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Can I Reverse Diabetes Naturally? What Is Diabetes Remission?

Weight loss can help you achieve diabetes remission if you’re overweight. Very low calorie diets, low carb diets, and intermittent diets can help you lose weight. Combining a reduced calorie diet with exercise can also help. In some cases, your doctor may also recommend weight loss surgery.

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Many of us fear diabetes – after all it’s linked to a host of complications such as heart disease, eye problems, kidney disease, and nerve damage.[1][Diabetes](https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes “Diabetes”).National institutes of Health. To make matters worse, for a long time, it was considered a life sentence. It was not thought possible to reduce blood sugar levels to the nondiabetic range and maintain it there for a sustained period once you became diabetic.[2][Achieving Type 2 Diabetes Remission through Weight Loss].National Institutes of Health.

The ancient science of ayurveda might have been slightly more hopeful in this regard. In ayurveda, diabetes is classified as a “prameha” or urinary disorder. Out of the 20 types of prameha, diabetes may be described as being clinically similar to “madhumeha” which translates to sweet urine. According to the ancient ayurvedic physician Charaka, prameha can be categorized as:

1. Sadhya (curable): This includes kaphaja prameha (where kapha dosha is predominant) and it usually develops due to improper dietary and lifestyle habits.

2. Yapya (controllable): This includes pittaja prameha (where pitta dosha is predominant)

3. Asadhya (difficult to manage): This includes vataja prameha (where vata dosha is predominant). People suffering from this condition are usually lean.

Types Of Diabetes

Meanwhile, modern medicine identifies 3 main kinds of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes: in people who have type 1 diabetes the body’s immune system attacks cells which produce insulin.
  • Type 2 diabetes: in people who have type 2 diabetes either the body doesn’t produce sufficient insulin or cells do not respond properly to insulin.
  • Gestational diabetes: women who have gestational diabetes have abnormally high levels of blood sugar during pregnancy and their body is unable to produce sufficient insulin to deal with it.[3][Diabetes].NHS.

And modern science may be rethinking whether diabetes can be reversed. Let’s take a closer look at whether diabetes can be reversed in these three forms of the disease:

1. Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes typically resolves itself with the birth of the baby. However, if you have gestational diabetes, you have a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes later on. Your doctor may modify your diet and recommend an exercise regimen to tackle high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Medication may also be prescribed in certain cases.

2. Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a disease of the immune system. In people with this condition the immune system of the body attacks cells which produce insulin. Therefore, they typically need to be given insulin throughout their lives. One advanced way of doing this is through an artificial pancreas. This device uses a continuous glucose monitor and an insulin pump to monitor your blood sugar levels and administer insulin as needed. However, the nearest thing to an actual cure for type 1 diabetes would be a pancreas islet transplant or a pancreas transplant. But this option is not for everyone. For one thing, candidates need to meet the criteria to be eligible for a transplant. And they would need to take immunosuppressant medications and deal with their side effects for the rest of their lives.[4][Diabetes: An Overview].Cleveland Clinic.

3. Type 2 Diabetes

Research indicates that type 2 diabetes can be reversed or go into remission.

Going into remission means maintaining your blood sugar levels within the normal range without using medication. The clinical definition states that your HbA1c levels need to be less than 48mmol/mol on 2 instances, at least 6 months apart without using diabetes medication.

The American Diabetes Association defines 3 states of remission:

  • partial remission: subdiabetic hyperglycemia of at least 1 year (A1C level not diagnostic of diabetes [5.7–6.4%; 39–46 mmol/mol], fasting glucose level 100–125 mg/dL [5.6–6.9 mmol/L])
  • complete remission: normoglycemia of at least 1 year (A1C level in the normal range [<5.7%; <39 mmol/mol], fasting glucose <100 mg/dL [5.6 mmol/L])
  • prolonged remission: complete remission for at least 5 years. This state may operationally be considered to be a “cure”.[5]Karter, Andrew J., Shantanu Nundy, Melissa M. Parker, Howard H. Moffet, and Elbert S. Huang. “Incidence of remission in adults with type 2 diabetes: the diabetes & aging study.” … Continue reading

According to research, losing weight through diet and lifestyle changes or surgery can result in diabetes remission in people who are overweight. Why do medical professionals prefer to use the term “remission” rather than “cure”? This is because the word “cure” suggests that you have eliminated the condition. For instance, people with an infectious disease like bronchitis can be “cured” by taking antibiotics. However, in the case of type 2 diabetes, blood sugar levels are linked to body weight. While you may go into remission when you lose weight, it has been observed that blood sugar levels can go up again when you regain weight.[6][Achieving Type 2 Diabetes Remission through Weight Loss].National Institutes of Health.

