diabetes can potentially be treated without drugs of any kind, but success rates are low and medication is eventually advisable. There’s also gestational diabetes, a disease of pregnancy, and prediabetes, where blood sugars are elevated, and diabetes is an expected future diagnosis.
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.
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.
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).
One of the lesser known herbs that lower blood sugar, Marjoram, is high in polyphenols, which aids in stabilizing blood glucose levels. A 2012 study in the Journal of Evidence Based Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that Marjoram reduced formation of Advanced Glycation End (AGE) products. AGE is the smoking gun that researchers today say is responsible for a lot of the complications that diabetics face, like damage to arteries and eyes. Try sprinkling marjoram on your dinner every night to help add variety in flavor. It can often be used as a substitute for oregano in cooking and brings in a distinct flavor to dishes.
They will always have the pre-diabetes diagnosis and have the potential to develop type 2 diabetes if aggressive dietary, exercise and or medication is not followed. It is possible to achieve a normal non-diabetic HbA1c after this – virtually not having any clinical evidence of the pre-diabetes, however the disease process is still there and being held at bay.
For our very insulin resistant patients with type 2 diabetes, after starting out at 30 grams, a few months later most of our patients find that they can increase their daily carb intake to 40 or 50 grams. Fifty grams of total carbohydrate typically allows 4-5 servings of non-starchy vegetables, 2 oz of nuts, and 3 oz of berry fruit (which includes avocado – but obviously you’d need to share it with someone unless it’s a tiny one!)”
The vast majority of people with diabetes, on the other hand, have the type 2 form, which is sometimes referred to as adult-onset diabetes, even though more and more children these days are developing this type. Lifestyle changes can play a vital role in controlling type 2; they are generally the initial and preferred method for regulating blood sugar levels, although oral medication and even insulin may eventually need to be added to the treatment regimen.
Like trials with any other supplement or herbal product, the primary question we must answer is “What exactly was studied?”. The cinnamon you have in your kitchen may be a single species of plant or a mix of different cultivars. Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamommum verum) is more commonly found in the West. Cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum aromaticum) is the version of cinnamon that’s been studied in trials. The chemical hydroxychalcone has been identified as a potential active ingredient, which is believed to modify the sensitivity of cells to insulin, enhancing their uptake. If that’s the true mechanism of action, then it would work in a manner similar to that of the drugs Avandia, Actos, and metformin (Glucophage). Given the active ingredient (or ingredients) have not yet been definitively isolated, the issue of studying cinnamon is problematic. There’s no way to assess the potency of any batch, which complicates any evaluation. And that may be a reason why the research with cinnamon is inconsistent and largely disappointing.
“The problem is we don’t treat diabetes as a dietary problem; we treat it with a lot of drugs, and that never addresses the root problem of the diabetes,” says principal investigator Jason Fung, MD, a kidney specialist at Scarborough and Rouge Hospital in Toronto, Canada, and author of The Complete Guide to Fasting,and The Obesity Code, a 2016 book thought to help popularize intermittent fasting.
The aptly named bitter melon is thought to help cells use glucose more effectively and block sugar absorption in the intestine. When Philippine researchers had men and women take bitter melon in capsule form for three months, they had slight, but consistently, lower blood sugar than those taking a placebo. Gastrointestinal problems are possible side effects. You can reverse diabetes with these science-backed strategies.
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.
Chinese medicine has been using cinnamon for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. It has been the subject of numerous studies to determine its effect on blood glucose levels. A 2011 study has shown that cinnamon, in whole form or extract, helps lower fasting blood glucose levels. More studies are being done, but cinnamon is showing promise for helping to treat diabetes.
In addition, a strong partnership between the patient and the primary healthcare provider – general practitioner or internist – is an essential tool in the successful management of diabetes. Often the primary care doctor makes the initial diagnosis of diabetes and provides the basic tools to get the patient started on a management program. Regular appointments with the primary care physician and a certified diabetes educator are some of the best things a patient can do in the early weeks after a diagnosis of diabetes. Upon the diagnosis of diabetes, the primary care physician, specialist, or endocrinologist will conduct a full physical and medical examination. A thorough assessment covers topics such as:
Note that these medications used to treat type 2 diabetes are typically not used in pregnant or breastfeeding women. At present the only recommended way of controlling diabetes in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding is by diet, exercise, and insulin therapy. You should speak with your health-care professional if you are taking these medications, are considering becoming pregnant, or if you have become pregnant while taking these medications.