What Makes Type 2 Diabetes Reversible But Not Type 1?
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One of the most common diseases which affects a majority of the world's population is Diabetes. Diabetes is a condition where your body fails to effectively produce insulin which is responsible for breaking down sugar in the system, thereby creating a buildup of sugar in the bloodstream.
There are two main types of diabetes found in people, Type-1 Diabetes which usually begins in childhood and is considered an auto-immune condition.
Here, the cells that make insulin, the beta cells found in the pancreas, are themselve destroyed. Thus, a complete reversal of the disease is not possible. In Type 1 diabetes, the patient is dependent on external insulin injections to be taken daily.
The other most common type of diabetes is Type 2. This type usually occurs in adults. Type two diabetes is when the body makes it's own insulin, but for some reason, your cells are unable to use this properly. Type 2 diabetes is driven by your lifestyle and food choices. Working on improving the two often results in partial or complete reversal of the disease.
I have detailed articles explaining both the individual conditions here:
Although diabetes is a lifelong condition with no cure, studies have found that there are higher chances of reversing Type-2 diabetes; let us find out how.
About Type 2 Diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes, is a form of diabetes Mellitus which accounts for high blood sugar, insulin resistance and might even be driven by obesity.
In the US alone, 29 million people are suffering from diabetes, and about 84 million have pre-diabetes - thus, exposing them tot he disease if immediate lifestyle changes are not made.
Type 2 diabetes can also affect children and teens, occurring mostly because bad lifestyle or eating habits.
The primary cause of Type 2 diabetes is excessive saturated fat's, that clog's the cells in the body. This layer of saturated fats, prevents insulin from being absorbed in the body.
Without insulin, the body cannot breakdown excess sugars and store it in its stable form glycogen. This leaves the excess sugars to flow in your bloodstream, putting you at risk for chronic diseases and even death.
This inability of the body to break down sugar ultimately leads to disorders of the circulatory, nervous and immune systems.
Other than obesity, lifestyle play a vital role in the onset of the disease. A bad circadian health, improper bowel movements and stress can all contribute to insulin not doing its work properly. More about changing your lifestyle here:
Let us review some of the most common symptoms of Type 2 diabetes
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Blurred vision
- Numbness in hands and feet
- Areas of darkened skin mostly in the armpits/ neck region
- Fatigue most of the day
- Increased hunger
- Slow healing wounds
Complications that follow type 2 diabetes are far more difficult to manage than diabetes itself.
Since the disease has a major tendency to affect vital organs like the heart, kidneys, nerves, eyes and blood vessels, it is very important to take note of the potential comorbidities that include Type 2 diabetes.
- Neuropathy in limbs: High blood sugar over time destroys the nerves causing a burning/tingling sensation in the tips of the fingers and toes, this eventually spreads upwards, and in extreme conditions, it can result in the gradual loss of sensation in the limbs which ultimately have to be amputated. Apart from the limbs, nerve damage can also happen in the heart and the digestive system.
- Kidney disease: Diabetes may result in chronic kidney diseases, due to which a person may need to undergo dialysis or even a transplant.
- Eye damage: Cataracts, glaucoma, damage in the retina and potential blindness are the major constraints that diabetes can cause.
- Heart diseases: One of the most vital organs that is at an increased risk of damage is the heart. Diabetes is associated with high blood pressure, strokes and atherosclerosis ( the narrowing of the blood vessels)
- Apart from these, diabetes reduces immunity, leaving you open to bacterial and viral infections. It is also found that most people experience slow healing of cuts and wounds, hearing problems, increased infections, sleep apnea and, in the worst cases, Dementia and Alzheimers.
Earlier Type 2 diabetes occurred in older individuals only; however, with the onset of the widespread obesity epidemic, it is likely that a child may also start developing elevated blood sugar levels. I currently have a 15 year old child working with me who shows signs of type 2 diabetes.
Depending on the effect of external factors such as - weight gain, pregnancy, lack of physical activity etc., genetically predisposed patients are at a higher risk of developing diabetes.
However, it is absolutely crucial to note that genetics can only load the gun. It really is your lifestyle that pulls the trigger. As long as you can work on making sustainable lifestyle changes, genetics will have no effect int he outcome of your disease.
The cure for Type 1 Diabetes is really to make sure you clean up the saturated fats that surround the cells and blood vessels. As long as you can do that, insulin can act properly and do its job.
