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Ask a Doctor: Is There a Way to Help Prevent or Reverse Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease born of choices, choices you can change to powerful and transformative effect
BY Jingduan Yang TIMEApril 3, 2022 PRINT

Have you had a pre-diabetes scare? Are you looking to turn your health around before it’s too late? If so, you know better than anyone how scary it can be to hear that your blood sugar is dangerously high. You also know how daunting “reversing it” can seem, at least initially. However, this doesn’t have to be the case.

Pre-diabetes, insulin resistance, and diabetes are preventable and often reversible through aggressive lifestyle changes, including stress reduction, an improved diet, exercise, and supplements. Here are 10 ways to change your trajectory and take control of your blood sugar naturally, with healthy changes that can make all the difference.

Change Your Diet

Focus on a diet that reduces inflammation, relieves oxidative stress, and balances your blood sugar since this is key to preventing and reversing insulin resistance and diabetes alike. Focus on whole foods that are high in fiber with more fruits, vegetables, and foods that are low in refined or processed sugars. Incorporate anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and detoxifying foods, including omega-3 fats, olive oil, soy (non-GMO), beans, nuts, and seeds.

This combination can help prevent and reverse diabetes, as it activates the genes in your body that promote a healthy metabolism. It can also help slow aging and prevent age-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Exercise Consistently

Exercise is critical in improving your insulin sensitivity. It can reduce central body fat, improve sugar metabolism, and has many other health benefits. Try to work in 30 minutes of walking per day, as an afternoon walk or a walk after dinner alone can powerfully reduce your blood sugar. More vigorous exercise, especially sustained exercise, would be necessary to potentially reverse diabetes or insulin resistance.

Sustained aerobic exercise for about 60 minutes five or six times a week can help get diabetes under control. Interval training can help improve your metabolism and mitochondrial function. These changes can increase the calories you burn, even when you aren’t exercising, which has plenty of other benefits.

Take Supplements

Nutritional supplements can be highly effective for Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Talk to a doctor or nutritionist to see which will help you the most. Some of the most popular and effective supplements include multivitamins, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D.

Fish oil can significantly improve insulin sensitivity, lower cholesterol, and reduce inflammation when taken in doses of 1,000 to 4,000 milligrams (mg) per day. Magnesium supplements of 200 to 600 mg per day can help with glucose metabolism. People with diabetes are often magnesium deficient. Chromium of 500 to 1,000 micrograms per day is essential for sugar metabolism, and antioxidants can help reduce and balance blood sugar. Depending on the foods you eat and your lifestyle, these are some of the most common supplements that can help.

Manage Your Carbohydrates

Your carbohydrate intake greatly influences your blood sugar levels. Your body works to break down carbohydrates into sugars, primarily glucose. Insulin then helps your body use and store that sugar for energy. When you eat a high-carbohydrate diet or have insulin functioning problems, this process fails and your blood glucose levels will rise.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) suggests that people with diabetes manage their carbohydrate intake by counting carbs and determining how many they need. Some studies show that if you do this and plan your meals appropriately, it further improves blood sugar management. A diet that’s low-carb has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels and prevent blood sugar spikes. This isn’t to say you need to get rid of carbohydrates completely; instead, eat whole grains and avoid processed or refined grains, so you get excellent nutritional value while decreasing your blood sugar levels.

Lose Weight

One benefit that may come with some of these others will be losing weight, and the act of losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of body fat can help improve blood sugar levels and greatly aid in reversing pre-diabetes. A weight loss of as little as 10 to 20 pounds can be helpful. Changing your current diet or exercise habits will help. Changing how often you eat through intermittent fasting can also help by giving your metabolism a boost. Losing weight isn’t one-size-fits-all, and speaking with a professional about how to get to your ideal weight is a good plan of action in these cases.

Stop Smoking

You might already know that smoking increases the risk of lung cancer and heart disease. However, did you know that it’s also a risk factor for insulin resistance, prediabetes, and Type 2 diabetes? Smoking increases inflammation in the body as chemicals in cigarette smoke injure cells. This causes swelling and can interfere with proper cell function. It also can cause oxidative stress, which causes further cell damage. Both of these things are strongly linked to a higher risk of diabetes.

Eat More Fiber

Fiber can slow carbohydrate digestion and sugar absorption alike. This will help promote a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels instead of harsh spikes. While both insoluble and soluble fiber are essential, soluble fiber has been better proven to improve blood sugar management. A high-fiber diet can help you improve your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and minimize the “lows” as well.

Drink More Water

Drinking more water is an excellent way to help reverse prediabetes and prevent Type 2 diabetes. Water can help you avoid high-sugar drinks, which in and of itself can have health benefits, as you’re cutting out some sugar, preservatives, and other ingredients from your diet. However, water also helps to rehydrate blood, lower sugar levels, and reduce diabetes risk altogether. One review of observational studies showed that those who drank more water had lower chances of developing high blood sugar levels. Drinking more water can also help you lose weight, as dehydration is often confused for hunger, leading us to eat when we really need to drink.

Manage Stress

Stress plays a dramatic role in your body’s chemical makeup, including blood sugar imbalances. It can trigger insulin resistance, promote weight gain around the middle, increase inflammation, and ultimately cause diabetes. It’s best to engage in relaxation practices regularly, such as yoga, breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, meditation, hot baths, biofeedback, hypnosis, massages, and more. The more you can do for your stress levels, the better. Your survival may depend on it.

Get Enough Quality Sleep

Poor sleeping habits and a lack of rest can affect blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity alike, increasing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, increasing appetite, and promoting weight gain. Additionally, sleep deprivation can raise cortisol levels, wreaking havoc on blood sugar management. Getting enough sleep feels excellent, but more importantly, it’s necessary for good health.

Adequate sleep isn’t just about quantity, but quality. Adults should be getting at least seven to eight hours of uninterrupted quality sleep per night. The absolute best ways that you can improve your sleep quality would be to follow a schedule, avoid late-day caffeine and alcohol, get regular exercise, keep a cool bedroom, cut down screen time, take warm showers or baths before bed, and try meditation or guided imagery to put yourself into a relaxed state before bed.

If your sleep isn’t restorative, or you’ve been told that your breathing is irregular during sleep, you may need to seek treatment for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is also a risk factor for diabetes.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a dramatic change in your health on a tight timeline, then these natural techniques and guidelines can help you make a massive difference in your health. You should consult with your physician when you’re thinking about making sweeping changes in your lifestyle. Often, he or she can help you stay on top of your plans and keep track of things, so you know how your progress is paying off.

Let me know what you think: Do these processes seem doable or attainable in your life? What would be the hardest change of any on this list? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments or if you have any experience with any of these ways to improve your health.

Epoch Health articles are for informational purposes and are not a substitute for individualized medical advice. Please consult a trusted professional for personal medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment.

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