You've probably heard it said many times: "There is no cure for diabetes". Maybe you've even donated to research for a cure. I've even heard, "If anyone claims to have a cure for diabetes, run the other way!" But this is simply not true. Most cases of diabetes can be completely reversed and put into permanent remission. Is that a cure? Read on and you tell me.
As you know there are two types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. The only thing that Type 1 and Type 2 have in common is both cause high blood sugar and the complications that go with that. But the undering cause is completely different. Obviously if the underlying cause is different, then the cure too will be different because the cure needs to address the cause not the symptoms.
When you are talking about the symptoms of diabetes or the treatment of those symptoms, it makes sense to talk about "diabetes" because those symptoms all raise the high blood sugar which is common to both types.
But when you are talking about a cure, it makes no sense at all to talk about "the cure for diabetes" because diabetes has actually got 2 completely different causes. It only makes sense to talk about the "cure for Type 1 diabetes" or the "cure for Type 2 diabetes". So for the rest of this post, I will talk about Type 1 or Type 2 and not "diabetes".
Type 1 aka "Juvenile Diabetes"
The cause of Type 1 is damage or even destruction of the islet cells of your pancreas. Mostly this happens due to an autoimmune reaction of your body so that your own immune system attacks the islet cells. It's not yet known why this autoimmune reaction happens.
The islet cells monitor the levels of sugar in your blood and produce insulin when the sugar levels go to high. This insulin is a hormone that affects other cells of your body – especially those of your muscles, liver and fat. When insulin is present those cells take up the sugar from your blood which in turn lowers your blood sugar back to the normal range. This is the main mechanism your body uses to regulate blood sugar.
When those cells take up the sugar, if they do not need it for energy straight away, they store it away as glycogen in the muscles and liver and as fat in the fat cells.
So without the islet cells producing insulin, the sugar lasts in the blood starving the muscles and you get muscle wasting and fat loss. In other words, untreated, a person with Type 1 diabetes gets scrawny and left further untreated they will die. When I was a student twenty years ago, Type 1 diabetes was still commonly called 'juvenile diabetes' as it is almost always diagnosed in children or young adults – not the elderly.
The treatment is to inject the insulin that should have been made by your islet cells. It's a life-saving treatment. It's not a cure, because the person needs insulin injections for life.
So there is not cure for Type 1 although it can be very well regulated with minimal insulin (sometimes even none – see below) if you make the right lifestyle choices. But then, Type 1 only accounts for 5-10% of all cases of diabetes.
Type 2 aka "Maturity-Onset Diabetes"
While the result of Type 2 is the same – high blood sugar – the cause is completely different. Type 2 results primarily from an excessively high carbohydrate diet over many years combined with a lack of physical activity. The carbohydrates (sugar and starch) become sugar in your blood. To handle that sugar, your islet cells make insulin as I described above and the sugar is removed by your fat, liver and muscle cells.
But when the carbohydrate is too much for a long time, indeed your fat, liver and muscle cells get full and can take no more. They start to ignore the insulin message. As your blood sugar can not go too high without damage being caused, your islet cells make even more insulin. At first the fat, liver and muscle cells listen to the louder message but if this cycle is repeated it takes progressively more and more insulin to get the same result until eventually the fat cells just will not take any more.
Left over time, this vicious cycle exhausts your islet cells. They can not keep up making huge amounts of insulin for ever, so they burn out and stop producing insulin. This is when Type 2 becomes insulin dependent.
Some of the diabetes drugs work by hyper-stimulating the pancreas to make more insulin. What do you think will happen to your islet cells if they are already tired and then get hyper-stimulated to work even harder? That's right, they accelerate this islet cell burn out.
Type 2 diabetes used to be called "Maturity-Onset Diabetes" because it only affected older adults. But now, kids of 10-13 years of age are even being diagnosed! Why? Too many carbs in the diet – especially soft drinks and grains – and not enough exercise to burn them off.
Type 2 accounts for 90-95% of all cases of diabetes.
