As we are staring at a colossal diabetes problem impacting and hurting your near and dear ones, one needs to know what causes it. Because given our lifestyle it is quite likely that all of us will eventually get this dreaded disease unless we take corrective measures. While it may sound like a bold prediction, please wait till I can explain the rationale.
Excessive Food Intake – Abundance
The first concept one needs to understand is that human beings evolved from being hunter-gatherers to farmers in the last 10,000-12,000 years. Still, the modern man has been around for over 200,000 years, so farming as a way of living is a relatively recent evolution, so our genetics has not got much time to evolve from the hunter-gatherer form. So our genes are the body tuned to have 1-2 meals per day (as and when it is available) and can survive without food for a few days. Our body can survive and thrive by eating foods 1-2 times a day, but we have slowly gone from eating two meals a day to the equivalent of 5 meals(with constant snacking) a day during the last few decades. Driven by the modern agricultural revolution, we now have abundant food, leading even poor people to eat more food than needed. The food is also more processed than ever, which means we are stripping away nutrients and only eating more tasty food, primarily carbohydrates. It is this abundance that is the starting point for Diabetes. In the next section, we will deal with what happens when we eat more food than we need and how the body copes with the excess food.
Handling Excess Food-Insulin Resistance
The human body is an amazing adaptive machine that always works towards known steady-state called homeostasis. If there is any change in the body, then the body will adapt itself. For example, if you are starving and the body is running low on Glucose, it instructs the Liver to release the excess Glucose stored in the Liver to maintain a steady-state level of glucose. So the body will adapt to keep its vitals to a steady-state. This mechanism kicks in when we eat more food than we need, and it tries to manage the excess glucose levels in the blood. Many hormones regulate the levels of Glucose, but it is Insulin that controls and has the most significant impact. To simplify the understanding, we can look at what Insulin does to us. Insulin in the bloodstream instructs the cells to start consuming excess Glucose in the bloodstream, so any instance where we have excessive Glucose causes Insulin to be released to manage Glucose levels. Unfortunately, Insulin that asks the cells to take in Glucose also prevents the body from breaking down the fat cells and, in fact, encourages excess Glucose to be converted into fat storage. That is why we accumulate fat, and the fat initially accumulates around the Liver, causing Fatty Liver. Thus when we consume more carbohydrates than we need, it leads to a glut of Glucose in the blood leading to more Insulin in the bloodstream. But there is a limit to the amount of Glucose that a cell can absorb in the presence of Insulin.
- Excessive Carbohydrate Intake (both Quantity and Frequency)
- Increased Insulin production leads to Abdominal obesity and Fatty Liver.
- Persistently High Insulin over a decade or so causes Insulin Resistance.
- More Glucose remains in the blood than needed causing Diabetes which affects all organs.
Diabetes is a Dietary Disease
Once we understand how a patient has developed Diabetes, it should be clear that this disease is a dietary disease and not a malfunction in any of our organs. Most doctors have concluded that Diabetes is a chronic disease that cannot be cured and resort to giving meds aimed at controlling blood sugar levels. But the critical insight is that the excessive blood sugar level is due to Insulin resistance, and taking meds like Metformin or Glinides will not help. These work on either improving the Insulin sensitivity of the body or encouraging more Insulin production.This is why these drugs are almost always going to make the patient worse because it never addresses the core issue of Insulin resistance and tries to sweep it under the carpet by focusing on managing the excessive glucose levels. The patient will thus need to be taking medicines all their life, and their condition never improves because there is no attempt at solving the root cause.
So if we got Diabetes after many years of having excessive food (carbohydrates), is there a way to reverse this? Better still, is there a way to prevent it?.
The answer to this lies in changing Insulin resistance, which is possible using many different approaches(which I will describe later). But why is this not popular?
- The reversing of Insulin resistance takes time and lifestyle changes, which are hard to manage and is not like taking a pill. Insulin reversal often takes over one year to show results and people need to keep at it before they start seeing results.
- The research on this is pretty recent and has happened in the last couple of decades and it is not yet popular because it is hard to implement. Most doctors are aware of this but continue to give regular meds for Diabetes because they have prescribed meds all along.Asking a patient to follow a diet is not easy as it is a big change in mindset.
How to reverse Insulin Resistance and Diabetes?
The root cause of this is excessive Glucose leading to more Insulin, so if we need first to stop further decay, we need to cut down the amount of carbohydrates that one eats as the starting point. Many experts like Jason Fung and Neal Barnard have come up with diets that can reverse Insulin resistance. I recommend reading either of their books to find a diet that can help you change it. At the core of both approaches is that Diabetes is caused by your diet and it can be fixed with a diet change.
I provide a summary of the diets suggested by both to give you an idea of what it takes to reverse Diabetes. As you will realize this is a drastic change in lifestyle for most and this is why this approach is not very popular.
- Intermittent Fasting – The quickest way to start the body on a routine for reversal of Insulin resistance is to follow the intermittent fasting method. It is a simple approach as it reduces the amount of time that the body has to deal with excessive Insulin, and over time (10 weeks or more) body will gain back its Insulin sensitivity.
- Avoid all forms of Sugars – No sugars, including Jaggery, High Fructose Corn Syrup. It would also mean avoding any form of processed food as most processed food contain some form of sugar.
- 2-3 meals a day – Eat food only three times a day and nothing in between. We are eating for 15 hours a day; The body needs rest and time to manage excess Insulin.
- Eat whole grains – We need to switch to whole grains for all our carbohydrate intake, no white flours. It is preferable to eat native varieties of grains like Red Rice, Emmer wheat because they are less starchy.
- Eat fruits and vegetables– Increase the number of veggies and fruits in your food diet to make it at least 30% of your food intake.It is preferable to use fruits in season.
- Avoid processed foods – Any food that is processed will contain white flours and hydrogenated oils both of which are not good for Insulin resistance
- All items made with white flour -Bread, Biscuits, Pani Puri.
- Any items made with saturated fats
- Avoid vegetable oils / Palm oils etc. – These are sources of cholesterol, and it is best to avoid all vegetable oils (which are hydrogenated).
- Some diets(Neal Barnard’s) advise avoiding animal products, including milk, cheese, meat, and eggs.
Recommendations on next steps
If I have raised your curiosity on how one can avoid or reverse Diabetes by a bit, I will consider that I have achieved the purpose of writing this article. If you have Diabetes, I want to share a ray of hope that a cure with meds is possible. And if you are not yet diabetic, I want to warn you that you will eventually become Diabetic unless you change your dietary habits. This is because we are consuming more food at a higher frequency than our bodies are designed to handle (remember we had 1 meal a day till agriculture revolution). One has to change their diet completely to avoid the incoming onslaught of Diabetes. My request to you is to read the following books to convince yourselves on the science. I have tried to summarize the content of the books in this article but it is far more complicated but a good diet can solve all the issues and set you on a path for reversal of diabetes. If any of you need a copy of these books I will be happy to share them with you, all you need to do is ask.
- Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes
- The Diabetes Code: Prevent and Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Naturally
- Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes: The Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes Without Drugs
If you would like to connect to folks who have reversed diabetes , please feel free to write to me at avinashmkb78(at)gmail.com and I will connect you to many folks who have reversed it by following diets and intermittent fasting.