Putting Type 2 Diabetes Into Remission

Diabetes has been hitting the headlines for years, closely followed by pre-diabetes. It is one of the fastest rising chronic diseases in the UK and in fact the world. Its complication rates are monumental, and the cost to patient quality of life and the NHS is devastating.

Until very recently it was a long held belief that type 2 diabetes was a chronic, progressive disease. It slowly got worse until if you were really “naughty” you ended up on the dreaded insulin. Today in a new wave of knowledge, research findings and the strength to experiment we are kicking out this idea and embracing the chance to change. Media and research papers coined the term ‘reverse diabetes’, however a more sensible approach would be to say it is possible to put one’s type 2 diabetes into remission. We can through some simple but consistent changes at the very least push it into remission. 

Type 2 and pre-diabetes (not to be mistaken for Type 1, an autoimmune condition) are often caused by something called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance starts years if not decades before we even know about it. In simple terms it means our bodies at one point due to chronic sugar overload stop responding to the insulin the pancreas is naturally producing. Ie. Our inherent coping systems to regulate sugar starts to diminish. The key piece of information we have today, is that this insulin resistance can be altered by simply cutting down the sugar saturated state our body is living in, and burning off the excesses we carry.

Obesity, a diet high in refined sugars, carbohydrates and fat, and reduced exercise levels all contribute strongly to type 2 diabetes. The alarming government figures for 2018 show 61% of adults in UK are overweight or obese. 1 in10 children are obese by the age of 5, and 1 in 5 children are overweight by the age of 11. These rates are rising year on year, something needs to be done. Obesity is the single most contributory factor to development of type 2 diabetes.

What can we do?

1. Diet

Low carbohydrate Mediterranean diets are found to be the most effective to improving sugar control. This is a diet rich in a broad variety of vegetables, healthy unsaturated fats like oily fish, avocado, olive oil, and nuts like almonds. Highly processed carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, also rice, potatoes and alike should be avoided.

Aim for around 50% of you plate to be made of brightly coloured vegetables, keep only a quarter for carbohydrates. Better choices of carbohydrates include, bulgar wheat, cous cous, and quinoa.

Consume less sugar. Too much sugar and foods containing sugar can cause the blood glucose levels to rise. It is best to replace these with lower sugar and sugar free foods instead.

Avoid snacking. We don’t need it, and we are simply hoovering up excess sugar and carbs, excess empty calories. If you’re hungry, wait, wait again and drink some water. Eat proper meals, you won’t feel hungry in between.

2. Very low calorie diets

This has been shown to help with reversal of type 2 diabetes. It is probably my least favourite because it is very hard to sustain in the real world. The idea is that fat is removed through weight loss from essential organs and cells which helps insulin function better. Sticking to around 800kcal per day has been shown to have drastic effects on weight reduction and in turn blood glucose control. As already mentioned, it is not very sustainable. In addition, if you are taking glucose lowering medication this can cause major problems. Avoid, or consult your doctor prior to embarking on this journey.

3. Exercise

Moving more burns off the extra sugar in our blood stream. Aerobic exercise helps burn calories away whilst releasing endorphins and adrenaline to stimulate our pleasure centre. Hopefully we will be encouraged to make healthier food choices afterwards. In combination with a good diet, exercise can really help push back on insulin resistance and put diabetes into remission.

Aim for 30 mins of exercise or movement at least five times per week. Involve the family to motivate you, make it a routine.

Brisk walking, swimming, running, or cycling are all great forms of cardio. In fact anything will help, as long as we move off the sofa and onto our feet.

4. Look inside

Give yourself space to think, reflect and unwind.

Meditation helps keeps our inner system calmer and more relaxed. Having a calmer inside means we tend to take better care of ourselves.

Did you know hunger is only one of up to thirty reasons why we eat. If we all ate listening only to our hunger alarm we would be a nation of slimmer, healthier people.

Some of the many other reasons we eat include stress, boredom, reward or failure. This is also called emotional eating. The sense of food entering the body gives some people a momentary sense of release or pleasure from dark, sad thoughts and feelings. Focusing on the reasons we overeat can be the stepping stone to implementing the rest of this journey to change.

Any advice around adjusting diets/losing weight and stopping medication must be implemented with the support of a healthcare professional. Not all cases of type 2 are reversible and it is important to know this plan must be delivered on a case by case situation.

If you are concerned you might be pre-diabetic, or would like to look into better managing your diabetes, contact us to arrange a consultation with one of our GPs