While it can be scary, getting diagnosed with type 2 diabetes does not have to be a life sentence. If you catch it early, patients have the chance to take control of their disease and avoid the use of insulin. I love helping patients with diabetes because together, we can see their average blood sugar (A1C) over three months normalize.
To do this, we have to get to the root cause of their diabetes, which is most likely diet and lifestyle. If you are diagnosed, your doctor will likely mention the importance of these factors, but doing your own research and taking an active role in making these important lifestyle shifts is critical. Let’s dive in!
What You Need To Know About Diabetes
For those who aren’t familiar with diabetes, there are three different types: Type 1, Type 2, and gestational. While Type 1 occurs most frequently in children and is most likely caused by genetics, immune system issues, and environmental factors, Type 2 and gestational diabetes are triggered by lifestyle. While some individuals are more predisposed than others due to genetics and other health struggles, lack of physical activity, poor diet, stress, and bad habits like smoking or consuming excess alcohol are common causes.
Reversing Type 2 Diabetes
If you are struggling with Type 2 diabetes, you are not alone! 90-95% of diabetes cases are type 2, and there are plenty of resources out there to help you navigate your condition. Here are my top tips for reversing and preventing Type 2 diabetes:
- Education – Understanding your condition and also educating those around you about your condition will build a strong foundation for you. With education as your backbone, you can avoid the temptation to stray from your lifestyle goals when the opportunity presents itself. It can also help you to stay positive and have a sense of purpose.
- Medical nutrition therapy – Medical nutrition therapy (MNT) is the process by which the dietary plan is tailored for people with diabetes based on medical, lifestyle, and personal factors. It is an integral component of diabetes management and diabetes self-management education. For patients with type 2 diabetes who are overweight (body mass index [BMI] ≥25 to 29.9 kg/m2) or obese (BMI ≥30 kg/m2), major emphasis should be placed on weight reduction and plant-centric, routine exercise, and stress management.
For patients who are not trying to lose weight, the goal of MNT is weight maintenance and consistency in the day-to-day monitoring of their food intake. There is no one-size-fits-all diet for patients trying to manage their diabetes, and the truth is, while there are some common dos and don’ts to follow, finding a diet that works best for you might take some trial and error. The American Diabetes Association has detailed guidelines, and your doctor can also work with you to develop your MNT.
My Top Dietary Suggestions For Patients With Type 2 Diabetes
- Choose whole grains over refined grains and other processed carbs. Think brown rice over white and whole grains over refined. These options have more fiber and nutritional value.
- Eat less meat and more plants. Animal products typically contain more saturated fat than plant-based foods, and there is so much power in plant-based eating. I am a big advocate for plant-based diets and have seen first-hand how they can change lives (including mine and my husband’s lives!) You can view my guide on plant-based eating here.
- Hydrate with water. No matter your health journey, drinking water is important for everyone! For diabetics, water is key because dehydration causes blood glucose to become concentrated, which causes a spike in blood pressure. It also aids in weight loss and helps your body with key functions.
- Choose healthy fats. Not all fat is created equal, and while saturated fats are not advised, fat is necessary for protecting organs, storing energy, insulating the body, and other essential functions. Incorporating “good fats” like vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and olives is very important for diabetics.
- Quit smoking. People who smoke are 50% more likely to develop diabetes than those who do not.
- Limit alcohol. Chronic inflammation of the pancreas from alcohol intake can impair the ability of the pancreas to properly secrete insulin and potentially cause or worsen diabetes.
- Get moving. Regular exercise that works your muscles improves the ability to use insulin and absorb glucose which takes stress off of insulin-making cells.
If You Have Diabetes, Know There Is Hope
If changing your lifestyle is difficult for you or feels impossible, know that there is hope! Every day, I help patients to discover the possibilities that await them with simple lifestyle changes and see what can happen.
If you are in need of some inspiration, I highly recommend the book Disease Reversal Hope by Dan Purjes and Dr. Scott Stoll. It tells the stories of real patients with a variety of conditions that were able to turn their health around with plant-based nutrition. You can follow more of their content on their Instagram account @diseasereversalhope.
You can also follow me on Instagram @drmelissaskitchen for other tips and advice on plant-based eating and healthy living in general.
While it takes effort, many patients have altered their lifestyles and reversed their conditions. Their stories are out there, and it is possible. If you have just started or are continuing to navigate your battle with diabetes, stay strong and reach out to me or other chronic illness specialists for support.