How Does Weight Loss Help With Diabetes Remission?

Your blood sugar levels are controlled by a hormone produced by the pancreas (a gland that’s located behind your stomach) known as insulin. When nutrients enter your bloodstream after digestion insulin shifts glucose from your blood into cells where it’s used for energy.[7][Diabetes].NHS. But many people who suffer from type 2 diabetes have excess abdominal fat. This causes fat to build up around organs like the pancreas and liver thereby reducing their effectiveness and causing diabetes. Losing the extra fat around these organs helps them to function properly again and your diabetes goes into remission. However, it is important to keep in mind that research into this field is still ongoing and all the factors that contribute to diabetes remission are not fully understood yet.

Another important factor to keep in mind is that losing weight may not translate to achieving diabetes remission for everybody. However, even losing as little as 5% of your body weight can lead to many benefits for your health, including improving your blood sugar levels, lowering your risk of developing complications due to diabetes, lowering your cholesterol levels etc.[8][Achieving Type 2 Diabetes Remission through Weight Loss].National Institutes of Health.

How To Achieve Diabetes Remission

Losing excess weight can help you achieve diabetes remission. And there are a few methods that you can adopt towards this end:

1. Shift To A Very Low Calorie Diet

Research shows that going on a very low calorie diet can result in weight loss and diabetes remission. A very low calorie diet is defined as having less than 1000 calories per day. It typically:

  • Restricts calories per day to about 800.
  • Lasts for about 24 weeks. For the first 12 weeks all meals are usually replaced with shakes, soups, and snacks from a specially designed diet plan. Over the course of the next 12 weeks food is gradually reintroduced back into the diet. However, you can also opt for other diet plans to achieve a very low calorie count per day.

One study where participants had 850 calories per day for a period of 8 to 20 weeks found that almost half of them achieved diabetes remission after a year.

Precaution: A very low calorie diet must only be undertaken if recommended and supervised by your doctor. You should be particularly cautious if you take medications such as SGLT-2 medication, sulphonylureas, or insulin, or if you have kidney or heart problems.[9][Diabetes Remission].NHS.

2. Low Carb Diet

A low carb diet is defined as having less than 130 g of carbohydrates in a day. Carbohydrates are the main energy source of your body. Starch that’s broken down into sugar during digestion enters your bloodstream and causes your blood sugar levels to rise. Limiting the amount of carbs that you consume (either as sugar or starch) can benefit your health. It also reduces the amount of sugar that your body stores as fat, which in turn, can help with weight loss and reduce your risk of complications due to diabetes. Research shows that lowering your carb intake can reduce the need for insulin as well as diabetes medications. In fact, one study found that a low carb diet was more beneficial than a low fat diet for people with type 2 diabetes.[10]Esposito, Katherine, Maria Ida Maiorino, Miryam Ciotola, Carmen Di Palo, Paola Scognamiglio, Maurizio Gicchino, Michela Petrizzo et al. “Effects of a Mediterranean-style diet on the need for … Continue reading

Precaution: Please check with your doctor before going on a low carb diet. You should be particularly cautious if you take medications such as SGLT-2 medication, sulphonylureas, or insulin, or if you have kidney or heart problems.[11][Diabetes Remission].NHS.

3. Try Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a diet pattern which involves restricting food for a certain period followed by a period of eating normally. One common example is the 5:2 plan where you eat normally for 5 days in a week and eat only 500 to 600 calories for 2 non consecutive days in the week. Another example is the 16:8 plan where you only eat during a window of 8 hours in a day and you fast for the remaining 16 hours. During the period of fasting your body uses stored energy, that is, it burns excess fat.

