Can I Prevent Diabetes? (Or Make It Better?)

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Can I Prevent Diabetes? (Or, If I Have It, Make It Better?)

by James Hubbard, MD, MPHCan I Prevent Diabetes? (Or, If I Have It, Make It Better?) | The Survival Doctor

Chances are very good that you, a family member, or a friend will be affected by the ravages of diabetes. About 7 million in the U.S. alone don’t even know they have it. And yet, it is slowly and silently doing permanent damage to their sight, kidneys, heart, and circulation right now.

Another 79 million (yes, you read that right—about a third of us) will get the disease unless we take action now. That’s because about 79 million of us are thought to have prediabetes (the early stage which will develop into the full-blown disease in most people).

Many people want to know how to handle diabetes if they run out of medicine and can’t get any more. I’ve tried to answer that the best I can in past posts, but in truth, there are no perfect alternatives to your prescription meds.

So what about this? What if you could need less or no prescriptions meds? And for those of you at risk for diabetes, what if you found a way to never get it? In other words, the questions to ask are: How can I prevent diabetes? How can I make it better if I already have it?

What’s Survival Medicine Got to Do With It?

I wrote a post on things you can try if you run out of your diabetes medicine during a disaster. But, to tell the truth, nothing’s going to get diabetes under control as well in most people as prescription medicines.

So … the best way to prepare is to be able to control your sugar with the least medicine possible—or ideally, not to have to take any medicine at all.

What Is Prediabetes, and Why Is It Important?

People with prediabetes can cut their risk for getting diabetes by more than half. And if you question how great that is, just ask someone who’s had the disease for 20 years or so. How about the ravages it wreaks on your eyes, kidneys, circulation, and heart? Ask how much they would give to be able to get off their meds.

I know I’m sounding like an infomercial, but the other great thing is you don’t have to send in money, IF you act right now, before it’s too late.

What About Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes affects less than 1 percent of the general population and about 5 percent of all people with diabetes. It’s a condition you’re born with. Your pancreas doesn’t make insulin, so you have to inject it into your body.

Although scientists are working diligently on a cure, this post doesn’t pertain to you. Sorry. I wish it did. I do have a post on ways for you to store and prepare, but as you probably know, type 1 is not reversible.

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

This is the kind you become more at risk for the older you get. Although it often runs in families, the biggest risk factor is being overweight. About 60 percent of type 2 diabetes cases are caused from being overweight.

Type 2 is a result of the cells in your body becoming insulin resistant. Cells use insulin to process carbohydrates (sugars) into energy. The cells of people with type 2 diabetes are not as sensitive to insulin. They need more of it for the sugar to get out of the bloodstream and into the cells.

The pancreas reacts to this need by making more. That helps for a while, but many times the cells become even more resistant, and the insulin-producing pancreas beta cells wear down. They begin producing less insulin and sometimes stop making it altogether. What your pancreas can’t provide, you have to supplement with insulin injections.

Can I Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?

There is hope. Eleven people did just that, for a short while at least.

A doctor put them on a 600-calories-a-day diet for eight weeks. Their cells’ resistance to insulin went away, and the pancreas’s ability to make insulin came back. They didn’t have to inject insulin or take other medicines while they were on the diet. After 12 weeks, seven still had normal glucoses.

The Survival Doctor's Guides to Wounds and BurnsOf course, the problem is a diet this low in calories is dangerous and should only be done under medical supervision. Even then, no one can live on that few calories for long.

And the long-term question is, how does that affect someone months after they go back to a normal healthy diet? Stay tuned for future studies addressing that.

But if you have type 2 diabetes, you don’t have to go to extremes to get better and require less medication. Just lose a little weight and exercise more (similar to what people with prediabetes do to prevent diabetes). It can do wonders. The key is to start now. The longer you wait, the less chance it has to work.

Can I Prevent Diabetes?

Yes, if you have prediabetes, you can prevent type 2 diabetes, and here’s how. By losing only 7 percent of your body weight and walking briskly for 30 minutes (or doing a similar exercise) five times a week, people with prediabetes can cut their risk for getting diabetes type 2 by 58 percent. That’s fantastic. No medicines. None of the complications of diabetes. What a way to prepare for a disaster.

To see if you have prediabetes, you can’t go on symptoms because there may be none. You need to get a fasting blood glucose or another blood test called a hemoglobin A1C. If the glucose is between 100 and 125 or the A1C is between 5.7 percent and 6.4 percent, you have prediabetes. Below this and you’re normal. Above, and you probably have diabetes. (Your doctor may want to do confirmation tests to tell for sure.)

Get tested at least every five years or so—more often if you’re overweight, have a family history, or have symptoms (fatigue, or increased thirst or urination) or your doctor advises differently.

Say you can’t afford a doctor? That’s no excuse. Keep an eye out for the next health fair that’s testing for free. In some areas of the country, you can find a lab that will test your fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C without a doctor’s order. Just make sure before you go, and check on the price.

>> Disaster with no doctor? Get The Survival Doctor’s Guides. Ready when you are.

