Have you recently been told you have type 2 or pre-Diabetes and are completely confused by the sheer amount of information out there? Or have you been given a diagnosis but no real help on what you can do for yourself about it? In this article you will find out all you need to know about Type 2 Diabetes and 3 top tips on how to take back control.
Type 2 Diabetes is a modern epidemic. Nearly 400 million people have the disorder around the world, with 28 million of them in the US alone and around 4 million in the.
Diabetes, and type 2 diabetes in particular, is on the rise and the figures make for a worrying read. One hospital in New York reported that it was treating ten times as many diabetes patients in 2000 than it had been in 1990 and that the majority of new cases were type 2.
So what’s the cause? Predominantly it’s Carbohydrate and sugar-heavy diets and a sedentary lifestyle that our bodies just can’t keep up with. That, in turn, leads to insulin resistance and all sorts of serious health issues.
Unfortunately, the standard treatment for type 1 diabetes just doesn’t work for type 2 diabetes. In fact, there’s plenty of evidence that insulin injections actually increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, strokes and heart attacks if you have type 2 diabetes.
But there is a solution. Dietary changes and often intermittent fasting can help put type 2 diabetes patients back on the road to health again.
What’s going on?
Diabetes is a disorder related to high blood sugar and consists of four basic types. These include types 1 and 2, as well as gestational diabetes caused by high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. The other types of the disorder are related to genetic problems and a dysfunctional pancreas.
Its symptoms include thirst and needing to urinate frequently. Both of which reflect the fact that the kidneys aren’t processing blood sugar or, to give it its proper name, glucose, in the body. The body responds by trying to eliminate excess glucose through frequent urination.
So what’s differences between type 1 and type 2 Diabetes?
Type 1 is an autoimmune disease. That means that the body’s immune system is attacking insulin-producing cells and insulin is the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. When the body stops creating enough insulin, blood sugar levels spike. That’s why type 1 diabetes patients need insulin injections to live safely.
Type 2 diabetes is different. It’s typically the result of a sugar-rich diet. The body responds by producing large amounts of insulin in an attempt to regulate all the ingested sugar. Eventually, the body’s cells become insulin-resistant. That means they no longer react to insulin because there’s just too much of it in the body. As a result, Insulin injections aren’t particularly well suited to treating type 2 diabetes. The problem, after all, isn’t a lack of insulin, as it is with type 1 diabetes, but too much insulin.
What’s the link with obesity?
Have you ever heard of the term now often used called ‘diabesity’? It’s a Fairly recent term and is a useful way of highlighting a novel trend in western society: the epidemic of people suffering from a combination of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The close link between obesity and type 2 diabetes was conclusively demonstrated back in 1990 by Walter Willett, a nutritional expert at Harvard University. His research showed that post-puberty weight gain is the most significant factor in increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Putting on 44-77 pounds of weight, for example, means that we’re an astounding 11,300 percent more likely to develop the disorder. Willett and his colleagues carried out follow-up studies in 1995. These showed that even small weight gains dramatically increased the chance of type 2 diabetes. An extra 10 to 20 pounds increases the chance of type 2 diabetes by 90 percent. Unfortunately, it took a while before these breakthroughs became widely accepted in the general medical community. But today there’s no room for doubt: type 2 diabetes is intimately connected to weight gain and obesity.
That said, neither obesity nor type 2 diabetes can be cured by simply consuming fewer calories. When we consume fewer calories, our bodies reduce their metabolic rates, which is the amount of energy needed to keep our hearts pumping and brains functioning.
Although this was the solution first proposed by doctors and nutritionists, a sharp reduction in daily calorie intake just doesn’t work. Ultimately, our sense of hunger and calorie intake depends on our hormones. More specifically, it’s our insulin levels that are responsible. That means losing weight is all about reducing our insulin levels.
Reducing overall food consumption doesn’t help achieve that. What we really need to do is avoid specific types of food.
What’s the link with Fatty Liver disease?
Most people know that excessive alcohol consumption is hard on the liver. But alcohol isn’t the only culprit when it comes to liver damage.
Let’s start with glycogen: it’s a substance which stores carbohydrates in our bodies. Too much of it creates fatty deposits in the liver, which over time leads to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is the first step on the road to type 2 diabetes. It’s the result of excessive carbohydrate and protein consumption.