The "Cure" for Type 2 Diabetes
In the majority of cases, Type 2 can be fully controlled and reversed by careful control of your diet combined with exercise. You stop putting the excess carbs in and burn off those already there with exercise. It really is that simple.
Over time, given the right support, the cells of your body heal – the fat, muscle and liver cells once again respond normally to insulin and your islet cells become healthy and strong again.
So let's just say you change your diet the right way and do some exercise and reduce your blood glucose (bg) so now your fast reading is a healthy 85. And this is not so hard to do by the way – you can usually do it in 2-4 weeks. If you change your diet back to what it was when you had high blood sugar, what do you think will happen? Of course your bg will go straight back to where it was. So as long as you maintain the right diet, your bg will stay normal and you will not have any symptoms or long-term complications from diabetes. Pretty good eh?
Now here is my question: does this mean you're cured? So long as you eat the right way and do some exercise, you no longer have diabetes. Sounds like a cure to me. If you go back to eating the wrong way though it will come back; so the cure is dependent on you living the right lifestyle.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a "cure" which allows you to keep living the same unhealthy lifestyle that caused the Type 2 in the first place, I do not think that will ever come. Whether it is a drug, a procedure, a herb, a mystic mountain berry or a nutritional supplement, there is no "cure" for Type 2 without changing your lifestyle. And this is where the myth comes from. Setting aside lifestyle changes, there is no cure for Type 2. There's nothing you can take from a bottle that will get rid of it.
But Can You Really Cure Type 2?
If you maintain the right lifestyle over months and years to keep you bg normal and generally take the right steps to have optimal health, over time your body's sugar regulating systems get stronger and stronger until you may even be able to eat a high-carb meal again without your bg shooting up through the roof. Would you want to make a habit of it? No. Because if you did, you could expect your Type 2 to come back all over again.
But as time goes by, if you keep living the Optimal Health lifestyle, Type 2 can become a thing of the past.
What about type 1?
I mentioned earlier that some people with Type 1 can live without insulin. Not all people with Type 1 are the same. You understand the main cause of Type 1 is destruction of the islet cells by your own body's immune system. But the severity of this destruction varies from person to person.
In some people the islet cells are completely destroyed. Eating right and doing exercise will certainly help to reduce insulin requirements and so minimize the risk of complications and hypos. But when there are no islet cells in your body at all, while you may reduce your insulin needs, your chance of getting off insulin equals is slim to not at all.
On the other hand, some people have a less severe case where some of the islet cells are still functioning. They are functioning at a level where they can not manage the relatively high carbohydrate diets that are the norm today and get diagnosed as Type 1. For these people, following the same right lifestyle as I talked about above for Type 2 will allow them to live just fine without insulin. If this is you, you will probably have to be really careful with what you eat for the rest of your life, but still, it is so much better than injecting with insulin every day or using a pump.
You can see that someone who has a milder case of Type 1 who lives the wrong lifestyle for many years may get diagnosed later in life as their limited pancreas function get progressively eroded away due to the Type 2 vicious cycle I described earlier. I suspect this is the cause of what is now called LADA (Latex autoimmune diabetes of adults) or Type 1.5 diabetes.
What Is This 'Right Lifestyle' To Minimize Type 1 Or Reverse Type 2?
Type 2 can be typically be reversed in 2-4 weeks. If the Type 2 vicious cycle has been at work for some time, it may take longer for your islet cells to recover.
Here is the overview of how to do it:
1. Get a blood glucose monitor (if you do not have one already) and measure your fasting blood glucose. If you measure it everyday, you can see what is helping and what is not.
2. Cut back on the carbs. You'll need to be really strict with this for the first 2-4 weeks until you get blood sugar back to normal. It's also important you do not eat too much protein.
3. Do regular exercise. Any exercise is good, but I have designed a program just for you to make it easy.
4. Take nutritional supplements. This will help your body manage blood sugar but also help with the long-term healing you need to do.
And yes, that is basically it.