Diabetes, as a whole, is an oft-misunderstood disease. Currently, the medical community recognizes three types of diabetes: Type I, Type II, and gestational. Type I diabetes, previously called juvenile diabetes, is an auto-immune condition that often develops early in life (hence the juvenile distinction of old). There is no other treatment for Type I diabetes outside of insulin. However, Type II diabetes is often linked to lifestyle choices and issues such as obesity. With Type II diabetes, the pancreas is still producing some insulin, though the body has become resistant to it. Type II Diabetes can be an insidious, life-threatening illness. Type II diabetes can lead to blindness, poor circulation, limb loss, and even death when left poorly managed. However, a diagnosis of Type II diabetes needn’t be a death sentence. There are ways of managing the disease without the intervention of medication.
While Type I is managed through insulin, those with Type II have options for managing and treating their diabetes.
Who Are Type II Diabetics?
More than 37 million Americans have diabetes, and approximately 90 to 95% of those people with diabetes are Type II. While Type II diabetes typically develops in people over 45, more and more children and young adults are developing the disease due to poor diet and lack of exercise. It can also run in families with over 75% of pre-diabetic children or those with a Type II diagnosis having a relative with the disease.
The small silver lining to a Type II diagnosis is that, very often, the symptoms and ill-effects of the disease can be managed and sometimes eliminated, dialing back the diagnosis through lifestyle changes. While new medications are hitting the shelves every day that seek to help people with diabetes lower their A1C (a measurement of average blood sugars over a three month time) or help with symptom management, treatment for Type II diabetes without medicine is possible. While Type I diabetics are relegated to a lifetime of insulin use, people with type II diabetes have options outside of injections.
Controlling Type II Without Medication
There are various ways that Type II diabetes can be managed without medication. In most cases, medication should not be the first resort but the last. Patients who regularly see their primary care physician should be aware if they are pre-diabetic, and they can take steps to make necessary lifestyle changes to ward off a full-blown diabetes diagnosis.
Here are some ways to control Type II without a prescription:
A Healthy Diet
However inappropriate it may be to joke about a serious disease, there’s a reason people joke about diabetics and sugary foods. The two are intrinsically linked. However, the biggest problem for diabetics isn’t necessarily just candy and cookies but carbohydrates in general. When people eat foods high in carbohydrates, the body breaks these down into sugar. Insulin produced by the pancreas is supposed to help handle these sugars, but as we know, diabetes causes insulin resistance. This insulin resistance leads to high blood sugar and all the adverse effects it causes.
Maintaining a healthy diet can help reverse the effects of Type II diabetes. Eating more fruits and vegetables, getting fats from healthy sources such as avocado or nuts, and high-quality proteins can not only help one lose weight but help the body not have to work overtime attempting to process sugars.
People with diabetes should get very good at reading food labels, not only watching out for the carb content of their foods but hidden sugars as well.
Focus on Weight Loss
It may sound easier said than done, but losing weight can be the fastest way to turn around a pre-diabetes or full-blown Type II diabetes diagnosis. Losing just 10% of one’s body weight can lead to better-controlled blood sugars and lowered blood pressure and cholesterol. One study showed that out of patients that had bariatric surgery and had a Type II diagnosis, 64% saw remission of the disease in 1 years time. Whether weight loss is achieved through diet and exercise or surgical intervention, the results can be positive in treating Type II diabetes.
Any person with diabetes can tell you that movement and exercise lower their blood sugar. Exercise can also help lower blood pressure, cholesterol and help with weight loss. Even as little as 30 minutes a day can make a world of difference for a person with type II diabetes. Some studies have shown that not exercising can hasten some effects of Type II diabetes, including cardiovascular disease and blood vessel damage.
Studies show that some herbal supplements can help control glucose levels. Ancient herbs such as turmeric, jambolen, amla, and swertia chirata have been found to play a role in diabetes prevention, supporting normal functioning of the pancreas, and lowering fasting blood sugars. According to the American Diabetes Association, those with diabetes are more likely to try supplements than those without. While it’s important to consult your doctor before trying any supplement support for diabetes management, many herbal supplements such as the ones mentioned have shown promise in helping those with Type II diabetes.
Testing Blood Sugar
Knowing where one’s blood sugar stands is one of the most essential parts of managing diabetes, Type I or Type II. You can test your blood sugar via a finger prick with a blood sugar monitoring device or get a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). A CGM will send up-to-date readings to your phone or receiver device, so you always know what direction your blood sugar is heading and when you need to correct it. CGMs can even monitor your levels long-term, so you can see the direct correlation between a healthy diet and exercise and your blood glucose levels.
Regular Doctor Visits
An ongoing relationship with a primary care physician or endocrinologist can help one manage Type II diabetes and head off significant complications before they begin. Speaking to one’s doctor about non-medication-related interventions can help a newly diagnosed diabetic develop a plan of action to help them reverse the negative effects of the disease. Many complications of diabetes can lay dormant for many years until they become a pervasive, sometimes irreversible, issue. Having regular checkups can keep one motivated, accountable, and healthier.
While medication is often the best route for the treatment of Type II diabetes, any intervention that can be approached that is not medication-based can be healthier overall for the patient. If the patient can shift their diet, exercise more, and monitor their blood glucose, they can reverse the effects of Type II diabetes.