Type 2 diabetes: a ‘reversible’ lifestyle disease
Type 2 diabetes (T2D) currently affects 4.7 million people in the UK, that’s about one in 15 people, with an estimated additional one million not yet diagnosed. Not only can this disease have terrible personal consequences on pretty much every organ in the body if not managed properly, but T2D currently costs a huge £10 billion a year to the NHS (i.e. £25k per every minute!). It is even predicted that if T2D continues to increase at the current rate, the NHS would be bankrupt by 2025!
When you have T2D, your body is unable to bring down your blood glucose levels due to not being able to respond adequately to insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that, when working adequately shuffles glucose from the bloodstream into the cells for energy.
The three most obvious symptoms of T2D include feeling thirsty all the time, needing the loo more often than usual (especially at night) and feeling unusually tired. If left unmanaged, T2D can damage your eyesight, kidneys, cardiovascular system (with higher risks of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, atherosclerosis, erectile dysfunction), neuropathy (muscles weakness, numbness or pain), lower your immunity and, in extreme cases, can also lead to limb amputations.
The current NHS management of T2D combines blood glucose monitoring, medication (with associated side effects), dietary changes, exercise and insulin therapy. Whilst some factors can prime an individual to T2D, some non-modifiable such as age, genetic predisposition, ethnicity (South Asians, African-Caribbean or Black African), and some modifiable such as obesity, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, alcohol, poor sleep and high stress, it is now thought that T2D can be prevented and even reversed thanks to adequate nutrition and lifestyle adjustments. Below are my 10 top tips to get you started (these are only the tip of the iceberg!):
1. Lose weight
Although not all diabetics are overweight, it is often a common shared feature with adipose (fat) tissues contributing to inflammation.
2. Reduce inflammation
Avoid processed foods and meat, refined carbs, sugar and sweeteners and alcohol. Adopt a Mediterranean style-diet instead rich in antioxidants which includes plenty of fresh vegetables, some fruits (especially berries), nuts and seeds, fish and seafood and olive oil.
3. Balance your macronutrients (fats, carbs and protein)
Consider reducing carbs significantly whilst increasing good fats and protein in your diet.
4. Address possible vitamins and minerals deficiencies
Especially vitamins A, C, E, D, B1, B6, Biotin, B12 and folate (with those last two being depleted by Metformin, a common medication used to lower blood sugar) as well as calcium, magnesium, sodium, chromium, cobalt, iodine, iron, selenium, manganese and zinc.
5. Don’t overeat
Watch your portion sizes and avoid eating or snacking late at night.
6. Drink enough water
Aim to drink 2 to 4L a day.
7. Choose the right kind of exercise
Strength or resistance training may be more helpful than aerobic cardio in some cases but more importantly, do some exercise that you enjoy.
8. Ensure good quality sleep
Sleep deprivation or poor sleep may overtime decrease your body’s ability to respond to insulin and therefore increase your blood sugar levels.
9. Manage stress
Why not try mindfulness or meditation to dampen high cortisol (stress hormone) levels which can contribute to both high blood sugar levels and inflammation.
10. Seek help from a Registered Nutritional Therapist for more personalised advice
There are many more factors to consider in the management of T2D and unfortunately, lots of pre-diabetic or diabetic patients can struggle to find the right advice. Working with a professional with training in nutrition is recommended.