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Disclaimer: The following article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition. 

Type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease marked by high levels of glucose in the blood, has reached epidemic proportions worldwide. It can lead to severe complications, including heart disease, kidney failure, and blindness, if not managed effectively. The good news is that emerging research suggests that type 2 diabetes can be reversed or managed through various methods. [1]

Understanding Type 2 Diabetes

Before diving into reversal strategies, it's crucial to understand what type 2 diabetes is. It occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or fails to produce enough insulin, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. Lifestyle factors like poor diet, poor meal timing, lack of exercise, chronic high levels of stress, poor sleep, and obesity often contribute to its onset. [2] Chronic exposure to environmental toxicity often contributes to its onset. Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) often contribute to its onset.

Medication and the Reversal of Type 2 Diabetes: The Emerging Paradigm

Type 2 diabetes has traditionally been considered a progressive, chronic condition requiring long-term management. However, emerging research suggests that certain medications, when combined with lifestyle changes, could play a role in the reversal or remission of the disease. Here's a look at how medications might contribute to this.

Metformin: The First Line of Defense

Metformin remains the most widely prescribed medication for type 2 diabetes and is often the first pharmacologic intervention recommended after diagnosis. While it primarily functions to lower blood glucose levels, research has indicated that it can also improve insulin sensitivity in peripheral tissues. While not a cure, Metformin can act as a cornerstone medication that makes other interventions, such as diet and exercise, more effective. This synergistic effect could potentially help reverse disease progression, particularly in newly diagnosed patients. [3]

GLP-1 Agonists and SGLT2 Inhibitors: Beyond Blood Sugar Control

Newer medications like GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) receptor agonists and SGLT2 (sodium-glucose cotransporter-2) inhibitors have exhibited promise not just in blood sugar control but also in promoting weight loss and improving cardiovascular outcomes. Some studies have shown that these medications can induce a state of remission in type 2 diabetes, particularly when used in conjunction with lifestyle changes. [4]

Insulin Therapy: A Controversial Player

While insulin is critical for controlling high blood sugar levels in advanced stages of diabetes, its role in reversing the disease is a topic of debate. Insulin therapy can sometimes lead to weight gain, which may exacerbate insulin resistance. This observed effect of people gaining weight after initiating insulin therapy causes some people with type 2 diabetes to refuse to use insulin when it is prescribed by their doctor because they are afraid that using insulin will make them gain weight. However, short-term intensive insulin therapy has been studied for its potential to reset beta-cell function and improve insulin sensitivity, thus contributing to disease remission. [5] Patients’ experiences vary quite a bit in response to this therapeutic approach; their caution is warranted.

Bariatric Surgery: A Game-Changer in Type 2 Diabetes Management

Bariatric surgery, often considered a last-resort treatment for severe obesity, is increasingly recognized as an effective intervention for type 2 diabetes management. Traditionally, it has been recommended for those with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 40 or over 35 when accompanied by weight-related health issues. However, its profound impact on blood sugar regulation has led some healthcare providers to recommend it for managing type 2 diabetes even in less obese patients. Other lifestyle-based options should ideally be pursued first, as bariatric surgery is permanent, and has its own set of potential side effects and complications if the procedure fails to yield the desired results.

How It Works

Bariatric surgery procedures like Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, and adjustable gastric banding fundamentally and permanently alter the gastrointestinal anatomy. By doing so, they limit food intake and the absorption of nutrients. This can lead to nutrient depletion that adversely impacts patients’ health. The immediate consequence is weight loss, which in itself can improve insulin sensitivity. However, research suggests that bariatric surgery may also have direct effects on glucose metabolism, going beyond what could be achieved through weight loss alone. Changes in gut hormones, bile acids, and even the gut microbiota post-surgery have been associated with improved insulin secretion and action.

Impact on Type 2 Diabetes

Many individuals experience a rapid normalization of blood glucose levels following bariatric surgery, often within days, and before significant weight loss occurs. According to some studies, over 70% of patients with type 2 diabetes see a reversal of their condition after undergoing bariatric surgery, and many are able to maintain this remission long-term. In addition to better glycemic control, these patients also tend to show improvements in other cardiovascular risk factors like hypertension and hyperlipidemia. This often leads to a decrease in the need for diabetes medication, including insulin, resulting in a better quality of life. [6] For people who tolerate bariatric surgery, the benefits can be life-changing for the better.

Lifestyle Changes

Low-Carbohydrate Diet: Low-carbohydrate diets have shown promise in reversing type 2 diabetes by rapidly improving blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity. A substantial reduction in calorie intake triggers a series of metabolic changes, including the mobilization of fat stores from the liver and pancreas, which are often implicated in insulin resistance. Some people refer to this as “unclogging the liver” because of the reduction of excess fat storage in the liver.