Unlike other dietary fats which can be stored throughout the body, glucose from protein and carbohydrates is transported straight to the liver. Once it arrives there, it’s converted into a reserve of glycogen which can be used when blood sugar levels sink. But once this reserve is fully stocked, the body starts converting new glycogens into fat, which is then exported to other parts of the body. The problems start when the liver can’t keep pace with our protein and carb intake. When that happens, the fat is no longer exported but stays in the liver. And as the liver becomes fattier, it stops accepting further glucose. When our blood sugar levels rise, insulin is released. That, in turn, encourages the liver to accept more glucose. Once the liver starts struggling to process that glucose, even more insulin is released to fix the problem.
This creates a vicious cycle. The more insulin there is in our bodies, the less the liver reacts to it. That’s what doctors mean when they talk about insulin resistance. And it doesn’t take much to develop a fatty, insulin-resistant liver.
There was a study carried out in 2008 by neurosurgeon Suzanne De La Monte and she found that people can develop insulin resistance in as little as three weeks just by eating 1000 calories of sugary snacks a day. During those three unhealthy weeks, the participant’s body weight only increased by two percent, but the amount of fat stored in their liver increased by a massive 27 percent!
The fatty liver effect can be reversed by returning to a normal diet with fewer carbs and less sugar.
So what’s the deal with added sugars?
In 2009, the endocrinologist Robert Lustig uploaded a video to YouTube that quickly went viral. In it, he confirmed what many had long suspected: that sugar is toxic for the body.
Now sugar comes in many forms, and when consumed as foods like whole fruits it isn’t bad for us but it’s the other ways it ends up in diets that can be the problem. In its refined form, sugar is unhealthy and practically devoid of any nutritional value. The bad news is that sugar now plays a larger role in our diets than ever before. And that’s the problem, sugar isn’t inherently bad for us – what really damages our health is consuming too much of it.
In the nineteenth century, people ate around 15-20 grams of sugar a day, mostly in the form of fresh fruits containing relatively small amounts, but people’s diets started changing after the Second World War. This was largely a result of increased sugar cane and sugar beet production. By the 1970s, daily sugar consumption per person had increased to 37 grams.
It is now these cheap source of sugar that are having a devastating effect and as time has moved on we have seen it added to all sorts of processed foods and it can now be found in everything from sauces to ready meals, breads and sweets. By 2000, sugar consumption in the US had climbed to 78 grams a day. There’s no doubt that this is part of the problem.
Can insulin injections help?
There’s no question that the ability to produce insulin in laboratories and treat type 1 diabetes was a major medical breakthrough. But insulin injections aren’t a silver bullet in the fight against type 2 diabetes. While they can help type 2 diabetes patients regulate their blood sugar levels in the short term, long-term use can actually damage their health. In some cases, they can even cause death at a younger age.
In 1999 there was a massive study done by the American National Institute of Health’s where the scientists behind it investigated whether insulin treatment could reduce cardiovascular fatalities among type 2 diabetes patients. One group of patients received normal doses of insulin as well as heart medication. The other group received higher doses of both insulin and heart medication. The aim was to bring the second group’s blood sugar levels down quicker. The study was a spectacular failure. The patients receiving higher doses of insulin and medication died 22 percent more quickly than those who’d been given normal dosages. In the end, the whole study had to be called off.
The Canadian scientist J.M. Gamble carried out another study in 2010. He found that type 2 diabetes patients receiving insulin treatments were 279 percent more likely to develop coronary disease than other patients.
So, how can you control and prevent it?
There are three highly effective strategies you can adopt today .
The first tip is to avoid high sugar foods, especially added sugars.
The obvious place to start is banishing sugars from your kitchen and dining table. Cutting sugars from your diet also means being wary of the products in which it often hides. These include sweet drinks like cocktails, smoothies and flavoured waters.
Sweets, cakes and pastries are also obviously off-limits on a regular basis. But remember, bread and pasta also often contain added sugar. Your safest bet is to check the ingredients list and leave anything containing added sugar on the supermarket shelf. Caution is also advisable when it comes to sauces, condiments and even meats. Sugar is an easy way to make all kinds of food tastier. That’s something manufacturers know, which is why they add it to their products. Eating out, especially if it’s something you do often, can also be a minefield. Don’t be shy about asking your waiter about the sugar content of various dishes before placing your order.
The second strategy you can adopt to prevent and manage type 2 diabetes is to avoid refined carbohydrates.
Refined carbs belong to the worst food group of all because of their role in sending your insulin levels through the roof. So steer clear of refined wheat-based products like bread, pasta, corn-based tortillas, popcorn, fries, chips and white rice.
