LIVING with type 2 diabetes can cause all kinds of complications and issues.
From injecting insulin every day to running the risk of having amputations and heart issues, it’s a condition that no one chooses to have.
But it’s also a condition that many people don’t need continue living with.
Because it is possible to reverse the symptoms and put it into remission.
There’s no specific “diabetes diet” and as with any kind of weight loss, what works for one person might not suit another.
But some people who have put their diabetes into remission have done so following the Mediterranean diet or by following a low-carb approach.
Losing as little as 5 per cent of your body weight, or 15kg, can have a massive impact on the condition.
1. Eat like the Italians
The Mediterranean diet is one that has existed for centuries.
It’s how the Italians and Greeks eat – whole grains, oily fish, olive oil, lots of fresh fruit and veg and very little processed grub.
Although diabetes is a disease concerning blood sugar, it’s not just sugar we should be concerned about.
You want to be eating to bring down blood pressure and cholesterol too – and the Mediterranean diet has been proven to be one of the most heart-healthy ways of eating out there.
A review of 17 studies found that a Meditteranean-style diet was found to improve fasted glucose levels for people with type 2 diabetes far more than a low-fat diet.
A 2008 study found that people who eat a Meditteranean diet have an 83 per cent lower chance of developing diabetes.
Two trials concluded that eating like the Italians reduced cardiovascular issues and risk of early death.
How to eat like an Italian
Even without counting calories, there are huge benefits to eating a more Meditteranean diet.
You want to be focusing on whole foods – avoiding anything processed or pre-packaged.
Load up on good fats and lean proteins, chow down on fresh fruit and veg and make sure that when you are having carbs, you’re choosing whole grains.
- nut butters
- olive oil
- chicken and other white meats
- eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day – loading up at every single meal
- always choose brown bread and rice over white varieties
- whole food options are better than processed
2. Go low-carb
A low-carb Med diet (where half of daily calories came from fats like avocados, hummus, olive oil, cheese), has been found to have an even greater benefit than a higher carb one.
For some people, it might be easier just to ditch the carbs completely for a while, to kick-start their weight loss.
Reversing diabetes is a long-term project – and hopefully, a lifetime result.
So, by all means, start off with something dramatic but bear in mind that you’ll have to transition to something sustainable.
The keto diet has been proven to decrease blood glucose levels.
A 24-week study looked at the effect of a low-carb diet on type 2 diabetics.
Scientists found that by the end, the patients had seen massive improvements to their glycemic control and medication reduction compared to others.
And a 2017 study found that the keto diet outperformed a conventional, low-fat diabetes diet over 32 weeks when it came to weight loss and glucose levels.
How to do ‘lazy keto’
You don’t have to track calories or macros to go keto.
Concentrate on making sure that your plate ratio looks balanced.
A general rule of thumb make sure:
- half of your plate is always taken up with green veg like broccoli, spinach and kale which are high in vitamins, minerals and fibre and very low in calories
- the rest of the plate is made up from lean proteins and healthy fats like oily fish, chicken, avocados, nuts and eggs
Keto doesn’t mean going without fruit and veg – that’s a common misconception.
“Low carb/keto done correctly should be full of good gut boosting foods, including fibre from the vegetables,” nutritionist Sarah Flower previously told The Sun.
If you are going to cut out grains, then it’s absolutely crucial to make sure that you’re getting at least five portions of veg a day.
Keto may also work for women who have developed diabetes as a result of having polycystic ovarian syndrome.
PCOS survivors have a heightened risk of the condition due to the fact that up to 80 per cent of them have some kind of insulin resistance.
Clare Goodwin, the PCOS Nutritionist, previously told The Sun: “Weight gain in PCOS is usually caused by something called insulin resistance (or pre-type 2 diabetes), and up to 80 per cent of women with PCOS have some insulin resistance.
Failing to regulate blood sugar is what causes intense sugar cravings.
“Insulin is your ‘storage’ hormone. When you eat, your body releases insulin to store that food (glucose) in your cells for later use.
“Insulin acts like a key in a lock, to let the glucose in. But insulin resistance is when the key doesn’t fit into the lock properly anymore. In response, your body produces more and more insulin – hoping that more insulin will be the key that finally fits the lock.”
Clare says that the consequence is two-fold: Your body stores food as fat rather than energy, and insulin stays high – stopping the body from burning fat as energy.
And that’s why it’s so hard to get rid of body fat – because your body is actively working against you to store up any food you consume, rather than burning it.
That high insulin can also cause the body to over-produce testosterone, and it’s that which is responsible for PCOS sufferers to have irregular periods, acne, hair growth or loss, and also makes the insulin resistance worse.
3. Try intermittent fasting
If you’d rather not think about what you eat rather than when you eat, fasting might be a good option.
The 16:8 fast (where you eat all your food within an eight-hour window) has been proven to be a good way of lowering blood glucose and shifting body fat
A recent study found that fasting from 2pm improved insulin sensitivity in a group of pre-diabetic males.
And that could be down to the fact that we’re better able to regulate blood glucose levels effectively in the morning, due to daily variations in metabolism.