What’s been your experience? Have you been tested? Does anyone you know have prediabetes? Did they lose the weight and exercise? Did the glucose come back to normal?

What about full-blown diabetes? Has anyone been able to get off meds and maintain a normal glucose? If so, how? Right now, I maintain nothing’s out there to reverse diabetes without diet and exercise being the main ingredient.

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Photo: CDC/ Amanda Mills

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  • Pam Bonati

    Hi from the UK, thrilled to have reversed my type 2 diabetes diagnosis after 5 years through increased excercise, swimming, walking and Tai Chi. My diet is sugar free, no red meat, lots of fresh fish, white meat, home grown vegetables, nuts and fruit mainly apples and pears. I am tall and slim and was absolutely shocked when first diagnosed as I didn’t exhibit any symptoms. Was tested when having a fasting cholesterol test !!!!

  • Kris T. Steitz

    The Forks Over Knives diet, plus two supplements, flax seeds and Vit B-12, took my T2D to normal levels within 4 weeks. I was 218 pounds when I started, and my triglycerides were sky high, over 300, with a low LDL. Total cholesterol was 250ish. Lots of inflammation and heart arrhythmia. Full bloodwork done just before and at the 4 week mark, and again at the 6 month mark. All together, I lost 95 pounds, and never felt better in my life. Even my monthly cramping was eliminated. My husband had better results than I did, he has full blown heart disease and total cholesterol was over 500 at one point. He couldn’t tolerate any of the statin drugs, so our family physician recommended we watch the documentary. We were faithful to the diet for a good year, and then worked back into meat, cheese and sweets. And of course our numbers went back up again. But it worked, when we worked it!

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Kris, here’s to hoping you maintain the weight loss and good numbers. That’s key.

  • Diabetic

    I strongly recommend The Diabetes Solution by Dr. Richard Bernstein. It covers everything you need to know about diabetes and how to manage it, the best testing methods, the safety and efficacy of medications and how to use them, a very low carb diet and exercise. Bernstein is a pioneer and an expert in the field and a type 1 diabetic who has probably lived with the disease longer than anyone else alive today. You can thank Dr. Bernstein for glucose self-monitoring, basal and bolus injections and the recommendation that diabetics eat low carb. The core of his program resolves around cutting carbs and keeping your blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible. You cannot cure diabetes, but you can normalize your blood sugar, preserve whatever pancreatic function you have left and halt or, in some cases, reverse, many of the complications of diabetes, including neuropathy. This is done by maintaining very tight control of your blood sugar, which necessitates a very low carb diet and exercise. Everyone can reduce the amount of oral medication and insulin they need and in many cases, can get off it entirely.
    The challenge this poses for preppers is that beans, rice and wheat are off the menu …
    My advice would be to stock up on glucose testing supplies, meat, dairy, low-carb veggies, nuts etc.
    What I believe “GoneWithTheWind” was getting at is that there are genes associated with diabetes and if you don’t have those genes, you can eat as many carbohydrates as you want and get as fat as you want, you will never, ever become diabetic. If, however, you carry any of the genes related to the diabetes, you are at risk. The level of risk depends on how many of those genes you carry and your lifestyle; diet and exercise.
    Incidentally, diabetes is also an auto-immune disease. People with diabetes should research and understand auto-immunity, how it might influence their vaccination, medication and supplement choices and they should be aware of the potential for other auto-immune diseases.

  • Pingback: Stop Prediabetes Now: The Ultimate Plan to Lose Weight and Prevent Diabetes | HEALTHCARE

  • Jim M.

    I have Type 2 diabetes and am now taking medicine. I am one step below having to take insulin shots. I am obese. I decided to correct the disease by undergoing Bariatric Surgery. I will have the operation in a month or two. At the beginning of the preparation stage I was told that I must give up caffeine and carbonated beverages. This was difficult because I was use to drinking at least a half dozen diet Cokes a day. I decided to go cold turkey. The first week was hell on earth. But then my body adjusted. What surprised me was that I lost over the next month approximately 20 pounds primarily because I stopped drinking these beverages. From my perspective, some of this loss was due to the carbonated beverages. I believe the carbon bubbles help to expand the stomach which makes one able to eat more. I believe that without the caffeine, I was able to resist better my craving for sweets. Because of the 20 pound weight loss, I was able to reduce by diabetic medicine by one third.

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Thanks, Jim. And congratulations on your weight loss.