That doesn’t mean you have to give up on old favourites. Not all carbohydrates are unhealthy, switch to unrefined carbs like brown rice and whole-wheat pasta and you can still enjoy some of your favourite dishes.
These alternatives don’t stimulate insulin production nearly as much as their refined counterparts and can be part of a healthy diet. Getting rid of refined carbohydrates also means there’s room in your nutritional plan, so fill it with nourishing fatty foods like high-quality oils, fish, avocados, and nuts.
The Third big tip is around Intermittent fasting. This can be a much more effective plan for type 2 diabetes than daily portion control.
Fasting has long been a known to tackle diabetes. Elliott Joslin, an early American diabetes specialist, advocated it as a treatment more than a century ago in 1916. However, a lot has changed in the medical profession since then. Today, the focus has increasingly shifted to using drugs to treat diabetes. But it’s time to rediscover more traditional cures.
So what exactly does fasting involve?
One possibility is daily portion control, but that’s probably not the best answer. Reversing diabetes and encouraging weight loss aren’t easy things to achieve.
A 2015 British study analysed the effectiveness of normal nutritional counselling that focused on portion control and concluded that this approach failed for 99.5 percent of all participants. They just didn’t lose very much weight. The reason it doesn’t work is that lowering daily calorie intake merely slows down your metabolic rate while increasing your sensation of hunger. That’s tough to endure and sooner or later most dieters cave in and are quickly back to their original weight.
A much better approach is intermittent fasting.
That’s basically about abstaining from all foods for a set amount of time, and could be anything from a day to a week. After that, people can return to their normal diets.
The effort required to follow this kind of plan is much more concentrated, which makes it easier to implement than the daily grind of portion control. And, most importantly, it works! Fasting causes a dip in the body’s insulin production, meaning it stays insulin-sensitive rather than developing a resistance to the hormone.
Another British study conducted in 2011 by N.M. Harvie underscores the effectiveness of this approach. Harvie compared two groups of dieters. The first ate a Mediterranean diet with a restricted calorie intake, while the second ate normally for five days a week and fasted for the other two. Both groups experienced some weight loss after six months, but the second group also had much lower insulin levels than the first. This suggests that intermittent fasting might be best for type 2 diabetes. After all, it’s high insulin levels and insulin resistance which are responsible for the disorder and fasting helps reduce these.
Now this approach shouldn’t be undertaken without support but there are more ways of looking at intermittent fasting which still help support the control of insulin.
Intermittent fasting doesn’t have to be for whole days, as that can be a real struggle in the real world, but trying to consume your meals within a certain time frame throughout the day allowing for a longer fast overnight can also be beneficial.
Intermittent fasting is a great way of lowering your insulin levels, but it takes a bit of fine-tuning to get it right. If you’re new to the idea, start by consulting a medical professional or nutritional expert. The next step is to find a routine that suits your metabolism. Some people prefer to fast for longer periods less frequently, while others find more frequent but shorter fasts more effective. The key is experimenting. You could try fasting for a few days every couple of months, or try simply skipping dinner and fasting for eighteen hours before breakfast. remember to keep yourself well hydrated during whatever plan you go with and stop if you feel sick!
Type 2 diabetes differs significantly from type 1 diabetes. Whereas type 1 is characterized by low insulin levels, type 2 is a product of dangerously high insulin levels which, in turn, leads to insulin resistance and a range of serious health issues. The good news is that type 2 diabetes doesn’t have to be forever. Combine reduced carbs and a change in diet with intermittent fasting and you’ll be well on your way to recovery.
There are many other ways in which you can support your body in managing your type 2 diabetes and reducing your blood sugar levels but these 3 key tips will definitely get you started in the right direction.
- Avoid added sugar on the dining table and in the products you eat
- Switch from refined carbohydrates to wholegrain foods such as whole wheat bread, pasta and brown rice.
- Try intermittent fasting perhaps starting with longer overnight fasts
You should always consult a professional when looking to make any major changes to your diet and lifestyle, especially if you are on medication.
If you want more support with tacking your type 2 diabetes or getting control of your pre-diabetes and preventing it from becoming type 2 then please get in touch with Helen at Helen Jane Nutrition. As a qualified nutritional therapist that specialises in this area Helen has worked with many clients to lower their blood sugar levels and take back control of their own health.
So if you’re still not quite sure where to start, or you want more details on how to implement the changes and feel you need that support from someone that has even done this themselves, then you don’t need to look any further.