Ashok’s love-hate relationship with insulin needles is never-ending. While they temporarily curb his blood sugar levels, dealing with the daily doses of needle pricks gets
to understand how it’s linked to health
Mastering Diabetes Self-care: Treatment Options, Lifestyle Changes
Did you know that 1 out of every 3 people in the world are diabetic or pre-diabeteic? So if you are one among them, there’s nothing to worry about. What is worrisome though, is that diabetics across the world are being treated with medicine and insulin, and not much importance is given to diet and other lifestyle changes. But what if we told you that approach to treating diabetes is an outdated model of care. The reason for this is that doctors and clinicians tell you that diabetes is a lifelong disease that can only be ‘managed’. Come it think of it, to be told that there can be no cure of a disease goes against the very basis of healthy existence!
Living with diabetes can be challenging. But with the right knowledge, diabetes tools, and support, you can learn how to manage diabetes at home or reverse it completely to lead a fulfilling quality life.
So, whether you are newly diagnosed or have been living with diabetes for years, our aim is to provide you with valuable insights, practical tips, to help you take charge of your health and well-being.
In this blog, we demystify myths around diabetes, elaborate on treatment options, suggest lifestyle changes, shed light on technological aids that help in Type 2 diabetes self-care and discuss measures to prevent diabetes-related complications. So join us as we navigate you through the nitty-gritties of diabetes self-care.
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First and foremost, it is essential for us to understand that the narrative of managing diabetes with drugs is redundant. The need of the hour is a system for Type 2 diabetes self-care that takes into account lifestyle and other real life factors. After all, diabetes is a ‘lifestyle disorder’. Hence, lifestyle changes and diabetes self-care alone can manage or reverse it sustainably. This means that you can live a diabetes and medication-free quality life.
Now, diabetes is often misunderstood as ‘increased blood sugar levels.’ However, that is not true. High blood sugar is simply a symptom of diabetes. It is not the disease itself.
When we take medications to keep our blood sugar levels in control, we are only keeping the symptom in check without even identifying or addressing the root cause. Therefore, our whole purpose of ‘treating’ diabetes is defeated. All that we attain through drugs and insulin or both, is “symptom management” rather than a cure for the disease.
The good news is, scientific research in the last few decades has successfully decoded the underlying pathophysiology of Type 2 diabetes and has found that one of the root causes of the disease primarily is, Insulin Resistance.
This simply means, the body is producing enough insulin, but the cells are not being able to absorb that insulin. In other words, Type 2 diabetes is not a disease of insulin insufficiency but rather a disorder of insulin inefficiency.
On the other hand, Type 1 Diabetes is caused by autoimmune destruction of pancreatic beta cells. Due to this, the pancreas can’t produce enough insulin, thus causing insulin insufficiency. Therefore, exogenous insulin is a lifesaving drug in type 1 diabetics when used in appropriate doses.
Causes and symptoms of diabetes
Now that we know that Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disorder rooted in insulin resistance, you must be wondering how it occurs. Well, the answer to this lies in ultra-processed food that are a high insulin diet.
When you eat ultra-processed foods, the pancreas secrete more insulin and it causes high insulin levels in the bloodstream.
When this happens consistently over a period of time, it means we consistently have high insulin level. Now if you still consume excess sugar, refined carbs, dairy products and refined oils, it causes mitochondrial dysfunction and fat deposits in the liver, muscles and pancreas.
These fat deposits or intramyocellular lipids causes the body to resist the action of insulin. This is what we call ‘insulin resistance.’
Apart from ultra-processed foods, other factors that can cause insulin resistance are; infections and inflammation, sedentary lifestyle, increased stress, sleep disturbances, dehydration, environmental toxins, non-native EMF exposure and micronutrient deficiency.
Bursting myths around diabetes
Firstly, Diabetes is often thought to be a genetic disease, but in reality that is not the case. Rather, diabetes is a problem of ‘epigenetics’; that is, the impact of the environment on our genes.
Genes cannot express themselves. They perceive signals from the environment through the cell membrane and react accordingly. Thus, our external environment – including food and lifestyle – determines the expression of the genes.
Secondly, diabetes is accepted to be a lifelong disease. People think that once they have the disease, it cannot be cured and has to be managed lifelong with medications. However, that is only the conventional medicine viewpoint.
