Some diabetics must inject insulin to survive.

Some diabetics need insulin to survive.

Up to one third of us unfortunate Americans are predicted to have type 2 diabetes within my lifetime, so I think it’s about time we hash out the ins and outs of the disease.

If you are overweight or eating a typical American diet, you may be at high risk for type 2 diabetes.  A type 2 diabetes diagnosis means years of taking frustrating semi-effective medication or even daily insulin injections.  On top of that, your doctor will tell you that you have to completely reverse your eating and exercising habits, which is a near impossible task because it’s always just too late.  I wouldn’t wish diabetes on anyone, so today let’s look at how diabetes works and how you can prevent it.

First of all, let’s talk about type 2 diabetes’ less common cousin, type 1 diabetes.  Type 1 accounts for only 5-10% of all diabetes cases.  Its causes are unclear, but it is generally considered to be an autoimmune disorder like a thyroid problem wherein the body has attacked its own pancreas, making the production of the hormone insulin impossible or very limited.  Insulin processes sugar and carbohydrates by helping cells use them for energy or store them as fat.  With no insulin production of their own, type 1 diabetics are forced to inject a certain amount of insulin on a daily basis depending on how many carbs/sugars (remember that carbs become sugar as they are digested) are consumed.  Think of it like this: type 1 diabetes is blood sugar control on manual.

On the other hand, type 2 diabetics actually produce plenty of insulin.  Type 2 is characterized by insulin resistance.  The pancreas has produced plenty of insulin to deal with all of the incoming sugar, but the cells have grown sick of dealing with all of it.  Picture a bloated fat cell that just can’t store any more fat.  When insulin rolls up with some sugar trying to get in the door, the cell says it ain’t open.  At this point, too much sugar is hanging around in the blood stream, and type 2 diabetes has begun.

Type 2 diabetes in its earlier stages is called prediabetes, but really there is no difference between type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.  Prediabetics must act right away to turn their diabetes around.  If your doctor tells you not to worry about it until it gets worse, get a new doctor.

Can type 2 diabetes be reversed? Unlike type 1, type 2 can certainly be turned around, but not for everybody and it certainly isn’t easy.  Those who have been diagnosed with type 2 or prediabetes should work with a doctor and do the things listed below, as simple as they are, and try to deviate from their treatment plan as rarely as possible.

How can we prevent or reverse type 2 diabetes? Lots of people have different ideas about this, and what you read here is NOT what most doctors will tell you.   Many doctors get their patients all worried about things like low fat diets and getting to the gym 12 times a week, but these are secondary in my eyes.

The absolute most important thing to do to prevent diabetes is to eat a low carb diet.  I look at it like this: the most important thing for the health of a diabetic is to control their blood sugar.  When you eat carbs, your blood sugar goes up.  If you don’t want high blood sugar, eat less carbs.  It’s so simple, yet so many of us are obviously failing to follow this vital guideline.

What do I mean by low carb? I don’t mean you should switch to whole wheat carbs.  I really don’t even care about whole grain carbs.  Whole wheat bread and a pile of sugar have more similarities than most of us want to realize.

Here is a list of some completely reckless meals:

  • Cereal with skim milk and a glass of juice
  • Pizza and a soda
  • Pasta with premade spaghetti sauce and bread on the side
  • Meat with rice, starchy vegetables, AND dessert
  • A bagel with cream cheese and jelly

Meals should be balanced: a low or moderate amount of carbs, plenty of protein, plenty of fat.  The meals above aren’t good for anybody.  Things like fruit, starchy vegetables, and sprouted grain bread can be part of a healthy diet, so long as they are strictly limited by those who are at risk for or have diabetes.

There are other things we should all be doing that will also help us prevent diabetes, but these are the same things everyone should do to stay healthy.  We should exercise regularly so we pump the body and actually use some of the glucose we eat.  We should sleep at night and get sun on our skin so our hormones are in balance.  We should eat a diet with lots of whole foods so we get the vitamins and nutrients our bodies need.  If we are overweight, we should use a low carb diet and anaerobic exercise to take it off.  If anyone needs serious help with diabetes, please contact me.

Best wishes to those facing this disease.  Take care everybody.


5 responses to “Diabetes?

  1. I would not wish to underscore the importance of what is said above because it all seems to make sense. As a side note however, I was looking at statistics and a few sites I read claimed that 7.8% of Americans had diabetes in 2007 and 90% of those Americans had Type 2. This included undiagnosed diabetes. I’ll take any low statistics I can get to avoid the fear of diabetes. 🙂

    Thanks for the advice, by the way. I feel much more alert and less drowsy since I decreased my sugar intake.

  2. great article, sam.
    how about giving some examples of “good” meals? or a typical day’s eating plan to help people get started if they need it?

  3. Med student Rob

    great article. Many physicians were trained in the 90’s (and earlier) that once someone has type 2 diabetes it is best to prescribe insulin injections. The thought being that if it takes more insulin for the cells to respond, hey lets provide a higher baseline of insulin. However, as you said the cells have had enough, and the patient needs to lose the weight. It is near impossible to lose the weight with extra insulin packing your cells with fat!
    In international medical circles, it is now best to avoid insulin injections as long as possible, to allow that chance to turn type 2 around. If a patient hops on the insulin bandwagon too soon, it is practically inevitable they will lose digits and have kidney failure.

    **note in type 1 insulin is necessary and not troublesome in the same way.

  4. Thanks for the comments, and allow me to make some belated responses.

    Ash – Overcoming a sugar addiction is tough stuff! Now you just have to overcome the carbs too haha. Anyway, the statistics for today are way to low because many of the diabetics have not yet been diagnosed, but in general I’m not worried about today’s situation as that of the future.

    Sherry – Look forward to an article about what you can eat soon. I’ve been meaning to write about real food for a while; that was actually my original intent for the evolution article, which obviously spiraled out of control.

    Young – great article, thanks.

    Rob – Thanks for the good information. Avoiding insulin is a goal of many type 2 diabetics, and that is certainly valid. Unfortunately, I don’t support the standard type 2 medication (metformin) because it doesn’t reverse the condition or prevent it from getting worse. It mainly just masks the numbers. Many diabetics who go on metformin find that their numbers get way worse when they go off of it. There are no easy solutions. I just recommend a radical low carb diet heavy in non-processed foods combined with a newly active lifestyle, but obviously this doesn’t work for everybody..

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