How would you do that?
This is a two way approach:
- Stop consuming foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol: Follow a low- fat whole- food plant based approach to help you achieve this. So consume fruits, vegetables, whole- grains, pulses, nuts/ seeds. Read the above blog for more clarity.
The more whole- foods you consume, the lesser saturated fats and cholesterol you consume to do more damage. Cholesterol is only found in animal foods. So completely stop consuming meat, dairy and eggs.
- Include a lot of fiber rich foods: Make sure to consume atleast three servings of pulses, five servings of raw/ cooked vegetables and two- three servings of fruits per day. Make sure to consume these whole, instead of in juice form. Besides that include whole- grains like brown rice, millets, oats, barley, etc to your hearts content. Avoid oil's completely though.
Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes
Generally, people are aware that both Type 1 and 2 diabetes involve a problem with the body’s production and use of insulin, but they often confuse the actual difference between them. For starters, Type 1 affects around 8% of people, while Type 2 affects about 90%
The actual differentiation between the two is that Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition in which the pancreatic cells that make insulin itself are destroyed to a large extent.
Auto- immune, is a condition in which your bodies own immune system is destroying a part of your body. In this case, it is the pancreas.
Type 1 diabetes is also known as juvenile diabetes and is usually diagnosed early in life. In Type 2 diabetes, the body creates insulin but is resistant to its efficient use. It is mainly lifestyle related and develops over time.
The risk factors are significantly known well for both types of diabetes. Hence we know why you might be more likely to get one type over the other; although mentioned briefly, these risk factors are not set in stone.
Patients with a first-degree relative with Type 1 diabetes who are younger in age ( mostly 4 to 14 years) or belong to a certain ethnic background (Caucasian, Hispanic, south Asian etc.) are at a higher risk of developing Type 1 diabetes.
But correlation might not mean causation here. We do now know that certain foods can directly destroy pancreatic cells. For instance, dairy. Watch this to understand more:
So if the dairy consumption of a family is high, that itself could trigger diabetes in the parent and kid. Likewise, cultures with the highest dairy consumption tend to also present with high risk for diabetes.
If you have a child at risk for type 1 or 2 diabetes, you must omit dairy products (including ghee) from their diet immediately.
On the other hand, Type 2 diabetes is known to develop with several risk factors, including obesity. People with a sedentary lifestyle, a history of heart conditions, PCOS, bad cholesterol levels, systematic inflammation and even Indian's, African Americ, Latin, and Alaskan Native backgrounds are at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes.
Both Diabetes Type 1 and 2 are diagnosed by taking blood sugar readings and symptom assessments; some of the blood tests that are used to diagnose diabetes are
- Random Blood Sugar test - A circulating blood sugar level of 200 mg/dL or higher indicates diabetes.
- Fasting blood glucose - A level of 126 mg/dL or higher before morning breakfast indicates diabetes.
- HbA1C - Also known as glycated haemoglobin test where a result of 6.5% or higher indicates diabetes.
- Serum C Peptide- Allowing one to get an estimate of the pancreatic function and set expectations for reversal of the disease.
If we talk about the treatment for Type 1 diabetes, there is a lifelong need to take insulin which is delivered by a syringe, pen-style delivery. Your doctor might put you on an additional oral medication if deemed necessary.
Type 2 diabetes can be managed by a combination of lifestyle changes and oral medications such as GLP-1 agonists, Mounjaro etc.
It is advised to use any form of medication only after the suggestion and prescription of a medically trained professional.
Causes Of Type 1 And Type 2 Diabetes.
The actual cause of both types of diabetes is still a riddle for researchers. One of the latest theories showed that injury to the pancreas or vial illnesses such as COVID-19 might trigger Type 1 diabetes in patients.
However, the real reason why the body mistakenly attacks its pancreas and why its insulin response stops functioning is yet to be unfolded.
Type 2 diabetes however is more clearly caused by excess fat cells stalling the action of insulin.
What Makes Type 2 Diabetes Reversible?
In 2014, there were about 422 million people who were reported with diabetes.
This diabetes pandemic has nothing but increased over the years with very little hope for a cure; however, a few years ago, an extensive clinical trial held in the UK concluded its first results, which showed that intensive weight loss could help people with Type 2 diabetes achieve remission without medication. This trial was called the Diabetes Remission Clinical trial ( DiRECT).
