Last week, I listed 10 environmental and physical factors causing Type 2 diabetes. But what can you do about them?
This blog entry breaks the list into things you can change and things you can’t. All I can give you are hints of what to do. A full description would need a whole book, one that would need a team to write. But here are some places to start.
Causes you’re stuck with
• Genetics. Numerous genes have been found that are more common in people with Type 2. How many actually cause diabetes isn’t known, but you’re stuck with the ones you have as an adult. It’s best not to worry about them. One exception: genes for MODY (monogenic diabetes) might be worth investigating, if you or your doctor thinks you might have it. MODY is often confused with Type 2, and some types should be treated with insulin.
• Intestinal bacteria. The unhealthy germs living in your gut can’t easily be changed. However, it might help to take probiotics and eat probiotic-rich foods (such as sauerkraut, pickles, kefir, and yogurt) and to eat more fiber to feed the good germs. Other than that, you might have to find a study that is looking at FMT (fecal microbiota transplant), which I wrote about here.
• Environmental chemicals. Pollution may be a major cause of Type 2, but by the time you’re diagnosed, much of the damage has been done. You can try to protect yourself for the future by washing all fruits and vegetables well, buying organic (especially meat), moving away from areas of high air pollution, and getting indoor pollutants out of your house. Some of these pollutants are flame retardants added to furniture and toxic chemical cleaners.
Things you can manage
• Refined food. White flours and sugars short-circuit the incretin system. Refined carbohydrates don’t stay in the intestines long enough to tell your body to produce insulin and not resist it. You want to eat much less of those and much more fiber. Save refined or sweet stuff for rare treats, and don’t use much whole flour either.
• Poor conditioning. Strong muscles burn a lot of glucose when you use them. Dr. Richard Bernstein, author of Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, believes strength training is far more important that aerobic exercise for people with diabetes. It’s easy to do; you don’t even need to go to a gym to get started.
• Fatty pancreas and liver. Dr. Roy Taylor of Newcastle University showed that a fatty pancreas doesn’t produce insulin well, and a fatty liver doesn’t use insulin well. He showed that a radical weight-loss diet can “reverse” Type 2 as fat leaves the pancreas and liver.
One big problem with this: The weight and diabetes will probably come back over time. Dr. Taylor’s group suggests living on 1200 calories a day after the weight loss will prevent diabetes’ return, but we have no long-term data showing that.
Causes you might need help with
• Poor sleep. Sleep deprivation often leads to diabetes. If you sleep less than 7 hours a night, or wake up tired, be checked for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). If your breathing stops at night and wakes you up, that makes your diabetes worse. You can have OSA without even being aware of it.
Even without sleep apnea, most of us get too little sleep. We’re too busy; we’re too stressed. I ask you to prioritize sleep. Develop a bedtime ritual that helps you fall asleep. Create a quiet, comfortable sleep environment. Love yourself enough to make time to sleep.
• Stress. Stress, a major cause of insulin resistance, is a response to threats beyond your ability to control. These threats may be economic, psychological, physical, or emotional. The more stress you have, the harder your pancreas will have to work.
Two ways to deal with stress: treat it, or treat the underlying stressor. You can feel better with prayer, meditation, relaxation, or gentle exercise such as yoga or tai chi. You can also play with animals, watch fish, spend time with people you trust, drink some herbal tea, get out in nature, get a massage, or other techniques you can read about here.
Reduce your stress/threat level by getting more support, and by changing stressful situations. Meditate on what’s the likely outcome and how you will deal with it, or get some counseling. An example would be, if you’re stressed about paying your mortgage, can you take in a housemate?
• Trauma. Trauma is stress that never goes away. If not addressed, it will make you fat and insulin resistant. If you or your family have been victims of trauma, you may have some post-trauma effects and you should probably get help processing that. There are many self-help strategies you can try. But the support of others, like support groups, can be even more important.
• Insulin deficiency. If your glucose levels are in the diabetic range, you probably do not have enough insulin. Consider asking your doctor if taking insulin or an incretin drug would be a good idea for you. Also consider asking your doctor about taking proven herbal insulin substitutes such as bitter melon, Costaceae (insulin plant), or others you can see here.
This will all take some thinking, asking for information, some time, and some trial and error. If you have gone through any of these steps, please let your fellow readers know with a comment.