Type 2 Diabetes: The Cause & The Most Effective Way To Reverse It

doctor that treats type 2 diabetes holding a heart sign that says diabetes

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More than 1 in 10 people in the United States has type 2 diabetes. That’s pretty staggering. This lifestyle driven condition also leads to other chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, liver disease, kidney disease, vision problems, neurological issues, and weakened immune system. If that isn’t enough to make your jaw drop, statistics show it’s the 7th leading cause of death in this country. Wild!

These stats blow my mind, but this article isn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, I want to talk about something really positive and uplifting… type 2 diabetes can be reversed with lifestyle! It’s true. 

While this has been known by many for a long time, the ADA (American Diabetes Association) came out with Diabetes Remission Criteria in 2021, acknowledging that it can be reversed. Previously the ADA had considered type 2 diabetes a progressive disease. 

In this article we’ll cover what diabetes is, the symptoms associated with this condition, what the common causes are, and the most effective way to reverse it.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic metabolic condition characterized by high levels of blood glucose (sugar) and high levels of insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps glucose enter the cells to be used for cellular energy production.

Underfill versus Overflow

When insulin levels are too high for a prolonged period of time and there is a resulting dysfunction with glucose metabolism, it’s referred to as insulin resistance. The old way of thinking about insulin resistance in the case of diabetes was that dysfunctional insulin signaling was preventing enough glucose from getting into the cell, suggesting a lack of glucose (underfill) inside the cell. This way of thinking may be flawed.

Dr. Jason Fung, a medical doctor and author of The Diabetes Code, presents another mechanism that makes more sense. He explains that it’s not necessarily an issue with insulin being unable to get enough glucose into the cell, but rather it’s an overflow problem…insulin can’t get MORE glucose into the cell because there’s already too much glucose there. The cell is already at capacity so to speak, and the cell simply can’t allow more in.

What Happens To Excess Sugar?

Type 2 diabetes is a result of too much glucose in the body and in the cell. The body struggles to process what’s there and, with the Standard American Diet, more just continues to pour in. What does the body do with excess glucose that can’t immediately be turned into cellular energy (ATP)? It turns that sugar into fat. That’s why most people with type 2 diabetes also have elevated triglyceride levels and are more likely to carry excess weight, especially in the abdominal area.

The elevated blood glucose, insulin and triglyceride levels characteristic of type 2 diabetes can lead to serious health issues over time, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, liver disease, neurological issues, vision problems, and a weakened immune system. Needless to say, it’s a real problem that should not be put on the backburner!

abdominal fat

What Tests Indicate When You Officially Have Type 2 Diabetes?

You have an official type 2 diabetes diagnosis when you have a hemoglobin A1c test over 6.5% on two separate tests, or a fasting blood glucose level over 126 mg/dL on two separate tests.  Insulin resistance precedes diabetes, so getting insulin tested can help to catch diabetes before it progresses. An optimal insulin level is less than 6 uIU/mL.

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

When there is too much insulin, glucose, and triglycerides flooding the system, it often leads to increased inflammation, and can cause a host of symptoms. Common symptoms that people with type 2 diabetes experience include:

  • Fatigue
  • Increase in hunger or thirst
  • Frequent urination (most common at night)
  • Vision problems
  • Numbness, tingling, or pain in the hands or feet
  • Slow wound healing
  • Weakened immunity (frequent infections)
  • Losing weight without trying to
  • Areas of darkened skin (most common around the neck and armpits)
  • Poor circulation

 

It’s worth noting that not everyone with type 2 diabetes has symptoms, and the severity of symptoms from person to person can vary significantly. 

It’s important to be proactive when it comes to your health! Data is key here, so talk to your doctor about testing your hemoglobin A1c, glucose levels, and insulin.

Common Causes of Type 2 Diabetes

Based on what we talked about above, we can see that the root cause is too much sugar. The single most important determinant or risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, is diet. Americans tend to consume a diet excessively high in carbohydrates. 

Other environmental, genetic, and lifestyle factors that can increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes include:

  • Being overweight or obese 
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Certain nutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies, such as inositol (a sugar produced by the body that supports healthy insulin and blood glucose regulation), Vitamin D, zinc, chromium, and magnesium
  • Having a family history of diabetes
  • Being over the age of 45
  • Being of certain ethnicities, including Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
  • A history of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
  • Having blood sugar levels above normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes (aka prediabetes) 
  • Having dysbiosis, or disruption of the gut microbiome (the trillions of microorganisms that live in the gastrointestinal tract)
  • Exposure to toxins such as Bisphenol A (BPA, a chemical used in plastics), arsenic, and dioxin, among others
  • Disruption in the circadian rhythm, which includes disrupted sleep patterns 
  • Sex hormone dysfunction is also associated with the development of type 2 diabetes – for example, men with low testosterone and women with high testosterone and low SHBG (such as in PCOS) are at increased risk

 

Having these risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop diabetes, but it’s important to be aware of them so you can make lifestyle modifications to reduce your risk. Speaking of lifestyle changes…

Type 2 diabetes IS reversible! 🤸 BUT you can’t reverse it with the same lifestyle that caused it. 🤯 Lifestyle change is necessary.

low carb foods in a low carb diet

The Most Effective Way to Reverse Type 2 Diabetes

Given that this condition is largely driven by lifestyle, the best way to approach reversing it is to address lifestyle.