Diabetes can be prevented or reversed if the root cause is identified and treated with a suitable protocol. But the stark reality is that big pharma doesn’t want you to know that. They want to sell more medicines and they’re the ones who fund most of the research. So their viewpoint prevails.
Thirdly, diabetes is popularly accepted to be a problem of low insulin. So when your blood sugar level, your doctor prescribes insulin medication. But in reality, insulin was never the problem. Your body is producing enough insulin. The problem is that the insulin is not being absorbed by your cells due to insulin resistance.
The real treatment should target making the insulin work properly inside your body. This can be possible by eliminating the root cause of resistance, which means we need to reduce ectopic fat deposits in the liver, muscles and pancreas.
Global impact of diabetes
According to official estimates, there are approximately 500 million people worldwide living with diabetes, which is more than 10.5% of the total adult population in the world.
Official data available with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) shows that 77 million Indians are diabetic, which is 8.3% of our total adult population. And will almost double in the next 10 years.
If we add the numbers for diabetes and pre-diabetes, about 25% of the total adult population will come within its ambit.
Given these alarming numbers, there is an urgent need for an effective diabetic management and prevention strategy in India.
Diabetes Treatment Options
Insulin therapy and oral medications – Outdated traditional treatment methods
The problem with most medications used for treating diabetes is that they are centred on controlling your blood sugar level. But they can do so only for a limited period of time, after which the dosage had to be increased for effectiveness.
Metformin may be the only first line drug that can actually reduce insulin resistance by reducing liver fat and increasing the elimination of glucose through the stools. But unfortunately, none of these medications come without side effects.
Moreover, none these medications actually address the root causes of Insulin resistance; that is, metabolic disorder, infections and inflammation, poor mitochondria, dehydration, toxicity, etc. this is the primary reason why insulin or drugs do not provide a solution for Type 2 diabetes.
Secondly, these drugs put additional pressure on the pancreas to produce more insulin whereas, Type 2 diabetes was never a problem of insulin insufficiency to start with. Eventually, we not only end up with more insulin in our blood stream, but we also weaken our pancreas and kidneys by putting more pressure on these organs.
Holistic, Integrative, functional medicine approach to diabetes treatment
In contrast to conventional medicine, the integrative and functional medicine approach is proactive rather than reactive. It emphasizes on disease prevention, treatment and reversal through multi-factorial lifestyle changes and not just diet and exercise.
This approach is holistic, which means it considers the body and all its interconnected systems as a whole and not just particular organs. The objective of this approach is to identify the root cause of the imbalance in the body and treat it with a well-rounded protocol for restoration of balance and sustainable reversal of the disease.
In order to design this treatment protocol, it considers options from the entire spectrum of science and medicine, including science-backed ancient wisdom. Thus, this approach is integrative as well.
At Wellfinity, we conduct extensive lab tests for an in-depth understanding of your medical history. Our focus is on identifying the underlying factors that are causing the insulin resistance, which is the root of your diabetes.
The tests look at your overall dysfunction and inflammation, vitamin deficiencies, stress, thyroid and other hormones, gastrointestinal health, liver, and cellular health. Any and all of these factors can dramatically affect insulin resistance and diabetes progression.
Once we identify the factors, we create a functional treatment plan to address and rectify.
Recent advancements and alternative treatments
The latest advancement in conventional medicine with respect to diabetes treatment or management is ‘inhaled insulin’, that is; Insulin that is breathed in through the lungs for controlling blood sugar levels. It acts faster than ingested insulin and can start showing effect in 15 minutes. However, this advancement is still around tackling the symptom rather than addressing the root cause of diabetes.
Stem cell research is also in progress, but it is still in its nascent stages. Moreover, it may be likely to benefit Type 1 diabetes patients in the near future but not Type 2, as Type 2 diabetes is entirely lifestyle disorder.
Embracing Lifestyle Changes For Diabetes Management
Since Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disorder, lifestyle changes alone can bring about sustained diabetes control for life. These lifestyle changes mainly include diet and nutrition, exercise, and stress management.
At Wellfinity, almost all our members with Type 2 diabetes show signs of improvement immediately when we start working on overall lifestyle parameters and there is no requirement for external medicine.
