Is there a cure for diabetes?
More than 34 million Americans are currently living with diabetes. The big question for so many is, “Can it be cured?”
If you count yourself among the growing number of people who have been diagnosed with diabetes, at some point you’ve probably wondered whether or not there’s a cure? Or at the very least, wondered why all the mountains of research being conducted into diabetes hasn’t yielded one yet.
The unfortunate reality is at this time there is no medical cure for either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope, particularly for those living with Type 2 diabetes who are willing to meet the disease halfway with some major lifestyle changes.
Is there a cure for Type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that often develops during childhood. In people with Type 1 diabetes, the body mistakenly attacks the beta cells of the pancreas, which are responsible for producing the insulin the body needs to process blood sugar. The body is rendered unable to produce insulin and, therefore, blood sugar begins to build up and rise to dangerous levels. To manage Type 1 diabetes and keep blood sugar in check, insulin must be introduced into the bloodstream by syringe injection, diabetic pen injection, or by an insulin pump and infusion sets.
Because the body does not produce any insulin in those with Type 1 diabetes, until a cure is developed the only way to manage the disease is with continued and lifelong diabetes treatment.
Is there a cure for Type 2 diabetes?
People with Type 2 diabetes have a lot more control over managing their disease than those with Type 1 diabetes. Here’s why.
In people with Type 2 diabetes the body is actually able to produce some insulin. The problem is the body’s cells are unable to use it effectively to turn blood sugar into energy. So, if left untreated, the end result ends up being the same as with Type 1 diabetes – blood sugar begins to build up until it reaches unsafe levels.
However, the big difference is that Type 2 diabetes is not an autoimmune disorder. Instead, factors like diet, weight, and physical activity play major roles in the severity and treatment of the disease. In fact, making healthy lifestyle choices in these areas plays a pivotal role in bringing bring blood sugar levels back into the safe range.
There’s no cure, but “remission” is possible
Once you’ve been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you have Type 2 diabetes. Again, there is no cure. It’s also important to say that most people with this form of the disease do require some form of insulin or other medication in order to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
However, there are some people with Type 2 diabetes who are able to manage their blood sugar levels with weight control, healthy eating, and physical activity. These individuals don’t require insulin injections or any other medication. If this natural diabetes management continues to work effectively over time, that person may enter a state of diabetes remission.
Remission means that the disease has been reversed to the point that no physical symptoms or signs of it exist even though no medication is being used. Blood sugar levels remain within the normal range without the need for insulin or any other medication.
There are three primary stages of diabetes remission:
When someone with Type 2 diabetes has maintained a blood glucose level lower than that of a person with diabetes for at least one year (blood sugar still may remain at the prediabetes level).
Blood sugar returns to normal levels that are entirely outside the range used to diagnose both diabetes and prediabetes and remains this way for a minimum of one year without the use of any medication.
The stage of complete remission is maintained for at least five years.
Even though in cases of remission blood sugar levels return to the normal range, remission is not a cure for diabetes. Even people who maintain normal blood sugar readings for a decade or 20 years are still considered in remission rather than cured because without maintaining that healthy diabetes diet, weight and fitness program, the symptoms of diabetes will return.
Remission is also far more likely to be achieved early on in a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis or directly following extreme weight loss. The longer a person lives with diabetes the less prone to remission they are, as the body gradually loses its ability to make insulin over time.
How can I make my diabetes go into remission?
The only way to achieve remission if you have Type 2 diabetes is to maintain a healthy diabetes lifestyle. Achieving a proper weight, eating right, and getting an adequate amount of physical activity, all have everything to do with diabetes remission. However, just because you stick to a healthy diabetes plan does not guarantee you will experience remission. There is no way to know in advance if your body will be able to reverse the disease and medical experts really haven’t been able to pinpoint why some people get there and others don’t.
Still, remission or not, making healthy choices for how you approach diabetes is always the key to living and feeling your best.
If you are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and are overweight or even obese, weight loss is step one to reversing the disease or, at the very least, controlling it with less medication. When you have Type 2 diabetes, the beta cells produced by the pancreas that help process blood sugar aren’t working properly. Weight loss in some people can “reactivate” those cells and get them working again, thus the body begins controlling blood sugar. A healthy weight is the primary factor in achieving diabetes remission. Unless you get that weight down, remission is virtually impossible.
Physical fitness, along with a diabetes-friendly diet, can also help you control your blood sugar naturally. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the goal should be about 150 minutes of moderate activity each week. That’s just 30 minutes a day, five days a week, which really isn’t a tremendous commitment when you break it down. Along with being good for the heart and your overall health, physical activity also helps you achieve those weight loss goals that are key to diabetes remission.
Eat a variety of foods but focus on lean proteins, vegetables and fibers that don’t elevate your blood sugar. Watch those carbohydrates as they raise blood sugar more rapidly than any other nutrient. Spread carbs out throughout the day and limit your overall intake. If you’re overweight, talk to your doctor about a nutritious and safe weight loss program.
In cases of obesity, bariatric surgery can provide an effective solution. As an added bonus, in many cases people who get weight loss surgery experience diabetes remission as a happy side effect. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why this happens, however, if you’ve been recently diagnosed with diabetes and are a candidate for bariatric surgery, it is certainly worth discussing with your physician.
Is there are cure on the horizon?
There is an incredible volume of research and clinic studies being done to better understand both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. While there is no cure for either form of diabetes as of yet, research into the use of stem cells and other medical advancements are being looked at by scientists around the world. Who knows, a breakthrough just might be on the horizon.
Follow your doctor-approved diabetes health and treatment plan to keep your blood sugar under control and there’s no reason you shouldn’t live a happy, healthy, and productive life.
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