Diabetes is a lifelong metabolic disorder in which the blood sugar (glucose) remains consistently high. If not managed properly, diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, and lower limb amputation. You have to take medication. People with diabetes therefore often want to know whether diabetes can be reversed and if so how it can be done.

Reversing diabetes will have benefits on your financial and health fronts. And, it is possible in a selected group of patients. Research suggests that reversing diabetes is possible, but the effects are not permanent.

Type 1 diabetes cannot be reversed, but the possibility exists in a set of diabetes type 2 patients. You can say your diabetes is reversed when your HbA1c is less than 6.5% and stays that way for at least 6 months without medications.

You can say your diabetes is reversed when your blood sugar levels are controlled and stay within normal limits for six months without any diabetes medication.

There are certain causes and risk factors that are responsible for developing diabetes. You should eliminate them first to start the reversal of diabetes and put it into remission.

For example, you could be overweight or obese, or you’re having the wrong foods in your diet, or leading a sedentary lifestyle, or having high-uncontrolled cholesterol and triglyceride levels. All such factors have to be put right first to send your diabetes into remission.

For a start, losing weight and staying at a healthy weight is of paramount importance. According to diabetes.org.uk,

“the strongest evidence we have at the moment suggests that type 2 diabetes is mainly put into remission by weight loss. Remission is more likely if you lose weight as soon as possible after your diabetes diagnosis”.

In which patients can type 2 diabetes be reversed?

Patients who exhibit the following parameters may be able to reverse their type 2 diabetes:

  • Diabetes has been existing for less than 5 years.
  • HbA1c at the time of diagnosis is less than 9%
  • BMI of 30 kg/sq. m. or less
  • Age under 60 years
  • People with dedication and motivation who will stick to the lifestyle compulsions

How to effectively reverse diabetes?

It is all about following a healthy lifestyle. You could be harboring certain risk factors, which you have to effectively control and get rid of.

Maintain a healthy weight to help reverse diabetes

Obesity is the single most important factor for diabetes type 1 and 2. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight is the first thing you should focus on. Almost 90% of the 37 million Americans with type 2 diabetes have excess weight or are obese.

Weight loss involves managing your calories. You can do this by adopting a low-calorie weight-loss diet and regular weight-loss physical activity. It is necessary that you lose weight in a healthy manner.

Diet to lose weight

You should eat small frequent meals (say 5 or 6) instead of three large ones. Your food and beverage consumption should consist of:

  • Healthy oils
  • Whole grains and cereals
  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Tea and coffee without milk and sugar
  • If you drink milk, choose skim milk
  • Chicken without skin
  • Lean meat without lard
  • Fish is good
  • Drink adequate water.

There is a detailed post on what foods to eat and what to avoid for weight loss.

Exercises to lose weight

Physical activity is a key element in the prevention, management, and reversing of type 2 diabetes, besides having a positive impact on your lipid profile, blood pressure, and heart health.

Perform exercises every day. That’s important because every day till you achieve your weight goal you must lose more calories than you consume. Secondly, the benefits of exercise on your general health are almost magical.

Exercises are easy to perform and low on the pocket. You can do some of them at home and do not need to go to a gym or outdoors.

Whichever exercise you do, it should be moderately vigorous so that you sweat and your heart rate increases.  Aerobic or cardio exercises are ideal as compared to strength training exercises because they help you lose more calories in the same amount of time. Exercise for about 30 to 45 minutes every day and have an ideal exercise plan.

Brisk walking, jogging, running, swimming, and playing badminton are some aerobic exercises that will help you lose weight faster.

Besides losing calories, physical activity also burns the sugar in your blood to derive the energy that you need for performing the exercises.

There is a full post on exercises that will help you lose weight faster. There is another detailed note on managing diabetes with exercise.

Healthy Diet to reverse diabetes

Since you have diabetes, there are some foods that belong to the diabetes-friendly diet. Incorporate the recommendations of both the weight-loss diet and the diabetes diet and you should be okay with your calorie intake. Most food items in both diets are common.

The diet for diabetes is essentially a low-carbohydrate, low-fat and high-protein diet. Research has shown that a high-protein diet helps diabetics improve blood sugar control and reduce weight by lowering post-meal blood sugar.

Read the full note on the diabetes-friendly diet.

Get rid of your belly fat

Belly fat is an excessive deposit of abdominal fat around the stomach and other abdominal organs causing the abdomen to become big.

There is evidence, which suggests that people who carry excess belly fat are at a greater risk of diabetes type 2.

To rid yourself of your potbelly, eating the right foods and exercising regularly is the best way.

The dietary recommendations to lose belly fat again suggests whole grains, vegetables and fruits, poultry and fish, skim milk, and certain lifestyle measures.

A regular exercise plan for belly fat consists of some general exercises and some specific exercises for belly fat.

Read the full notes on:

Learn to manage stress

Stress does not cause diabetes. However, it worsens existing diabetes. It is necessary therefore that you learn to manage stress.

In a particularly stressful situation, you could help yourself by practicing deep breathing exercises and meditation. Yoga is also effective to manage stress.

Some people will need medication for their stress.

Limit or avoid alcohol

Alcohol within safe limits has no bearing on your diabetes provided you maintain your blood sugar consistently within normal limits.

It is the excessive drinking that makes your diabetes unstable. Heavy alcohol consumption causes inflammation of the pancreas and this can significantly impair its insulin production.

To reverse your diabetes, you should control your alcohol intake or avoid it altogether.

Do not smoke

Though smoking and diabetes reversal are not directly related, smoking increases hemoglobin A1c levels in patients with diabetes. It is an established fact that cigarette smoking is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

You, therefore have to start your reversal strategy by giving up smoking for good. Quitting smoking also improves the uptake of insulin by the body cells, making it easier to manage sugar levels.

Control your high blood pressure

These two conditions, hypertension and diabetes, are often seen together, especially in those who have high systolic pressure.

High blood pressure above 140/90mm of Hg increases the risk of diabetes and its complications.

Previous research showed that people with high blood pressure were at a 50% to 70% increased risk of getting diabetes.

Lowering your systolic blood pressure by 10 points has been shown to lower the risk of diabetes complications by 12 percent.

Get good sleep

If you sleep less than 7 hours every night regularly, your diabetes will be harder to manage. Sleep deprivation is associated with insulin resistance and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

Getting good sleep will have a positive effect on insulin resistance and make your effort to reverse easier.

Bariatric surgery

Bariatric surgery is also referred to as weight loss surgery and metabolic surgery. It is recommended for people with morbid obesity (men who are at least 100 lbs overweight or women who are at least 80 lbs overweight) in whom the BMI is 40 or more.

It is also recommended in people with a BMI of 35 with obesity-related health risks such as diabetes or arthritis.

Bariatric surgery aims to lower weight significantly in order that health risks of obesity such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea are minimized. This surgical procedure reduces the size of the stomach so that the individual eats less.

Research showed that 1/3rd of the patients who underwent this surgery showed dramatic improvement in their diabetes type 2 symptoms and had a permanent reversal of diabetes within a year after surgery.

Most gastric bypass patients show no signs of diabetes after their procedure. Many patients can stop diabetes medication after their surgery. Though invasive, bariatric surgery will help reverse diabetes in morbidly obese people.