Earlier this year I kept hearing a well known doc in the functional medicine space proclaiming that half of Americans were diabetic or pre-diabetic. I’ll be straight with you – at first I thought it was an exaggerated claim made by skewing the research. Then I heard it again from someone else that I perceive to be a bit more grounded. So I decided to get to the bottom of this ridiculous claim – only to find it was accurate.
According to the United States Centers of Disease Control, 10% of American adults are already diabetic and 35% of Americans have beginning stages of the disease (pre-diabetes). This means if you are reading this in a room with at least one other person, one of you is likely that statistic. If you are pre-diabetic and do nothing, you will become diabetic within 5 years’ time.
This is bad, bad news, people. BAD NEWS.
Diabetes is very expensive and terribly debilitating. Diabetics often end up blind, with heart disease, or even lost digits and limbs. Diabetes is also the largest cause of kidney failure in the USA. Diabetes isn’t just about having your blood sugar out of whack. It takes a steady, damaging toll on the rest of the body. The typical form of managing it – with insulin – often leads to weight gain (which ironically leads to increasing insulin resistance and heart attack risk) and insulin itself is very hard on the body when chronically elevated.
Type 2 Diabetes – the kind most adults have – is a disease of lifestyle. This is not about ‘faulty genetics’ although you may have a genetic predisposition. This is about living a lifestyle and consuming a diet that the body cannot handle. With nearly all chronic disease, we can think of genes as the weapon and lifestyle being the finger that pulls the trigger.
Type 2 Diabetes can be put into remission through diet and lifestyle, especially when caught early. If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, your doctor may or may not have mentioned this to you. This past weekend I met two diabetic women – one was not given ANY nutrition information to manage or improve her condition and the other was told information that actually made her condition much worse (eat a high carb, low fat diet). The second has since discovered a different way of eating which has caused her to lose the 70 pounds she gained on insulin and is slowly improving her diabetes after 30 years with the disease.
Clinical research shows that newly diagnosed diabetics can achieve remission in as little as 4 months. For those who are still children (type 2 diabetes now comprises 45% of all diabetes cases in children) glucose levels can be stabilized in as quickly as 90 days and many achieve remission that lasts at least 2 years (ie – until the study ended). The same results can be seen with pre-diabetics. I have witnessed normalization of labs within a 90 day window.
Diabetes treatment costs over $13,000 per year. This is not something our health care system can afford and we needn’t be burdened by the cost at all as the disease is totally preventable and can be improved or put into remission through lifestyle changes. By taking the traditional route of management through medication complications will arise as the disease progresses. Medications to control cholesterol, blood pressure, and stave off heart disease pile on as the body wears down. This has become so commonplace in our country that many think of it as an inevitable part of aging.
IT IS NOT.
Given these recent statistics, I urge you to get some key labs done at your next check-up. Ask your doctor to test for Hemoglobin A1C (HgA1c), fasting glucose, and fasting insulin levels. Hemoglobin A1C is a marker for chronically elevated glucose levels and will let you know if you have had high glucose for 3 months or longer. Your fasting glucose and insulin is a snapshot of existing levels in the blood at the time of the lab draw. C-Reactive Protein (Crp) is also a good marker to test for, as it indicates overall elevated inflammation in the body, which can drive both diabetes and heart disease. If you have not had a physical in at least 2 years please schedule one. Prevention is so much easier to work with than disease.
For those who knowingly have pre-diabetes or diabetes, you can take back your health by switching to a higher fiber, higher protein whole foods diet and by getting in regular exercise. You’ll need to eat a lot of colorful vegetables to reduce inflammation and stabilize blood sugar levels. Exercise is crucial as well; you needn’t get a membership at a Crossfit gym – even walking facilitates insulin sensitivity and both reduces the risk of diabetes and facilitates remission from diabetes. The most important thing is to get moving in whatever ways you can and to switch your diet immediately to reduce further damage and allow the body to normalize. If you’d like to talk further about how diet can impact diabetes please schedule a complimentary 15 min Discovery Call with us!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). New CDC report: More than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes.
Sarathi, V., Kolly, A., Chaithanya, H. B., & Dwarakanath, C. S. (2017). High rates of diabetes reversal in newly diagnosed Asian Indian young adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus with intensive lifestyle therapy. Journal of natural science, biology, and medicine, 8(1), 60. (Read full study here)
McInnes, N., Smith, A., Otto, R., Vandermey, J., Punthakee, Z., Sherifali, D., … & Gerstein, H. C. (2017). Piloting a remission strategy in type 2 diabetes: Results of a randomized controlled trial. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 102(5), 1596-1605.