by James Hubbard, MD, MPHCan I Prevent Diabetes? (Or, If I Have It, Make It Better?) | The Survival Doctor

Chances are very good that you, a family member, or a friend will be affected by the ravages of diabetes. About 7 million in the U.S. alone don’t even know they have it. And yet, it is slowly and silently doing permanent damage to their sight, kidneys, heart, and circulation right now.

Another 79 million (yes, you read that right—about a third of us) will get the disease unless we take action now. That’s because about 79 million of us are thought to have prediabetes (the early stage which will develop into the full-blown disease in most people).

Many people want to know how to handle diabetes if they run out of medicine and can’t get any more. I’ve tried to answer that the best I can in past posts, but in truth, there are no perfect alternatives to your prescription meds.

So what about this? What if you could need less or no prescriptions meds? And for those of you at risk for diabetes, what if you found a way to never get it? In other words, the questions to ask are: How can I prevent diabetes? How can I make it better if I already have it?

What’s Survival Medicine Got to Do With It?

I wrote a post on things you can try if you run out of your diabetes medicine during a disaster. But, to tell the truth, nothing’s going to get diabetes under control as well in most people as prescription medicines.

So … the best way to prepare is to be able to control your sugar with the least medicine possible—or ideally, not to have to take any medicine at all.

What Is Prediabetes, and Why Is It Important?

People with prediabetes can cut their risk for getting diabetes by more than half. And if you question how great that is, just ask someone who’s had the disease for 20 years or so. How about the ravages it wreaks on your eyes, kidneys, circulation, and heart? Ask how much they would give to be able to get off their meds.

I know I’m sounding like an infomercial, but the other great thing is you don’t have to send in money, IF you act right now, before it’s too late.

What About Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes affects less than 1 percent of the general population and about 5 percent of all people with diabetes. It’s a condition you’re born with. Your pancreas doesn’t make insulin, so you have to inject it into your body.

Although scientists are working diligently on a cure, this post doesn’t pertain to you. Sorry. I wish it did. I do have a post on ways for you to store and prepare, but as you probably know, type 1 is not reversible.

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

This is the kind you become more at risk for the older you get. Although it often runs in families, the biggest risk factor is being overweight. About 60 percent of type 2 diabetes cases are caused from being overweight.

Type 2 is a result of the cells in your body becoming insulin resistant. Cells use insulin to process carbohydrates (sugars) into energy. The cells of people with type 2 diabetes are not as sensitive to insulin. They need more of it for the sugar to get out of the bloodstream and into the cells.

The pancreas reacts to this need by making more. That helps for a while, but many times the cells become even more resistant, and the insulin-producing pancreas beta cells wear down. They begin producing less insulin and sometimes stop making it altogether. What your pancreas can’t provide, you have to supplement with insulin injections.

Can I Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?

There is hope. Eleven people did just that, for a short while at least.

A doctor put them on a 600-calories-a-day diet for eight weeks. Their cells’ resistance to insulin went away, and the pancreas’s ability to make insulin came back. They didn’t have to inject insulin or take other medicines while they were on the diet. After 12 weeks, seven still had normal glucoses.

The Survival Doctor's Guides to Wounds and BurnsOf course, the problem is a diet this low in calories is dangerous and should only be done under medical supervision. Even then, no one can live on that few calories for long.

And the long-term question is, how does that affect someone months after they go back to a normal healthy diet? Stay tuned for future studies addressing that.

But if you have type 2 diabetes, you don’t have to go to extremes to get better and require less medication. Just lose a little weight and exercise more (similar to what people with prediabetes do to prevent diabetes). It can do wonders. The key is to start now. The longer you wait, the less chance it has to work.

Can I Prevent Diabetes?

Yes, if you have prediabetes, you can prevent type 2 diabetes, and here’s how. By losing only 7 percent of your body weight and walking briskly for 30 minutes (or doing a similar exercise) five times a week, people with prediabetes can cut their risk for getting diabetes type 2 by 58 percent. That’s fantastic. No medicines. None of the complications of diabetes. What a way to prepare for a disaster.

To see if you have prediabetes, you can’t go on symptoms because there may be none. You need to get a fasting blood glucose or another blood test called a hemoglobin A1C. If the glucose is between 100 and 125 or the A1C is between 5.7 percent and 6.4 percent, you have prediabetes. Below this and you’re normal. Above, and you probably have diabetes. (Your doctor may want to do confirmation tests to tell for sure.)

Get tested at least every five years or so—more often if you’re overweight, have a family history, or have symptoms (fatigue, or increased thirst or urination) or your doctor advises differently.

Say you can’t afford a doctor? That’s no excuse. Keep an eye out for the next health fair that’s testing for free. In some areas of the country, you can find a lab that will test your fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C without a doctor’s order. Just make sure before you go, and check on the price.

>> Disaster with no doctor? Get The Survival Doctor’s Guides. Ready when you are.

What’s been your experience? Have you been tested? Does anyone you know have prediabetes? Did they lose the weight and exercise? Did the glucose come back to normal?

What about full-blown diabetes? Has anyone been able to get off meds and maintain a normal glucose? If so, how? Right now, I maintain nothing’s out there to reverse diabetes without diet and exercise being the main ingredient.

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Photo: CDC/ Amanda Mills