Diet and nutrition
First and foremost, it must be emphasized that fad diets based on the principle of the Calorie model of obesity is a failure. Instead of ‘eat less, move more’ our focus should be on eating right. Research indicates that making changes to your diet can lead to improvements in diabetes symptoms within a span of 1-8 weeks.
A diabetic person should consume foods that do not cause rapid spikes in blood sugar level. Some such foods are high-fiber plant-based foods, proteins, nuts, and healthy fats. Conversely, it is also advisable to avoid refined grains, fried foods, sugars and sweets as they can elevate blood sugar levels and increase inflammation, which in turn can worsen insulin resistance.
Dietary fibres also play an important role in reducing the postprandial glucose levels. Currently, our average intake of fibers is less than 15 grams, whereas it should be increased to more than 50 grams per day for ideal metabolic health.
People most often shun fats. However, saturated fats and monounsaturated fats are actually metabolically healthy. Essential fatty acids like Omega 3, avocado, and desi ghee are very essential for maintaining Insulin sensitivity and its anti-inflammatory properties.
Proteins are the building blocks of our body structure. It helps in cellular and tissue repair and essential functions. The ideal intake of protein should be 1 gram per kg of body weight per day. Currently, the average consumption of protein in India is abysmally low.
Additionally, certain supplements like Omega 3 oils, Vitamin B, D, C, Berberine, Magnesium and Zinc, can support the reversal of diabetes. However, the need for supplements should be based on individual lab results.
Exercise and physical activity
Regular moderate exercise helps enhance the sensitivity of our insulin receptors, enabling more efficient processing of carbohydrates in the diet. Maintaining muscle strength and tone is utmost important in preserving health span, while Yoga and controlled breathing techniques increase the mitochondrial biogenesis and help in preserving cardio metabolic health.
Creating a personalized exercise plan tailored to your specific health condition can also be highly advantageous. Ideally, resistant training (self-weight bearing exercises) should constitute 75% of physical activity aerobics should be the remaining 25%.
Managing stress and sleeping well
Managing stress is another crucial aspect in alleviating diabetes symptoms. Stress is always protective in acute settings such as emergencies. But if you are suffering from chronic stress particularly emotional, in such case also the body will release cortisol, the stress hormones in the blood. This in turn causes visceral fat and abdominal obesity. Eventually it increases insulin resistance which can be the root cause of not just diabetes, but several metabolic disorders.
Moreover, sleep disturbance for even a single day can increase the stress hormone Cortisol in the blood. Quality sleep of 7-8 hours daily, particularly between 10-4 pm is utmost important because any disruption of sleep in this time period disturbs the circadian rhythm and affects the overall health.
Incorporating practices like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga into your routine can help reduce anxiety and promote overall well-being.
Apart from the above-mentioned lifestyle factors there are other aspects that usually don’t get covered by most practitioners.
At Wellfinity we go beyond the usual factors because each of them is equally important in ensuring a holistic sustained management of diabetes. These factors, amongst others include:
- Sun exposure for at least 1-2 hours daily directly on your skin
- Grounding, which means walking on sand, grass, forest for 25-30 minutes daily
- A healthy Gut, which includes correcting gut dysbiosis, leaky gut and gut infections
- Reducing inflammation and removing toxins from the blood
- Drinking structured water for hydration at a cellular level
- Improving the quality and quantity of mitchondria
- Limiting blue light exposure and using more natural light
- Supplementing yourself to balance nutritional deficiency and insufficiency.
Neglecting these factors can lead to oxidative stress, harm pancreatic beta cells which produce insulin, and trigger cellular insulin resistance. It is crucial to address these factors to prevent and manage serious metabolic issues.
Technological Aids In Diabetes Self-Management
There are several devices manufactured and marketed for the purpose of assisting us in diabetes self-management such as glucose tracking tools, Insulin delivery devices and diabetes management apps.
Glucose tracking tools
As the name suggests, these help in keeping track of your glucose levels. They can be of two types; the normal Glucometers that require you to prick your finger every time you want to check your blood glucose, and the CGM or Continuous Glucose Monitor which has a sensor attached to your skin and measures interstitial glucose continuously. The flipside of the latter is that it is 30 minutes behind blood glucose levels.
