Healthy Lifestyle Choices That Can Treat Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a chronic medical condition characterized by elevated blood sugar levels, causing multiple damages on the body.
Unlike type 1 diabetes, the pancreatic tissue in T2D is intact with regular production of insulin.
Moreover, there is no autoimmune component, and the risk factors are somewhat different.
T2D are more is common in obese individuals above the age of 40, with multiple risk factors of diabetes.
The primary dysfunction of T2D is cellular resistance to the action of insulin.
In other words, the concentrations of insulin in the bloodstream are physiological, but its action on the cells is compromised.
For decades, researchers believed that this was the only disrupted function in type 2 diabetes.
However, recent evidence suggests that patients with T2D eventually develop relative insulin deficiency via the active destruction of the pancreatic tissue.
Note that the degree of destruction is nowhere near that of type 1 diabetes.
The combination of insulin resistance and its relative deficiency make up the hallmarks of diabetes pathophysiology.
In the next sections, we will cover the risk factors, clinical presentation, treatment options, and prevention of type 2 diabetes.
What causes type 2 diabetes?
The exact causes that lead to T2D are still unclear due to the complex pathophysiological processes and the high number of variables involved.
Nevertheless, researchers believe that the concept of ‘nature and nurture’ sufficiently explains this disease.
Let’s decipher this concept:
The nature part
If you have a family history of T2D, your risk of developing the disease is relatively higher than the general population.
According to a 2012 study, family history increases the risk of T2D by 2.5-fold.
If the equation includes obesity, the risk increase can reach 20-fold.
The nurture part
The nurture part is extremely important in type 2 diabetes, as it involves numerous risk factors that predispose people to the disease.
The most prevalent risk factors are:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
By far, obesity is the most important risk factor, especially around the abdominal and waist region.
Researchers believe that eating carb-rich meals for a long time creates a vicious cycle of glucose and insulin spikes, which decrease the sensitivity of cells to insulin action.
The higher the glycemic index, the more extreme the spikes will be.
For instance, soda and synthetic juices mainly contain simple sugars, which rapidly augment blood glucose levels and lead to the subsequent insulin spike.
To summarize, consuming foods with a high glycemic index will stimulate your pancreas multiple times a day, triggering a spiking pattern of insulin secretion and increasing your risk of T2D.
Early Signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes
The signs and symptoms of T2D are similar to type 1 diabetes.
However, the clinical presentation of T2D generally presents at a later age (over 40 years old), whereas type 1 diabetes patients experience these symptoms during adolescence.
Here are the most common signs and symptoms of T2D:
- Generalized fatigue
- Polyphagia (i.e., feeling hungry all the time)
- Polydipsia (i.e., excessive thirst)
- Polyuria (i.e., more than 3 liters of urine in 24 hours)
- Dry mouth
- Itchy skin
- Acanthosis nigricans (dark discoloration in body folds and creases)
The treatment options of type 2 diabetes
The treatment of T2D focuses on addressing lifestyle habits and supplying patients with pharmacological drugs.
Dietary measures and exercise
After you been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, your doctor will perform a comprehensive physical examination to identify any diabetes-associated complications.
If everything looks clear, the first line of therapy would be making lifestyle modifications (e.g., healthy dietary choices, regular exercise).
While this might seem insignificant,
This drug is the preferred pharmacological treatment for patients with T2D.
It decreases the production of new glucose molecules and increases the storage of glycogen inside the liver and muscle tissue.
Moreover, metformin promotes weight loss, which helps control blood sugar levels.
If oral hypoglycemic drugs fail to regulate your blood sugar, the doctor may recommend insulin therapy to restore the balance and prevent complications.
Complications of type 2 diabetes
The complications of T2D are categorized as short and long-term processes.
The most dangerous complication is hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (HSS), which can be fatal if not corrected rapidly.
Other complications include:
- Diabetic nephropathy
- Recurrent fungal infections (e.g., candidiasis)
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Increased risk of coronary artery disease
- Diabetic foot
- Hearing impairment
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Diabetic gastroparesis (e.g., constipation)
Dietary choices to prevent type 2 diabetes
The paleo diet
In a 2016 study, 32 diabetic participants were started on a paleo diet for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, all participants lost weight.
However, what’s fascinating is that other benefits were documented, including:
- Better glycemic control
- Enhanced lipid metabolism
- Increased insulin sensitivity
- Upregulation of hunger-suppressing hormones (e.g., ghrelin, leptin)
Another study published in 2009 focused on the parameters mentioned above and additional variables, such as Hemoglobin A1c and cardiovascular risk factors.
13 participants followed the paleo diet for 3 months, and at the end of the study, Hb A1c significantly decreased.
Researchers concluded their study by stating that:
“A Paleolithic diet improved glycemic control and several cardiovascular risk factors compared to a Diabetes diet in patients with type 2 diabetes”.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (types of fish oil) also contribute to weight loss.
In a 2010 study, researchers recruited 46 participants who were given fish oil for 6 weeks.
After finishing the study, participants lost 0.5 kilograms and had improved blood sugar levels.
Researchers attributed this finding to the lower blood cortisol levels (primary stress hormone), which is responsible for activating fat-storing metabolic pathways and hyperglycemia.
Green leafy vegetables
Several scientific papers support the positive effects of green leafy vegetable on glycemia.
Veggies, such as kale, spinach, and broccoli, are all loaded in antioxidants and fiber.
Both of these substances help in the regulation of blood sugar levels.
In one study from the University of Leicester, researchers found that eating one and a half servings of green leafy vegetables per day reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by 14%.
Type 2 diabetes is a complex disease that presents with numerous therapeutic challenges.
Nevertheless, several studies have shown that healthy lifestyle choices can prevent and even reverse the negative effects of T2D.
These of course require also the cooperation of patients with their doctors to improve the prognosis.
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