5 Healthy Steps to Reverse Type 2 Diabetes and Insulin Resistance

by Mark Hyman, M.D.

Breaking news! Some newly discovered compounds have just been found to turn off all of the genes that cause diabetes. Are these compounds found in a pill bottle? No!

Diabetes and insulin resistance are completely preventable and often reversible through aggressive lifestyle changes, including diet, supplements, exercise and stress management.

In my last blog, I explained how to find out if you are pre-diabetic or diabetic. Half of the 24 million people with diabetes don’t know they have it, and nearly all the 60 million people with pre-diabetes don’t know they have it.

Today, I want to share with you more information about what you can do NOW to prevent and reverse diabetes and pre-diabetes.

1. Change your diet

Eating in a way that balances your blood sugar, reduces inflammation andoxidative stress, and improves your liver detoxification is the key to preventing and reversing insulin resistance and diabetes.

This is a way of eating that’s based on a whole foods diet that’s high in fiber, rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, and low in sugars and flours, with a low glycemic load.

It is a way of eating that includes anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and detoxifying foods. It includes plenty of omega-3 fats and olive oil, soy products, beans, nuts and seeds.

All these foods help prevent and reverse diabetes and insulin resistance. This is the way of eating that turns on all the right gene messages, promotes a healthy metabolism, and prevents aging and age-related diseases like diabetes andheart disease.

2. Exercise

Exercise is critical for the improvement of insulin sensitivity. It helps reduce central body fat, improving sugar metabolism. Regular exercise will help prevent diabetes, reduce your risk of complications, and even help reverse it.

Ideally you should do 30 minutes of walking every day. Walking after dinner is a powerful way to reduce your blood sugar.

More vigorous exercise and sustained exercise is often needed to reverse severe insulin resistance or diabetes. Doing sustained aerobic exercise for up to 60 minutes five to six times a week is often necessary to get diabetes under full control.

Interval training can be an added benefit to helping improve your metabolism and mitochondrial function. It helps to increase the efficiency calorie burning so that you burn more calories and energy during the time you are NOT exercising. This is described in detail in UltraMetabolism.

Strength training also helps maintain and build muscle, which can help also with your overall blood sugar and energy metabolism.

3. Take supplements

Nutritional supplements can be very effective for type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. I recommend a number of different supplements, depending on the severity of the problem:

  1. A multivitamin and mineral
  2. Calcium and magnesium and vitamin D
  3. Fish oil (1,000 to 4,000 mg a day) improves insulin sensitivity, lowers cholesterol and reduces inflammation.
  4. Extra magnesium (200 to 600 mg a day) helps with glucose metabolism and is often deficient in diabetics.
  5. Chromium (500 to 1,000 mcg a day) is very important for proper sugar metabolism.
  6. Antioxidants (such as vitamins C and E) are important in helping to reduce and balance blood sugar.
  7. B-complex vitamins are important and are part of a good multivitamin. Extra vitamin B6 (50 to 150 mg a day) and B12 (1,000 to 3,000 mcg) are especially helpful in protecting against diabetic neuropathy or nerve damage.

4. Manage stress

Stress plays a dramatic role in blood sugar imbalances. It triggers insulin resistance, promotes weight gain around the middle, increases inflammation, and ultimately can cause diabetes. So it’s essential to engage in relaxation practices on a regular basis, such as yoga, breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, hot baths, exercise, meditation, massage, biofeedback, hypnosis or even making love. Your survival depends on it.

5. Use medications if necessary

A number of medications may be helpful for diabetes. There are several specific classes of medications, each with their own effects. Sometimes combinations are helpful.

These are the main classes:

  1. The biguanides, especially metformin (Glucophage), is one of the best medications to improve insulin sensitivity. It can help lower blood sugars by improving your cells’ response to insulin.
  2. Thiazolidinedione drugs are a new class of diabetes medication and can help improve uptake of glucose by the cells by making you more insulin-sensitive. They also reduce inflammation and help improve metabolism working on the PPAR, a special class of cell receptors that control metabolism. They can cause weight gain and liver damage. Thiazolidinediones include rosiglitazone (Avandia) and pioglitazone (Actos).
  3. Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors include acarbose and miglitol, which can help lower the absorption of sugar and carbohydrates in the intestines, reducing the absorption of sugar after meals. And there are newer medications on the market every day.

Insulin is the last resort after all other measures have failed and often leads to a slippery slope of weight gain and increased cholesterol and blood pressure. Many patients have been able to come off insulin entirely if they are treated early and aggressively through the other methods I’ve listed.

If you follow these guidelines, you will see a dramatic change very quickly in your health, your weight and your diabetes.

Just try it!

To your good health,
Mark Hyman, M.D.