Insulin delivery devices
Insulin delivery systems such as insulin pens make measuring and delivering insulin less complicated for Type 1 and Type 1.5 patients. Artificial pancreas aka Automated insulin delivery system consists of Insulin pumps, CGM and control algorithm. However, it is nowhere close to the natural pancreatic function and Insulin pumps cannot eliminate the regular pricks since it is needed for regular calibration.
Diabetes management apps
Although Artificial Intelligence (AI) is used in the management of diabetes through apps particularly by the wellness industry, the basic Calorie model used for computing and choose the various types of food are actually outdated. It could be of use in the near future, if it is based on a better model that takes into account nutrient composition, macronutrient ratio, of a given meal, satiety index and most importantly, the insulin index of meals.
More importantly, all the above mentioned technological advancements are not targeted to address the root cause(s) of the disease. The use of technology with respect to diabetes should be aimed at embedding lifestyle changes into a diabetic’s life. Apps which remind us in a gaming way to work on getting daily sunshine, movement, grounding and stress reduction is the need of the hour.
Building a Supportive Environment For Diabetes Self-Care
It is important for diabetics to have a supportive environment in their immediate circle. When you have people around you who are also changing their lifestyle to reverse diabetes, you feel encouraged to do the same. Having an environment of people leading a healthy lifestyle affects you positively. This is what true epigenetics is.
Moreover, if family members have some knowledge of the disease and its signs, they can be of help in emergency situations like low sugar. Likewise, professionals such functional medicine doctors can help address the root cause with a holistic program for sustainable diabetes management or reversal.
A diabetic person would also need community resources and support groups which have a scientific approach, in order to cut the clutter of rampant misinformation around the disease that is easily available these days, through the internet and other sources.
Preventing Complications: The Advanced Level Of Self-care For Diabetes
Potential health complications of diabetes
The potential complications of diabetes can be broadly classified into microvascular and macrovascular.
Microvascular complications occur mostly due to high glucose levels and affect the nerves, retina and kidneys. On the other hand, macrovascular complications are primarily due to insulin resistance and high insulin levels and they increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
It is noteworthy here that insulin toxicity can cause both microvascular and macrovascular complications. Apart from these, there can be other complications such as gastropathy and diabetic foot. You will also remember, that diabetics were the most effected by COVID.
Preventive strategies right from 5-7 years before once becomes diabetic
As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure. Ideally, we should start working on reversing diabetes at the early stage of pre-diabetes. This is usually the golden period of 10-15 years in which the blood glucose is within the normal range, but the insulin levels are 2-5 times above normal limit.
At this stage, we should start avoiding ultra-processed foods and snacking in between meals. Instead, we should practice fasting regularly, sleep well, indulge regular physical activity and lead a stress-free.
Importance of regular health check-ups and screenings
We all know the importance of getting regular health check-ups done well before an issues arises. A simple measurement of fasting insulin (less than 6) or TG / HDL ratio (less than 1.5) can be used to predict the occurrence of metabolic disorders and it can be checked at an early stage.
However, we often tend to undermine the correct interpretation of the lab reports and the need for a functional approach to rectify the root cause of the derangement in blood parameters, instead of just correcting the basic parameters. A systemic approach is far better suited instead of the sub-specialized care for the various parameters.
You must identify Type 2 diabetes as a lifestyle disease and a problem of insulin inefficiency rather than insufficiency. Conventional medicine does not get to the root cause of problem, and hence continues ingesting insulin medications which does not solve the problem, but only ‘manages’ the symptoms.
Due to this approach, the burden of diabetes on the healthcare system has increased manifold and is likely to blow out of proportion in the near future. The need of the hour is an integrated, holistic approach that look to identify and treat the root cause of the disease rather than keep the symptoms in check.
Moreover, diabetes self-care is of utmost importance. Every diabetic needs to learn how to take care of yourself with a diabetes lifestyle training program. Apart from regular monitoring, a supportive environment with the use of encouraging technological aids can help to better manage and reverse diabetes. Regular health check-ups can help us identify and reverse diabetes at an early stage.
Diabetes is a lifestyle related disease and lifestyle and self-care alone will manage and reverse it for a sustainable, lifelong diabetes-free ‘quality of life’.
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