When fat levels in these organs decrease, they regain their ability to function correctly, improving insulin production and efficacy. Several studies have reported that individuals who follow a low-carbohydrate diet have experienced diabetes remission, often alongside significant weight loss. However, this approach requires close medical supervision to ensure nutritional adequacy and to monitor blood sugar levels. [7

High-Protein, Healthy Fats: High-protein, healthy fats diets can be beneficial for managing type 2 diabetes by improving blood sugar control and promoting weight loss. Proteins have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels, and they help in satiety, reducing the likelihood of overeating. 

Healthy fats, such as those found in olive oil, avocado, and fatty fish like salmon, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties and can improve heart health. Together, a high-protein, healthy fats diet can help improve insulin sensitivity, reduce harmful LDL cholesterol, and maintain or even reduce body weight if a person is overweight, all crucial elements in managing or even reversing type 2 diabetes. [8]

Intermittent Fasting: Intermittent fasting (IF) has gained attention as a potential strategy for managing and even reversing type 2 diabetes. The practice involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting, typically within a 24-hour cycle. The idea is to give the body a break from insulin production, thereby improving insulin sensitivity over time. During fasting periods, the body switches from using glucose as its primary fuel source to using fat, which can help with weight loss and improve metabolic health. Both of these factors are critical for reversing insulin resistance, a key aspect of type 2 diabetes.

Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can lead to significant reductions in blood sugar levels and improvements in insulin sensitivity. Additionally, IF has been found to reduce levels of inflammation in the body, another factor implicated in type 2 diabetes. Fasting periods also naturally restrict caloric intake, aiding in weight loss, which is often recommended for diabetes management and potential reversal. [9]

Physical Activity

The synergy of weight loss and regular exercise holds transformative potential for reversing type 2 diabetes. Weight loss significantly improves insulin sensitivity, allowing the body to more effectively regulate blood sugar levels. A loss of just 5-10% of body weight can lead to marked improvements, reducing or even eliminating the need for medication in some people. Exercise amplifies this effect: aerobic activities like running, cycling, or swimming improve cardiovascular health and help in burning glucose, while resistance training focuses on building muscle mass, which acts as an additional "sink" for excess glucose. Resistance training also improves insulin sensitivity. Active working muscles are blood sugar “sponges”.

Combined, these lifestyle changes create a powerful feedback loop. Weight loss improves metabolic health, making exercise easier and more effective. In turn, exercise helps to maintain weight loss and can even accelerate it. If these lifestyle changes do not yield the desired results, other interfering factors need to be explored, like sleep apnea, chronic levels of high cortisol (a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands), poor thyroid function, etc.

This double-pronged approach has been shown to not only manage the symptoms of type 2 diabetes but, in some cases, to reverse the disease entirely. Importantly, these lifestyle changes should be made under medical supervision to ensure they're both effective and safe for the individual's unique health profile. [10]

Weight Management

Managing weight is a cornerstone in the reversal of type 2 diabetes. Losing just 5-10% of body weight can significantly improve insulin sensitivity, allowing the body's own insulin to work more effectively. This not only helps lower blood sugar levels but also reduces the need for diabetes medications for some people. 

Weight loss often leads to other beneficial outcomes, such as lower blood pressure and improved lipid profiles, reducing the overall risk of cardiovascular complications. By adopting a structured weight management program that includes a balanced diet and regular physical activity, many individuals with type 2 diabetes have successfully achieved and maintained disease remission and reversal. [11]

Psychological Aspects

Stress Management

Cortisol, the stress hormone, can lead to elevated blood sugar levels. Techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness can help manage stress effectively. [12] Drinking herbal teas that have a calming effect, like chamomile, lemon verbena, etc. can be a simple way to avoid unwanted side effects, lower stress levels, and feel calmer. Consistent exercise is another way to relieve stress and burn off the chemicals of stress, especially excessive cortisol, and adrenaline.

Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can address the psychological barriers to lifestyle change, providing coping mechanisms for healthier choices. [13] CBT can help people take charge of their circumstances and find better ways to respond to triggers that affect their blood sugar levels.

Monitoring and Regular Check-ups

Regular check-ups are crucial for effectively managing type 2 diabetes, as they provide the opportunity for timely monitoring and adjustments to your treatment plan. Consistent medical oversight ensures that blood glucose levels are within target ranges and allows for early detection of complications such as kidney issues, eye problems, and cardiovascular diseases. Healthcare providers can also assess the efficacy of medications or lifestyle changes and make necessary modifications.

Regular screenings, including HbA1c, also known as A1C tests, blood pressure measurements, and lipid profiles, offer comprehensive insights into your overall health and diabetes management. These check-ups foster a proactive approach, helping you and your healthcare team stay ahead of the disease. [14] For the goal of reversing type 2 diabetes, it is essential to have regular follow-ups so you know exactly how your body is responding to lifestyle, medications, environment, and mental health aspects of caring for your health.


While reversing type 2 diabetes may not be possible for everyone, a multi-faceted approach involving medical treatments, lifestyle changes, psychological support, and ongoing monitoring can lead to significant improvements. Always consult with healthcare providers to develop a personalized plan for managing or reversing type 2 diabetes. Encouragement and a proven plan are part of the process for reversing type 2 diabetes.

By Beverly Yates


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