Most participants in this trial maintained their remission for over two years which was possible only because they could keep their liver triglycerides and fat in the pancreas low.
Type 2 diabetes is reversible though lifestyle changes because the body is very much capable of making insulin. Lifestyle factors like stress reduces the bodies ability to use up insulin, or clogged fats makes it impossible to act at the site of action.
There is however not enough insulin producing cells of the pancreas in the case of type 1 diabetes. Without this the bodies ability to produce its own insulin goes down. You could (and must!) certainly still make lifestyle changes to boost insulin sensitivity and prevent diabetes related comorbidities, but might not be able to give up insulin injections for good.
Working with many clients globally though, we have seen upto a 70% drop in the need for using insulin with most type 1 diabetes clients. Not to mention, also an improvement in overall health parameters, including HbA1C values.
Lifestyle changes to manage Diabetes.
It is definitely possible to put your Type 2 diabetes into remission; this life-changing result can come out of significant lifestyle changes like -
- Be on the move: Most of us think we need to train like bodybuilders, which is far from the truth. You do not need to go to the gym for hours daily, but just 150- 200 minutes of resistance training per week is enough. This means 3-4 sessions of 40- 50 minutes each. Even activities like Yoga, Brisk jog's, Swimming, Playing a sport are great.
- Fat loss: Work with an expert to help you achieve your ideal body weight. A 10% drop in your body fat % alone is enough to see a 1 point from in your HbA1C levels.
- A whole- food plant- based nutrition plan: Make this a part of your 'lifestyle' and not just a temporary 'diet'. Do not count calories or proteins, instead, eat whole plants to your hearts content. Avoid bringing dairy, oil's meat and eggs at home itself. If you eat something, it must be whole.
- Regular fasting: Fasting is usually not advisable to every individual, and it only depends on their capacity and condition; however, a regular form of fastings, such as intermittent or time-restricted fasting, or weekly fasting where you choose not to eat during a specific window of time. This alone helps regenerate liver's ability to detoxify and your pancreas's ability to regenerate insulin making cells.
- Avoid saturated fats: We not realise fats are a culprit and the biggest source of fat in a plant- based diet is oil's. Avoid using oil's at all and learn the ways of oil- free cooking. Make this a lifestyle, especially at home. It really is not as hard as you might think and the food tastes the same.
Meal plan for Diabetes Management.
It is reported that with the loss of 15%of body weight. Nearly 90% of those who have type 2 diabetes for less than four years can achieve remissions.
This is certainly possible by following a simple healthy diet.
A whole- food plant- based approach is universally accepted as being the best possible plan to achieve remission. Gone are the days where we blamed carbs for diabetes, it is time to understand and fix diabetes from the root- cause.
Following is a list of ten food groups you must include in your daily diet.
- Leafy greens: These are low in calories but high in nutrition. Leafy greens are a power house for micro nutrients like folic acid and iron. These micronutrients help with tissue repair and even lower oxidation. This means, less time spend by the body to do repair work and more time spent on recovery. A few examples of greens are Amaranth leaves, Mustard green, Dill leaves and Kale. Aim o consume 100 grams of leafy greens per day.
- Seeds: Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds etc., are all omega and fiber rich. Flaxseeds have been proven in a few clinical trials to directly help with diabetes management. This could be due to its high fiber content or even lignans, super anti- oxidants found in flaxseeds. Aim to consume 1-2 tbsp of ground flaxseed powder per day.
- Cruciferous Vegetables: No other vegetables can protect you from long term implications of diabetes as much as cruciferous vegetables do. These are the most anti- inflammatory, anti- cancer, oxidant rich vegetables there are. Aim to include 100- 150 grams of cruciferous vegetables to your lifestyle daily.
- Legumes and Pulses: Legumes are famous for their after- meal effect. Meaning, they actually reduce the glucose spike post a meal itself and even sustain the effect till the next meal you have. So even if you have sugar/ water for a meal, provided you have had pulses/ lentils for the previous meal, you will still have a better blood- glucose response! Ideally, include pulses for all meals.
The reason why Type 1 diabetics cannot be reversed is that its key characteristic is of an autoimmune disease, whereas Type 2 diabetics are mostly dependent on lifestyle choices.
Irrespective of the type of diabetes you have, making lifestyle and nutritional changes can greatly help you manage the condition.
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