Type 2 Diabetes: Can it be Cured?
When your cells can not efficiently use glucose (sugar) to produce energy, you have a disease called diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or isn’t responding properly to it. This leaves glucose to remain in the bloodstream, eventually leading to high blood sugar levels.
When your body doesn’t use glucose efficiently, the health consequences show. You may experience excessive thirst or hunger, fatigue, and urinating frequently. Long-term effects can affect your kidneys, eyes, nerves, organs, and blood vessels.
So, can type 2 diabetes be cured? The answer is no. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic medical condition with no cure. Instead, it’s best to look at it as a manageable condition. For some people, remission is possible.
What is type 2 diabetes?
In the U.S., diabetes affects 34 million Americans. Nearly 90-95% of those cases are type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
With type 2 diabetes, the body is not correctly using insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. An essential function of insulin is how it interacts with glucose to move it from the blood to cells to be used as energy.
When pancreas cells sense blood sugar is high, the pancreas will continue to produce more insulin. If this disruption continues and blood sugar levels remain elevated, the pancreas can’t keep up with insulin demand. This eventually leads to type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes are difficult to identify because they can develop slowly over years.
Common symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:
- Increasing thirst
- Frequently urinating
- Unintentional weight loss
- Blurry vision
- Slow to heal wounds
- Frequent infections
What are the risk factors for type 2 diabetes?
When symptoms are not present or difficult to see, being aware of the risk factors makes it easier to diagnose diabetes.
Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include:
- Over age 45
- Being overweight
- Family history of type 2 diabetes such as a parent or sibling
- African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaskan native
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- Poor diet
- Lack of physical exercise
What causes type 2 diabetes?
Some people don’t make enough insulin or respond properly to it, but the reason why is unclear. Type 2 diabetes is likely a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
You are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you exhibit any of these factors.
Insulin resistance happens when the cells in your body such as muscle, fat, and liver don’t respond to insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and acts as a guide to move glucose from food to your cells where it’s used for energy. Any disruption in this flow and your pancreas will make more insulin to allow glucose to enter cells. When glucose can’t enter the cells normally, it will build up in the blood leading to high blood glucose levels. This is called insulin resistance.
Excessive eating may affect your waistline and your health. Being overweight or obese are two risk factors that can lead to developing type 2 diabetes. Among adults age 18 and older diagnosed with diabetes, 89% were overweight or obese, according to the CDC. The connection between weight and developing type 2 diabetes increases with body weight.
Lack of physical activity
Being active has many important benefits: It helps you maintain weight, uses up excess glucose, and increases sensitivity to insulin. For adults 18 and older diagnosed with diabetes, less than 25% met the recommended goal of 150 minutes of physical activity each week, according to the CDC. Your risk of type 2 diabetes increases the less active you are.
Genes and family history
If you have a family member with type 2 diabetes, you are more at risk of developing the disease, too.
The NIDDK says these racial and ethnic groups are at increased risk:
- African American
- Alaska Native
- American Indian
- Asian American
- Native Hawaiian
- Pacific Islander
What is type 2 diabetes management?
While there is no cure for type 2 diabetes, the goal is to treat and control diabetes. Working with your healthcare provider to come up with a diabetes management plan is key.
A type 2 diabetes management plan includes:
- Regulating blood glucose levels
- Normalizing cholesterol and triglyceride (lipid) levels
- Controlling blood pressure
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet
- Getting regular exercise
- Taking medications, as prescribed
- Monitoring blood glucose levels
Can type 2 diabetes be cured?
There is currently no cure for type 2 diabetes. When referring to a cure, it means that you no longer have disease. With diabetes, you can show no symptoms of the disease, but it is still technically present, according to MedicalNewsToday.
“Cure can not be used for anything that doesn’t pertain to a medication by the FDA,” Stephen Wander, DC, founder and treatment director of The Functional Medicine Institute, says. “So we are not curing type 2 diabetes, but it absolutely can be reversed. The reason is that if someone follows the proper protocols to reverse diabetes but then stops or goes back to their old ways, blood sugar issues will return.”
Instead, a treatment plan can help control symptoms. For some people, this will mean putting your type 2 diabetes in remission. When type 2 diabetes goes into remission, blood sugar levels are normalized for at least six months without diabetes medication, according to the NIDDK. Diabetes can come back, so you must be vigilant to maintain your optimal blood sugar levels.
How can you make type 2 diabetes go into remission?
Staying in remission is not a permanent solution–it’s a process you maintain by watching your weight, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise.There is strong evidence to support that losing weight will help you reverse type 2 diabetes. One study, called the Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT), showed that intensive weight loss contributed to remission without taking medication.
Doctors suggest the best way to control blood sugar levels with type 2 diabetes is through diet and exercise, and if this fails, medication and insulin.
A 2019 study published in Diabetic Medicine has shown that even moderate weight loss of 10% of body weight within five years of diagnosis can achieve remission of type 2 diabetes. This is welcome news if you don’t want to take on a severe calorie-restrictive diet or intensive lifestyle changes.
Since nearly 90% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, according to the American Diabetes Association, achieving weight loss can help significantly to lower blood sugar levels.
Maintaining a healthy diet is a key part of managing type 2 diabetes. Make it a goal to eliminate processed and packaged foods that are high in simple carbohydrates and sugar. Instead, eat nutrient-dense foods such as:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Lean proteins like fish, chicken, eggs
- Nuts, seeds
- Beans and lentils
- Whole grains
Simply moving your body can help control your blood glucose levels. Physical activity can include:
- Any physical activity you enjoy
Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong condition with no cure. There is solid evidence supporting diabetes can be managed through losing weight, a healthy diet, and regular physical activity. With a few lifestyle changes, you can manage type 2 diabetes and even send it into remission without the need for medication.
Sources & References:
Mayo Clinic - Type 2 Diabetes
MedicalNewsToday - A review of therapies and lifestyle changes for diabetes
The Lancet - The DiRECT trial
Dr. Stephen Wander, DC, founder and treatment director of The Functional Medicine Institute