At no time during my years of medical training did any of my mentors or colleagues ever tell me that type 2 diabetes (will refer to as T2D) was potentially reversible. Instead it was described as a preventable condition in its early stages, but once you were diagnosed, then you would need to be managed with a combination of drugs and lifestyle to try to slow (not reverse) its inevitable progression.
As a result, patients had an equally fatalistic view of diabetes and in many cases this was made worse by an overall sense of genetic determinism based on family history. What do I mean by genetic determinism? In my practice where I see a large number of South Asians, it is rare to come across someone who does not have at least one family member with T2D. Individuals feel that they are essentially predestined to develop the condition and instead of proactively making changes to prevent or reverse T2D, they simply wait for what they believe is its inevitable onset.
In today's post I want to talk about some exciting resources, including one of my own, that can help you prevent and potentially reverse T2D and other insulin resistant conditions.
T2D is More a Lifestyle Disorder than a Genetic One
Like many chronic health conditions, T2D results from a combination of genetic predisposition and a lifestyle trigger. Some experts like to say “Genes load the gun and lifestyle pulls the trigger.” I find that analogy a bit too violent for my taste, but if it motivates you, feel free to use it.
In my lectures at high-tech companies I tell individuals that our human genome is like a smartphone. Genes load the apps onto our phone and lifestyle turns the apps on. In other words, many of us may have had the diabetes app downloaded onto our genetic smartphone, but what turns it on are our daily lifestyle habits, which in many cases have also been inherited from our ancestors.
You may be cooking and eating similar foods as your diabetic parents in addition to being just as sedentary, which would turn on the diabetes App as it did for them. On the other hand, if you are the “black sheep” in your family who decides to eat a much healthier diet and incorporate daily physical activity, you can keep that diabetes App turned off. We see this in the clinic all the time!
We also see individuals with absolutely no family history of T2D who develop diabetes in their 30s! What happened here? In this case, we often find that these patient's ancestors led a much healthier life with daily physical activity and a more natural, plant-based diet, which is in complete opposition to their modern day sedentary, high-stress, high-calorie lifestyle.
By the way, the above explanation can be applied to nearly any chronic health condition. We are seeing first generation cancers and autoimmune conditions where none every existed in prior generations. Some of this can be attributed to earlier and more sensitive methods of diagnosis and disease detection, but in many cases it just reflects a modern lifestyle that is turning on various different disease apps.
Resources to Reverse Diabetes
There are a growing number of physicians, health practitioners, and entrepreneurs who are now realizing that T2D is truly a reversible condition in a significant percent of cases without the use of medications. Even in cases that are not completely reversible, it is possible to make significant improvements and at least get individuals off insulin and multiple other drugs which may potentially have other long-term side effects. I never want to give anyone false hopes about their potential to reverse diabetes, but I also want to make up for the grim picture that has been painted by the medical establishment about type 2 diabetes for years. So what are some resources to help reverse diabetes?
The RID (Reverse Insulin resistance and Diabetes) Online Program
I just launched this exciting self-paced 8-week program that uses short, engaging animations and key content and resources to help users prevent and potentially reverse diabetes. I've received some rave reviews from initial pilot users. Despite it being designed for 8 weeks, individuals can get through the program quicker if they grasp concepts quickly. In addition to diabetes, it also directly addresses related disorders like cholesterol, heart disease, body fat, PCOS, gout, and more. Also remember from a recent post that insulin resistance is directly linked to Alzheimer's disease. Go here for program details.
In fact, one of our pilot users said her 13-year-old son, who is overweight and has prediabetes, really enjoyed the animations and has made significant improvements in his lifestyle. RID includes updated tools and apps that have been used effectively in my practice and wellness programs. I've also tailored the program and content (including videos) to different ethnic groups so you can choose the right program based on your gender and culture.
In addition, I've partnered with 3T&Me, a cutting edge, personalized food and lifestyle solution that uses genes, gut microbiome, and metabolic markers to provide tailored nutrition advice. They are offering a free 30 day trial of their personalized recipe finder that helps match recipes to your dietary restrictions and taste preferences. You will be able to create your login for free access to this tool when you sign up for RID and can consider signing up for their more comprehensive personalized lifestyle plan based on gene, gut, and metabolic tests.
I met Virta's energetic founder, Sami Inkinen, and members of his team several months ago when this start-up was in stealth mode. Virta uses a highly effective dietary method called nutritional ketosis (aka “ketogenic diet”), delivered through personalized technology and health coaching, to help individuals reverse diabetes. Their results so far are compelling. Although I have personally used a ketogenic diet intermittently and prescribed it in some of my patients, it does require a high degree of motivation and support, which Virta provides. Learn more by going to the Virta Health website.
Integrative-Functional Medicine Doctors
Functional or integrative medicine is an exciting new field where MDs and other health practitioners are trained intensively to evaluate and treat root causes for chronic health conditions like diabetes. You can use this search tool which provides a limited list or do an online search for physicians trained in integrative and/or functional medicine. If you live in the Bay Area, Sutter health has one of the oldest and most experienced integrative health centers in the country which you can find here.
I've had many readers from around the world reverse their diabetes using my book, but in some cases additional diagnostic testing and further personalization based on health history is required. This is where finding the right practitioner or using a more intensive approach like the ones mentioned above might help.
Due to overwhelming demand, we just released our wilderness retreat dates for 2018 where you can spend 3 days with me and our dietitian, Prerna Uppal, learning cutting edge science on reversing diabetes, inflammation and improving energy levels using high-tech and ancestral tools with exercise and cooking demos. Go here to register and learn more.
If you have experienced a resource or intervention that has been effective in reversing diabetes, let me know. Our team will evaluate and add to our list if it seems promising. There is no one answer for everyone, so the more options we can provide the better.
My Current Doctor Isn't Aligned
I get this question all the time. “What if my current doctor doesn't understand or believe that I can reverse diabetes and just wants to put me on medications?” First of all I ask on behalf of my physician colleagues to be somewhat empathetic to their position. As I mentioned early on in the post, the entire medical system is still training physicians to believe type 2 diabetes is a progressive, rather than reversible condition. Even physicians who believe lifestyle can reverse diabetes cannot implement the necessary changes in the current system that only gives a primary care doctor 15-20 minutes to see patients. An integrative medicine doctor on the other hand spends a minimum of 60 minutes with patients as do I during my patient consultations.
The main characteristic you want in your doctor is for them to be open-minded, allowing you to try new things to help you reach your health goals if their own time and resources are limited. I've been fortunate to have very strong relationships with my physician colleagues where they take care of the patient's primary care issues while I focus on lifestyle interventions to reverse disease. Until the system changes, you'll need to assemble the right combination of physicians and allied health practitioners to provide you with the right knowledge, resources and support. It may be an investment initially, but the long-term returns of health, vitality, and a life free of debilitating chronic health conditions is well worth it.
The bottom line is for you to understand and be energized by the fact that T2D can be either reversed or drastically improved when you implement the right changes. Set a high goal and don't let the medical establishment discourage you. Search for any expert or resource to help you beat this condition. You may need more regular testing to help you understand the impact of specific lifestyle changes on your glucose levels. I strongly recommend purchasing a glucose monitor and checking your blood sugars regularly. You can get powerful data back on the impact of stress, sleep, nutrition and activity.
Never give up on beating T2D because at the very least you will at least have stalled a progressive condition with dire potential consequences and avoided piling on more medications and insulin injection therapy. You'll also set an important example for your own children and family members so this condition can hopefully be eradicated for future generations.