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Why Genetics don’t Control our Destiny with Diabetes.
“Type 2 diabetes runs on both sides of my family,” a patient will occasionally tell me. “Does that mean the genetic cards are stacked against me?”
I understand their concerns, especially as diabesity—the continuum of health problems ranging from mild insulin resistance and overweight to obesity and diabetes—continues to get worse. From 1983 to 2008, the number of people in the world with diabetes increased sevenfold, from 35 million to 240 million.
Here’s how I always reply: we can’t control our genes, but we have plenty of control over our environment.
Consider this: One cancer study found 90 percent of our disease risks are due to differences in environment, not genes. (1)
Several prevalent factors, including a poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, stress and exposure to environmental toxins, determine whether we get Type 2 diabetes.
That is actually good news: It puts us in the driver’s seat. As functional practitioners often say, our genetics load the gun, but our environments pull the trigger. We can control and reverse diabesity. We need not succumb to its fate simply because it runs in our family.
Unfortunately, we are taught diabetes is not reversible and that we are destined to suffer progressive decline in function, including heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, amputation, strokes and dementia.
We also erroneously believe treating obesity or maintaining long-term weight loss is impossible. I have heard doctors say the only treatment options include limiting the consequences and reducing the complications.
How tragic, considering scientific evidence shows diabetes is reversible, especially if doctors catch it in the early stages, treat it aggressively through lifestyle intervention and nutritional support and occasionally intervene with medications. (2)
We can even reverse most later stage diabetes with intensive lifestyle changes, medications and supplements.
While reversing diabetes might demand a lot of work, with the right conditions our bodies can heal. Whether it runs in our family or we’ve lived with Type 2 diabetes for years, we have the power to normalize blood sugar and lower insulin.
These seven strategies put us in the driver’s seat to reverse or prevent its impact:
- Ask for the right tests. Most doctors focus on fasting blood sugar, a poor indicator of diabesity. Instead, I recommend an insulin response test, where doctors measure insulin levels while we fast, then one and two hours after a glucose drink.
- Eliminate sugar and processed foods. The right diet for Type 2 diabetes is actually quite simple. We want to remove sugar and processed carbohydrates. And we should include whole real foods like lean protein (chicken or fish), veggies, nuts, seeds, beans and non-gluten whole grains.
- Supplement smartly. Supplements become essential to treat diabesity. A basic plan should include a good multivitamin, vitamin D, fish oil, and special blood sugar balancing nutrients like alpha lipoic acid, chromium polynicotinate, biotin, cinnamon, green tea catechins and glucomannan. Please consult The Blood Sugar Solution for a more comprehensive plan to use nutrients for blood sugar balance.
- Chill out. Chronic stress can contribute to insulin resistance and blood sugar imbalances. Pushing our pause button every day with deep breathing, visualization, yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques can help reduce stress levels.
- Move more. Aside from changing our diet, exercise is probably the single best medication for diabesity. Walk at least 30 minutes every day. We might need more vigorous exercise, such as 30 to 60 minutes burst training or weight resistance. Grab my comprehensive, easy-to-apply exercise plan here.
- Address our environment. Environmental toxins contribute more to diabesity than we might think. Among the strategies to reduce toxins include filtering water, looking for green cleaning products and avoiding plastics whenever we can.
- Get enough sleep. Studies show even one partial night of poor sleep can contribute to insulin resistance, paving the way for diabesity. (3) Get 19 of my top sleep tips here.
Whether Type 2 diabetes runs in your family or you have lived with it for years, I hope these strategies provide you hope that you have the power to prevent or reverse this condition. What one strategy would you add here? Share yours below or on my Facebook page.
(1) Lichtenstein P, et al. Environmental and heritable factors in the causation of cancer— analyses of cohorts of twins from Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. N Engl J Med. 2000 Jul 13;343( 2): 78– 85.
(2) Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group, Knowler WC, et al. 10-year follow-up of diabetes incidence and weight loss in the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study. Lancet. 2009 Nov 14;374( 9702): 1677– 86.
(3) Donga E, et al. A single night of partial sleep deprivation induces insulin resistance in multiple metabolic pathways in healthy subjects. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Jun;95(6):2963-8. doi: 10.1210/jc.2009-2430. Epub 2010 Apr 6.
Author: Mark Hyman
Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: Google Images for Reuse