Nutrition

What better place to start than with nutrition. If the underlying root cause of the metabolic glucose dysfunction in type 2 diabetes is that there’s simply too much of it for the body to process, the obvious solution is to reduce the amount of glucose entering the body. There are a few ways to accomplish this.

Low-Carb or Ketogenic Diet

Reducing the amount of carbohydrates by implementing a low-carb or ketogenic diet, reduces the amount of glucose and shows significant improvements in blood glucose and insulin levels. 

In 2019 the American Diabetes Association (ADA) released a consensus report on nutritional therapy for adults with diabetes or prediabetes. When discussing eating patterns, the report states, “Reducing overall carbohydrate intake for individuals with diabetes has demonstrated the most evidence for improving glycemia.”

The ADA acknowledges that the nutritional intervention with the most evidence to improve glycemic control is reducing carbohydrate intake. 

This is why I use a low-carbohydrate ketogenic nutrition approach in the meal plans in the 5 Week Blood Sugar Reset program. It’s the most effective nutritional approach for reversing diabetes and prediabetes.

image signifying intermittent fasting with a plate that looks like an alarm clock

Intermittent Fasting

Another way to reduce carbohydrate intake is to incorporate a strategy like intermittent fasting, often also referred to as time-restricted feeding. Studies show intermittent fasting effectively lowers fasting glucose and insulin, reduces insulin resistance, and encourages weight loss in people with diabetes.

There are various strategies for intermittent fasting, such as fasting every other day 24 hours, or fasting for 24 hours one day a week, but my personal favorite is fasting for a certain period of time every day. This allows you to be consistent with your meal timing, which is an important part of maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm. 

We all fast while we’re sleeping, right? A fasting regimen that can be really easy for beginners is a simple 12 hour fasting window. For example, if you finish dinner by 7pm, wait until 7am to have breakfast. If that feels good, then work up from there. 

Many people use a 16:8 schedule, which is a 16 hour fasting window with an 8 hour eating window. This might look like finishing dinner by 6pm and eating breakfast at 10am. 

We talked about how disruptions in the circadian rhythm (more on the circadian rhythm here) can contribute to an increased risk for diabetes, so it’s important to use strategies that encourage a healthy circadian system. In addition to maintaining consistent meal times, it’s important to choose an eating window that includes eating breakfast and avoids eating too late in the evening. 

Studies show that skipping breakfast is associated with higher blood sugar levels and prediabetes. Eating in the evening negatively impacts the circadian rhythm, contributes to gut dysbiosis (imbalance in the gut microbiome), and worsens blood sugar regulation. 

Shifting to an earlier eating window shows better results with blood sugar control, for example eating dinner at 6pm instead of 9pm.

woman with type 2 diabetes walking for exercise

Other Lifestyle Factors

While nutrition is a major component of reversing diabetes and prediabetes, it’s not everything! There are other lifestyle factors that can have a significant impact on blood sugar control and insulin regulation, such as exercise, stress-management, and prioritizing quality sleep.

Take It One Step At A Time

Lifestyle change can be difficult, especially when you try to overhaul everything overnight. That leads to overwhelm and doesn’t always support long-term success. A better solution? Take it one step at a time! Work on nutrition first, then layer in another health-supporting strategy. This is exactly what we do in the 5 Week Blood Sugar Reset. We begin with nutrition and each week we layer in another strategy. Small steps every week lead to big changes down the road!

Conclusion

Type 2 diabetes is a result of a high body and cellular burden of glucose. Insulin resistance is typically the first sign that this condition is developing, so getting blood work to detect insulin resistance and blood sugar dysregulation is helpful for prevention. 

The most effective way to reverse insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar characteristic of diabetes is by implementing a low carbohydrate style of eating, such as a ketogenic diet. Intermittent fasting is another effective strategy to help in reversing this condition. 

Other lifestyle factors play a big role, but it’s important to take lifestyle changes one step at a time. Focus on the most effective strategy first (nutrition) and then layer in other health-supportive strategies when you’re ready.

Ready To Implement A Low-Carbohydrate Nutrition Plan?

I’ve created a 5 week program to help people with diabetes and prediabetes begin the journey towards reversing diabetes and prediabetes. The program utilizes a low-carbohydrate ketogenic nutrition plan for 4 weeks and during the last week of the program I guide you on how to move forward using a nutrition plan you enjoy that still supports your continued progress.

We also layer in other lifestyle practices that reverse insulin resistance and support better blood sugar balance, like physical activity (don’t worry, we start small!), stress-management, and getting deep, restorative sleep. 

You can find more information about the 5 Week Blood Sugar Reset HERE.

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