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Is type 2 diabetes reversible with intermittent fasting?

In this article, we dive into what is type 2 diabetes and why intermittent fasting can help fighting it.
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Summary

Type 2 diabetes is a serious health issue. Hopefully, it can be slown down and even frozen by following a healthy lifestyle. Now, let's dive into it and find out how and why intermittent fasting could literally be a life changing diet for people suffering from type 2 diabetes.


Written by
Stefanie Joy Daniels
Menopause ambassador | Author | Intermittent fasting coach | Nutritional specialist.

Would I be right in thinking you’re reading this article looking for answers for yourself or even a loved one who’s been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes? Or maybe even pre-diabetes? Wouldn’t it be brilliant if the answer to this question was a straightforward yes, followed by a prescription to a bottle of something that you swallowed and just like that, the diabetes disappeared. 

Unfortunately, reversing type 2 diabetes isn’t as simple as just taking a pill. However there is hope. Hope that requires you (or your loved one) to dig deep, take stock of your lifestyle and make some changes but before we get into those changes, let’s have a look at what type 2 diabetes mellitus actually is. 

Type 2 diabetes


According to NICE (6), type 2 diabetes is defined as insulin resistance, resulting in persistent high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia). A previous study by Smushkin and Vella (8), defined type 2 diabetes as being extremely diverse and therefore worth noting that high blood sugar is just one of many abnormalities that happens to our bodies when we suffer from type 2 diabetes. 

It’s suggested that a number of lifestyle factors are also known to be important in the development of the disease. Elements such as physical inactivity, sedentary or lazy lifestyle, cigarette smoking and a generous consumption of alcohol (7).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1), report that type 2 diabetes symptoms often develop over several years and can go for a long time without being noticed, sometimes with no noticeable symptoms at all! That’s why if you suffer from any of the below signs or symptoms, it’s worth either making some tweaks to your lifestyle, or to go and see your local GP:  

  • Frequent urination (from kidneys trying to remove excess sugar) 
  • Increased thirst (as a result of the frequent urination, leading to dehydration) 
  • Constant hunger (as a result of not enough glucose moving into the body’s cells) 
  • Extreme fatigue (as a result of insufficient sugar moving from the bloodstream into the body’s cells) 
  • Blurry vision (stemming from an excess of sugar in the blood damaging the tiny blood vessels in the eyes) 
  • Slow healing of cuts (from the high levels of sugar damaging the body’s nerves and blood vessels) 
  • Tingling or pain in hands or feet (from high blood sugar levels affecting the blood circulation) 
  • Patches of dark skin (acanthosis nigricans) which feel soft and velvety 
  • Itching and yeast infection (from excess sugar in the blood and urine, providing food for yeast) (4). 

Jason Fung states in his book The Diabetes Code that in type 2 diabetes, blood insulin is already high, so giving more insulin seems problematic. Thinking about it logically, in order to effectively treat type 2 diabetes, you’d need to lower both glucose and insulin.

Despite the data, there is a positive message and some good news; with early diagnosis and access to appropriate care, diabetes can be managed! Furthermore, type 2 diabetes can be prevented and there is compelling evidence to suggest it can be reversed in some cases (5). 

So, what steps can we take towards a healthier, diabetes-free life: 

The Keto Diet 

Out of the three macronutrients - fats, protein and carbohydrates - dietary fat stimulates insulin the least. Pure fats, such as butter and olive oil, stimulate almost no insulin release. Therefore, replacing refined carbohydrates with natural fats is a simple, natural method of reducing insulin (2). 


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Low glycaemic-index diet

low glycemic cereals.

The glycaemic index is a measure of a carb’s effect on blood sugar. So-called “good” carbs - from bran cereal to many fruits and veggies - are lower on the glycaemic index and are central to this dietary approach to lose weight and improve blood-sugar control. Good carbs are digested slowly, so you feel fuller longer and your blood sugar and metabolism don’t go out of whack (9). 

Low GI foods tend to break down slower, they are less likely to cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels compared to high GI foods and therefore are a better option for keeping stable blood glucose levels. Favouring low GI foods over high GI foods leaves you feeling more satisfied over a longer period of time and less likely to feel hungry before the next meals.

The above two options are great for what to eat, but what about when NOT to eat? 

Intermittent fasting 

At its very core, type 2 diabetes is simply too much sugar in the body and so reversal of the disease depends upon two things: 

  1. Stop putting sugar in 


  1. Burn remaining sugar off. 


A low-carbohydrate, healthy-fat diet reduces the incoming glucose but does little to burn it off whereas Intermittent fasting, can help with both parts of diabetes reversal (3). 


It might not be the pill in the bottle you were hoping for, but those small lifestyle tweaks, coupled with consistent intermittent fasting, is going to take you or your loved ones closer to your goal and hopefully buy you more years than you would’ve had. 


Now, if we could just find a way to bottle intermittent fasting…… 



References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). ‘Symptoms and Risk Factors’, Type 2 Diabetes.
  2. Fung, J. (2018a). ‘Insulin: Not the answer for type 2 diabetes’ The Diabetes Code. Greystone Books, pp.151-166. 
  3. Fung, J. (2018b). ‘Intermittent Fasting’ The Diabetes Code. Greystone Books, pp.225-247.
  4. Galan, N. (2020a). ‘Early signs and symptoms’, What are the early signs of type 2 diabetes?
  5. IDF Diabetes Atlas. (2019a). ‘Forewords’, IDF Diabetes Atlas Ninth edition 2019.
  6. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2021). ‘Summary: Diabetes – type 2’ Diabetes – type 2.
  7. Olokoba, A. Obateru, O. Olokoba, L. (2012b). ‘Pathophysiology‘, Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Review of Current Trends, 27 (4), pp.269-273
  8. Smushkin, G. Vella, A. (2010). ‘What is type 2 diabetes?’ [abstract], Diabetes: basic facts, 38 (11), pp.597-601.
  9. Turner-McGrievy, G. Wirth, M. Hill, K. Dear, E. Herbert, J. (2021a). ‘Results’, Examining commonalities and differences in food group, nutrients, and diet quality among popular diets.


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