Can Type 2 Diabetes be Reversed or Cured?
There’s a lot of misleading language out there regarding type 2 diabetes – language that is generally used in order to generate the power of hope in whoever comes across it. Sometimes, this language comes through well-meaning folks; sometimes, through products and all-around health industry peddlers; and sometimes through the promise of medical procedures such as gastric bypass.
Unfortunately, many of these folks feed on the ignorance of the general public and the general type 2 diabetes population who aches for a cure and the desire to be free from their medications and often, cumbersome medical routines.
But can type 2 diabetes be reversed? Is there a cure for type 2 diabetes?
The simple answer to this question is no. There is currently no cure for type 2 diabetes1 and type 2 diabetes itself may not currently be reversed. The more complex answer is that unless a person is in the earliest of stages of pre-diabetes (which is extremely rare, considering a person generally goes undiagnosed for several years), type 2 diabetes is a permanent condition.
But everyone talks about reversing type 2 diabetes — what do they mean by this?
When someone refers to ‘reversing’ type 2 diabetes, they are – in general – referring to the reversal of the symptoms of uncontrolled type 2 diabetes, not to reversing the type 2 diabetes itself.2 When our glucose levels are out of control for extended periods of time, we may have many unpleasant symptoms such as blurry vision, fatigue, slow healing wounds, urinary tract and yeast infections, excessive thirst and urination, moodiness, etc. Some persons may even develop the beginnings of peripheral neuropathy. When we take control of our glucose levels, most of these symptoms may go away in their entirety, and some nerve damage may even be reversed.
Does this mean that my type 2 diabetes is gone?
No. It does not. Sometimes, a person who has experienced a reversal of their symptoms and a normalization of their glucose levels, will wrongly assume that their type 2 diabetes is gone (sometimes, even a medical professional might wrongly say this to them) – especially if they were able to come off their medications. In reality, that person still has type 2 diabetes – though it is in remission. Their type 2 diabetes is still present, but it is being ‘tightly regulated’ or controlled through diet and exercise, or through a gastric bypass procedure, to the point where it might not seem like they have it anymore. The patient, however, will always have to mind themselves vigilantly in order to not experience high blood glucose. If they do not balance out the amount of carbohydrates (and thus, glucose) that they consume throughout the day, their bodies will still become overwhelmed while trying to process them.
Well, it feels like a cure to me! What’s the harm in calling it that?
Generating awareness and understanding for type 2 diabetes can only happen by getting folks to realize that there is a problem, and that the problem still needs a solution. When the public thinks that a disease is not serious, or that it can be cured through personal responsibility, it stops donating to its awareness campaigns and researchers lack the funding necessary to invest in finding a true cure – especially for the large amount of persons with diabetes who will not be able to achieve control solely through diet and exercise.
But what happens if we can’t ‘reverse’ type 2 diabetes? Is there no hope?
There are many persons who will never be able to come off their medications and reverse the damage caused by high blood glucose. In addition, type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition3 and as we grow older, we might need extra help in keeping good control. It might make a person feel hopeless, or like there’s no point. Fortunately, the true goal of any type 2 diabetes management plan is NOT ‘getting off all medications’ or ‘reversing’ type 2 diabetes — the true goal is achieving well-controlled blood glucose levels. It’s just that sometimes we need a little extra help in achieving this goal – and we may do so through diet, exercise, and appropriate medication.
While we might become concerned or bogged down about the side effects and dangers of some of our medications, it is far more dangerous to our bodies to have uncontrolled blood glucose levels than to not be on an appropriate treatment plan – and these days, there are many treatment plans available as well as an infinite amount of glucose meters and other gadgets. With the help of our doctors, and a healthy understanding of diabetes management, we can extend our lives for years to come… and that’s more hope than any person with diabetes had some 40 years ago.