Precaution:

Please check with your doctor before trying intermittent fasting. You should be particularly cautious if you take medications such as SGLT-2 medication, sulphonylureas, or insulin, or if you have kidney or heart problems.[12][Diabetes Remission].NHS.

4. Exercise

Being physically active can make your body more sensitive to insulin if you have diabetes. And physical activity not only helps manage your blood sugar levels but also reduces your risk of nerve damage and heart disease.[13][ Get Active!]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Research shows that people with type 2 diabetes who combine a reduced calorie diet with exercise can achieve diabetes remission.[14]Ades, Philip A., Patrick D. Savage, Annis M. Marney, Jean Harvey, and Kimberly A. Evans. “Remission of recently diagnosed type 2 diabetes mellitus with weight loss and exercise.” Journal … Continue reading

5. Surgery

Weight loss surgeries (or bariatric surgery) are sometimes recommended for tackling diabetes. This is usually done when diet and exercise haven’t been helpful. While bariatric surgery can be helpful in achieving diabetes remission it is a major procedure that involves serious risks and side effects and you’ll need to meet certain medical guidelines to qualify for it. You’ll also need to make lasting changes to your diet and exercise regimen after the surgery to ensure its long term success.[15][Bariatric surgery]. Mayo Clinic.[16]Panunzi, Simona, Lena Carlsson, Andrea De Gaetano, Markku Peltonen, Toni Rice, Lars Sjöström, Geltrude Mingrone, and John B. Dixon. “Determinants of diabetes remission and glycemic control … Continue reading

What After Diabetes Remission?

Achieving diabetes remission can offer you significant health benefits. It not only reduces blood sugar but also lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels. And this can mean a reduced risk of developing complications linked to diabetes.

However, it is not yet clear how long remission lasts or how it may impact your risk of developing diabetes at some point in the future. Therefore, even after you achieve remission it is important to not only continue maintaining a healthy weight but also to continue with your normal diabetes check-ups.[17][Diabetes Remission].NHS.

References

References
1 [Diabetes](https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes “Diabetes”).National institutes of Health.
2, 6, 8 [Achieving Type 2 Diabetes Remission through Weight Loss].National Institutes of Health.
3, 7 [Diabetes].NHS.
4 [Diabetes: An Overview].Cleveland Clinic.
5 Karter, Andrew J., Shantanu Nundy, Melissa M. Parker, Howard H. Moffet, and Elbert S. Huang. “Incidence of remission in adults with type 2 diabetes: the diabetes & aging study.” Diabetes Care 37, no. 12 (2014): 3188-3195.
9, 11, 12, 17 [Diabetes Remission].NHS.
10 Esposito, Katherine, Maria Ida Maiorino, Miryam Ciotola, Carmen Di Palo, Paola Scognamiglio, Maurizio Gicchino, Michela Petrizzo et al. “Effects of a Mediterranean-style diet on the need for antihyperglycemic drug therapy in patients with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes: a randomized trial.” Annals of internal medicine 151, no. 5 (2009): 306-314.
13 [ Get Active!]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
14 Ades, Philip A., Patrick D. Savage, Annis M. Marney, Jean Harvey, and Kimberly A. Evans. “Remission of recently diagnosed type 2 diabetes mellitus with weight loss and exercise.” Journal of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and prevention 35, no. 3 (2015): 193.
15 [Bariatric surgery]. Mayo Clinic.
16 Panunzi, Simona, Lena Carlsson, Andrea De Gaetano, Markku Peltonen, Toni Rice, Lars Sjöström, Geltrude Mingrone, and John B. Dixon. “Determinants of diabetes remission and glycemic control after bariatric surgery.” Diabetes care 39, no. 1 (2016): 166-174.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information pertaining to your personal needs please see a qualified health practitioner.

About the Author

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Dr. Manjula P. Badiger (KAA Expert)

Dr. Manjula has 12 years of experience in the field of Ayurveda and worked as a Consultant and General Physician for over 5 years before starting her private practice. In addition to BAMS, she also has an Advanced Diploma in Clinical Research and is trained in Panchkarma. She is an expert at diagnosis of the root cause and planning effective treatment for multiple issues.

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