So having hearty meals during the day and skipping dinner could be key.
Another small study looked at three type 2 diabetic men.
Two were asked to fast for 24 hours every other day and one was told to fast for three days a week.
At the end of the 10-month trial, they had all lost weight, lowered their blood glucose and had been able to stop using insulin after a month.
In one case, the person stopped having to use medication after just five days.
“This present case series showed that 24-hour fasting regimens can significantly reverse or eliminate the need for diabetic medication,” concluded the authors.
Health benefits of fasting
Aside from weight loss, fasting is believed to have a number of health benefits.
- better blood sugar control: blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes patients have been found to decrease significantly after a period of intermittent fasting
- reduced inflammation: one study in 50 healthy adults showed that intermittent fasting for one month significantly decreased levels of inflammatory markers
- better heart health and blood pressure: scientists looked at 4,629 people and found that fasting gave them lower risk of coronary artery disease, as well as a significantly lower risk of diabetes, which is a major risk factor for heart disease
- boosted brain function: because of the reduction in inflammation, fasting is thought to help with brain function and the reduction of age-related mental decline
- increased growth hormone production: vital for metabolism and muscle strength. Well maintained blood sugar and insulin levels can help with growth hormone production
- delayed aging and longer life: scientists found that rats that fasted every other day experienced a delayed rate of aging and lived 83 per cent longer than rats that didn’t fast
- potential cancer-busting properties: research is limited but there have been studies that have found alternate-day fasting helped block tumor formation
4. Get running
There’s no getting away from it – exercise is key in reversing type 2 diabetes.
Being sedentary is known to be a risk factor for type 2 diabetes so you’ve got to get moving.
You don’t have to be an athlete to get started.
“Eating healthily and doing regular physical activity like running can help you manage your weight and ultimately lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes,” Douglas Twenefour, Deputy Head of Care at Diabetes UK, told The Sun.
“Nobody is expecting you to become a marathon runner overnight but running regularly benefits the body in a number of ways which will ultimately help prevent or manage the condition.
Why not follow our 12 easy tips to start running? They include power walking and treating yourself, so there’s no excuse not to lace up and get out of your door!
Douglas explains why running is so good:
Using insulin more effectively
When you’re living with type 2 diabetes, the insulin your body produces can be less effective at processing the glucose in your blood, which can lead to glucose building up in your bloodstream.
Running can help your body use the insulin it produces more efficiently, meaning your body becomes more effective at processing the glucose in your blood.
This helps keep blood glucose levels in the short-term healthy range (4-7 millimoles per litre).
Diabetes – the facts
Diabetes UK estimates that more than half of all cases of type 2 diabetes could have been prevented or delayed, with obesity being responsible for up to 85 per cent of someone’s risk of developing the condition.
So an obvious solution is to change the way you eat and move.
The experts at Diabetes UK don’t call it “reversal” because there’s no guarantee that once your blood sugars have stabilised, they’ll stay like that forever.
But they say that it’s certainly possible to put your diabetes into remission – meaning that your blood sugar levels are below the diabetes range and you no longer need to take your medications.
4.7 million Brits currently live with diabetes – 90 per cent of which have the type 2 version of the disease.
More people than ever are at risk of developing type 2 and if nothing changes, over 5 million of us will have it by 2025.
That’s terrifying, given that every week, more than 500 people die prematurely as a result of their condition.
Every single week in the UK, diabetes causes:
- 169 amputations
- 680 strokes
- 530 heart attacks
- almost 2,000 cases of heart failure
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes can include:
- going to the toilet a lot, especially at night
- being really thirsty
- feeling more tired than usual
- losing weight without trying to
- genital itching or thrush
- cuts and wounds that take longer to heal
- blurred vision
Lowering short-term glucose level
Exercise like running can increase the amount of glucose your body’s muscles use for energy, which in turn can help to lower blood glucose levels in the short-term.
This is important because a short-term rise in blood glucose levels can lead to symptoms such as the need to urinate more; thirstiness; and tiredness.
Maintaining a short-term blood glucose level of 4-7 millimoles per litre lowers the risk of developing such symptoms.
However, different people could be given different blood glucose targets depending on how their diabetes is treated and their personal circumstance.
Lowering long-term glucose levels
Running not only helps keep glucose levels low in the short-term.
More effective processing of the glucose in your blood helps it stay within the healthy long-term range too.
Having high long-term blood glucose levels (HbA1c) of more than 48 millimoles per moles over time has been associated with life-changing complications of diabetes such as sight loss, kidney disease and amputations.
Running regularly will keep your long-term glucose levels in check, which in turn can prevent damage to the blood vessels supplying blood to your eyes, kidneys and nerves.
If you hate running, find another exercise that you do enjoy.
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Dancing, swimming, cycling – anything that gets your heart rate up.
Just remember to check with your GP before you start so they can give you tips on how to stay hydrated and healthy while you get fitter!
Simplyhealth has partnered with Diabetes UK for the 2019 Simplyhealth Great Run Series. For expert tips and training advice visit www.greatrun.org/training-simplyhealth
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