Top Fifteen Things I’ve Learned About Diabetes

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I’ve been writing this blog each week for over six years now, so I’ve had to come up with a lot of ideas. Fortunately, readers give me many of them. Here are the fifteen best things I’ve learned. (To read more about any of them, click on the provided links.)

1. Type 2 diabetes can be reversed. Although some people have ongoing liver or pancreas dysfunction, these are mostly people who have had Type 2 a long time, and even they can get much better.

It may take years, but many people can actually stop their medicines and have normal glucose numbers. This is not the same as cure. You can’t go back to eating carb-heavy meals without a glucose spike, but if you eat properly, you can have normal numbers and stop complications. Some people can even pass a glucose tolerance test with normal results, which, to me, is pretty close to a cure.

2. People are frequently diagnosed as “Type 2” when they actually have Type 1, LADA (latent autoimmune diabetes of adults) or MODY (monogenic diabetes, or maturity-onset diabetes of the young).

An adult walks into a doctor’s office or an ER and is found to have high blood glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes is just assumed. But people can get Type 1 at any age. LADA and MODY are also common in adults. The problem is that people are treated with oral meds that won’t help and denied insulin because “they are Type 2.”

3. Type 1 and Type 2 have a lot more in common than most of us realize. Type 1 rates are surging, too, and nobody can blame that on people’s behavior.

4. Environmental chemicals have a lot to do with causing both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Many of these chemicals are in the food we eat and may have as much to do with diabetes as the foods themselves.

5. Herbs and spices can be very helpful in controlling diabetes. My favorites are bitter melon and cinnamon, although many others are valuable. Bitter melon in particular seems almost a substitute for insulin for some people.

6. Vinegar reliably lowers glucose by 20–30% in many people with Type 1 or Type 2. Eat it on salads, drink it, or take vinegar capsules. Remember to rinse your mouth afterward to protect your teeth. As with any medicine, there are a few people for whom it doesn’t work, but it has better results in studies than almost any drug.

7. What is presented in the media as “science” is often / corporate storytelling. Studies can be biased, misinterpreted, or dishonest. Don’t trust studies unless you or someone you trust has read them. And don’t decide anything based on one study.

8. The importance of sleep. Lack of sleep is a very strong predictor of Type 2. Sleep is the best medicine for many diseases and symptoms, including pain and fatigue.

9. Stress is the hidden cause of much diabetes. It increases insulin resistance, raises blood pressure, and promotes unhealthy behaviors. Stress reduction can be a lifesaver.

10. The value of fiber — we can get as much as 25% of our energy from fiber without involving insulin at all. Fiber helps in many other ways. It protects against intestinal problems, slows glucose entry into the system, and much more. It all works because of our gut bacteria.

11. The wrong bacteria in our large intestines may be the biggest cause of obesity and diabetes. Good bacteria might be the best protection against it.

12. Diabetes is an inflammatory disease. Inflammation is how diabetes does its damage. So reducing inflammation with medicines such as salsalate, with diet, and with stress reduction can go a long way toward stopping diabetes complications.

13. Gum disease is a major symptom and major cause of out-of-control diabetes. People with gum disease are far more likely to get diabetes and complications. Oral self-care is extremely important.

14. Some foods are still mysteries. They seem to raise some people’s blood glucose levels and lower other people’s. Examples include coffee, milk, and chocolate. The only way to know how they affect you is to check your own glucose level.

15. Checking your blood glucose levels to find out information about yourself is valuable. You can learn how different foods, activities, medicines, and stress affect you. People can lower their A1C levels if they monitor smart and take action.

But it depends what you do with the information. Just monitoring routinely and writing down the numbers doesn’t help (unless you are taking insulin more than once a day. Then you need to monitor for safety.) Monitor with a plan, or don’t bother monitoring at all.

Please excuse all the self-linking. Probably another day I would have a completely different list. I hope one of these helps you! If you’ve got your own top recommendations, please leave them in a comment!

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