Diabetes is an epidemic—there’s no other way to put it. But reversing prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes is possible, it just requires some simple lifestyle choices. Here’s how common the disease really is:
- The number of people with diabetes worldwide has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014.
- The global prevalence of diabetes among adults over 18 years of age has risen from 4.7% in 1980 to 8.5% in 2014. (1)
- In North America, almost 10% of American and 9% of Canadian adults have diabetes, and it’s the number one killer disease in Mexico. (2,3)
- Add to these the numbers of people with pre-diabetes and the percentages triple. The prevalence of diabetes is expected to increase to 44% by 2025, including children. (4)
- The World Health Organization projects that diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death worldwide by 2030.
Dr. Mark Hyman is a physician and Medical Director at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, New York Times best-selling author, and founder of The UltraWellness Center (5). He has coined the term “diabesity” for this condition, which is the precursor to other life-threatening diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
What’s Causing the Epidemic?
The average American consumes 156 pounds of added sugar in a year, 17 times more than 200 years ago. Processed foods, so rich in carbohydrates and chemicals, add to that sugar burden. Bombarding the body with sugar causes what’s not used for fuel to be stored as fat. It also makes us resistant to the insulin our pancreases produce to regulate blood sugar because the entire body is overloaded. What’s causing diabesity is not a bug or a contagion—it’s our diet and lifestyle.
Since it’s an acquired condition, diabesity is both preventable and curable.
Reversing Type 2 Diabetes Naturally in 7 Steps
Dr. Hyman has proven in his practice that by changing diet and lifestyle choices, his patients drastically and quickly lose weight and reverse diabetes. Here are his 7 strategies (6).
1. Cut the Sugar
The primary culprit of diabesity is sugar. When sugar is metabolized, the body reacts with inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a known cause of illness, including neurodegenerative disease, hypertension, decreased libido, and depression.
2. Eat Whole, Unprocessed Foods
It’s really very simple: eat real food. Avoid processed foods and refined carbs (which are present in refined grains and refined sugars. Examples of refined grains: bread and tortillas containing white flour, bagels, waffles and pastries, breakfast cereals, white rice, and pizza. Examples of refined sugars: flavored yogurt, cakes, soda, fruit juice, and smoothies, pasta sauce, condiments, such as ketchup or BBQ sauce, and granola)
- A variety of fiber-rich vegetables, and fruits of different colors – pigments in produce give us antioxidants to reduce inflammation and regulate blood sugar.
- Whole grains – oats, millet, buckwheat, barley, rye, etc. Keep inflammatory wheat to a minimum.
- Legumes – peas, beans, lentils.
- Herbs and spices – whatever you like, as much as you like, for flavor and innumerable health benefits. Herbs detoxify and regulate body systems.
- Healthy omega-3 fats – your brain needs fats, as do every other cell in your body for proper function. Eat more avocado; olive, coconut, and sesame oils; nuts and seeds (also a great protein source!), and fish oil.
- Lean proteins – organic/grass-fed meats, wild fish, organic free-range eggs, and vegetarian protein.
Healthy humans have eaten these bounties of nature since the dawn of time. After all, they’re on the planet to nourish and sustain us.
Whole foods work with the body’s chemistry to turn on the right genes for proper metabolism. Once they hit a factory and are mixed with stuff you can’t pronounce, they are adulterated and compromised.
Cook at home so you know exactly what you’re getting.
3. Get the Right Nutrients
“Your fork, the most powerful tool to transform your health and change the world” is Dr. Hyman’s prominent declaration on his site’s homepage. (7) Hippocrates (the founder of modern medicine) likely inspired him with this motto: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.
If you eat what your body needs and cut out what is harmful, it will work toward its natural state of good health.
Important nutrients that regulate blood sugar and improve sugar metabolism include:
- omega-3 fatty acids, including ALA (alpha-lipoic acid)
- vitamin D3
- chromium (8)
- dietary fiber
4. Get Regular Exercise
You don’t have to spend 3 hours a day at a gym, nor do you have to feel pain to improve your health and get the benefits of exercise and reverse diabesity. A brisk 30-minute walk will work wonders.
The idea is to engage in an activity that increases your heart rate to 70-80% of your heart’s capacity, which depends on your age, weight, and current physical condition. If you’re not used to regular aerobic exercise, work up to optimal heart rate for 60 minutes 5-6 times a week.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a type of exercise that involves repeated periods of high-intensity effort followed by periods of recovery. This mode of exercise is particularly effective in reversing diabesity.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends:
“Regular physical activity will provide more health benefits than sporadic, high-intensity workouts, so choose exercises you are likely to enjoy and that you can incorporate into your schedule.
“ACSM’s physical activity recommendations for healthy adults, updated in 2011, recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (working hard enough to break a sweat, but still able to carry on a conversation) five days per week, or 20 minutes of more vigorous activity three days per week. Try a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity to meet this recommendation.
“Examples of typical aerobic exercises are: walking, running, stair climbing, cycling, rowing, cross-country skiing, swimming.
“In addition, strength training should be performed a minimum of two days each week, with 8-12 repetitions of 8-10 different exercises that target all major muscle groups. This type of training can be accomplished using body weight, resistance bands, free weights, medicine balls or weight machines.” (11)
If you have diabetes, are overweight, or have any other health condition, consult your healthcare practitioner before beginning any new exercise regimen.
Read more: mango leaves for diabetes
5. Get Enough Sleep
The importance of adequate, good quality sleep is often under-estimated.
Regular exercise helps sleep quality as well.
6. Control Stress
Inflammation is a contributing factor to diabesity. Further, overeating and poor eating choices (“comfort food”) are common reactions to stress, exacerbating the problem.
There are healthy means to alleviate and manage stress (yoga, exercise, meditation, social interaction, acupressure, music, engaging in activities you enjoy, essential oils, etc.)—find some that work for you and keep the junk food out of your home.
7. Measure Your Progress
Dr. Hyman recommends charting your progress, citing research that those who do are more successful in managing weight and blood glucose. This doesn’t mean counting calories and getting on a bathroom scale every day—that can be counter-productive.
Dr. Hyman suggests:
- Before you change anything, take baseline measurements: weight, waist circumference, body mass index (find an easy calculator here), and blood pressure (optional).
- After changing your eating and activity habits as outlined above, measure again once a week or so and keep a log of your progress. This will show you how fast and how well you’re doing. It won’t take long to see a difference. You are doing this by yourself, for yourself and measuring improvement will encourage and inspire you to keep going!
“Diabesity” doesn’t have to be a death sentence—Dr. Hyman attests to his fact. By changing the factors that got you to where you are, reversing diabetes is completely possible.