  • GoneWithTheWind

    Diabetes is genetic. What most people think of when they think of diabetes is the symptoms. They think if they don’t have symptoms then they don’t have diabetes. Most of the treatment both by science based medicine and superstition based thinking is treating the symptoms. The good news is treating the symptoms of diabetes is the best thing you can do, it can reduce the risk of the more negative effects of diabetes and it can prolong life. The bad news is people tend to believe: A) that they can ‘cure” diabetes and B) they can prevent diabetes. Wrong on both counts. If you have it you always have it. the whole “prediabetes” thingy is a dodge and not useful. If you have it then you can treat the symptoms and mitigate the complications by diet and excercise. On the other hand if you don’t have it you cannot ‘catch” it because of poor diet and excercise. You get diabetes from your parents and/or grandparents NOT your food. And genetics is not the same for everyone so everyone’s diabetes will be different. That is the symptoms will express themselves at a different age and have different levels of seriousness. You may or may not become overweight as a result or in conjunction with diabetes. You may or may not need insulin. A dietary treatment may virtually eliminate your symptoms or it may have a small effect. Pharmaceuticals may be absolutely necessary to treat your symptoms or your symptoms may be so mild that you can delude yourself into thinking that raw milk helps. Like many health issues there is too much superstitution associated with it and that only hurts the effort to treat it.

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Gone with the Wind. I disagree. It’s true genetics and other factors play a role in type 2 diabetes and so does weight. And it’s true not all type 2 diabetes are overweight and not all overweight people have diabetes, but the majority of type 2 diabetics are overweight and can be helped with weight loss. Good studies have shown some people (prediabetics) can prevent the full-blown disease with diet and exercise. And diabetes needs to be treated, symptoms or no symptoms, to try to decrease the long-term complications.

      • GoneWithTheWind

        The only thing we seem to disagree on is the genetic issue. The problem that diabetes poses is that it usually does not show up at birth or even shortly afterwards. So it is quite understandable that when it does show up maybe 30 years later people would assume that something happened. And since diet and excercise can help diabetes (help the symptoms and mitigate the long term effects) it is also easy to understand why people would believe that bad diet or lack of excercise can cause diabetes. A very confusing situation. But as literally billions of people who have bad diets and don’t get enough excercise can prove their activities didn’t cause them diabetes. The simple fact is you either have it at genetically or you do not.
        Every other point you made I agree with and in fact I believe my original post was clear on those issues.

        • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

          GoneWithTheWind, Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/howard.wolcott Howard Wolcott

    All processed foods are dead . They sustain but in reality they are killing people . Sugars , Flours , salt , pepper that have been altered from their natural state kill of the healing enzymes in our bodies . That leaves us open to more than Diabetes . But cancers arterial decease and the list grows . I developed Neropathy 2 years ago . If any have this they know how debilitating it can be .

    I could hardly walk 4 months ago . My friend read an article on Vitamin E I began taking it 1000 units a day . I am at 3000 and that is all i am taking . In the last two weeks i have had a massive change in my foot . ( One leg here ) . Before on a scale of 1 to 10 my pain was a ten . It is now down to a 2 . . My diabetes ? I have not taken but 1 shot in three months .

    I can now walk to the post office non stop . It flares up a bit but less and less .

    Diet is a big part of it as well as exercise . But i was on and tried every pharmacy drug out their . I have been a type two diabetic for eight years now . Last year i went on the shot because it is easier to manage . All the pills did was kick me in the dirt . One more sign of my healing is less shocks from the nerves . They are down to a 1 . on the same scale . The numbness is now in half and back to the ball and toes instead of at my ankle . The purple in my foot is subsiding and mostly gone . I believe type 2 can be reversed . I don’t believe i would have my good leg had i stayed on the control of modern medicine . Its a control . Not a healing .

    One more thing . I looked up the pain pills that were given to me . They clearly show not to take them because they deplete your ability for your feet sweat with neropathy . causing more damage and giving way to the nerve damage that is already in progress and making it worse .

    This not curing my diabetes but with all that stress gone it has lowered it dramatically . Stress heightens your sugar levels . Not just food . Get rid of the stress if you have it . I did and let me tell ya . It makes a world of difference .

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Thanks, Howard

  • PrepperDaddy

    Apple cider vinegar. I was diagnosed with type 2 and about 6 months ago started drinking a few tablespoons a day and my A1C went from 6.9 to 5.9 and is holding.

  • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    Peggy, Thanks. I meant there are no perfect alternative medicines that will work as well as your prescription medicines. If you’ll read down further, under “Can I reverse type 2 diabetes, you’ll see I think diet (weight loss if overweight) and exercise are key to, at least decreasing your prescription meds. You are a great example that diet and exercise can actually reverse it.

    • Peggy Gannon

      Aah, no alternative meds. There I fully agree. Habits of a lifetime are hard to change…but they are what got us to this point in the first place. Thanks for your reply!

  • Peggy Gannon

    “…there are no perfect alternatives to your prescription meds.” Indeed there are. “Dave, RN” below has laid them out. I was diagnosed with T2DM in the spring of 2007 with an A1c of 7.8. I was put on metformin and given the usual ADA advice, which is designed to keep us sick and medicated. Instead, I did what Dave did. Lost 60 pounds, gave up all grains & sweeteners, etc. etc., engaged in some kind of physical activity every day. After 6 months my doc said I could drop the med. It’s 6 years later and my A1c is 5.2 and falling. I’m reversing my condition with lifestyle changes alone. The only trouble with this approach is that most people are unwilling to give up their starchy carbs and get off their butts. Change is hard. But it’s entirely possible.