10 Steps to beat diabetes after age 50
Are you pre-diabetic or diabetic and looking to get healthy?
Have you been following conventional health wisdom for diabetics and NOT seeing positive change?
You're not alone
10% of Americans today have diabetes. And MANY more have hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, and pre-diabetes.
Dr. Cate Shanahan calls this the "Diabetes Spectrum" (pictured below).
Just because you have not yet been diagnosed with full-blown diabetes does not mean you don't need to take action. In fact, if you've been experiencing signs of low blood sugar between meals or have pre-diabetes, NOW is the time for change.
Modern medicine has done a TERRIBLE job managing diabetes. The short of it is that they have led people to believe that they need to pump themselves full of insulin. Yet it's the abundance of insulin that causes diabetes in the first place. By taking insulin, the process of insulin resistance accelerates. In turn, more insulin is required. This leads to progressive insulin resistance and worsening diabetes.
You need to do something different.
Who am I to teach on Diabetes?
I'm a doctor of physical therapy and a health expert. I've written two Amazon Bestselling books on health. I've worked with thousands of people with pre-diabetes and diabetes. I run a fitness and nutrition coaching business. We've successfully helped many people to get control of their metabolism, lose weight, and reverse diabetes.
We teach them to follow the 10 SIMPLE steps below. When they do, they are able to regain a healthy metabolism. Some, with the permission of their physician, have been able to get off diabetes medications entirely! Most importantly, they are able to avoid the perilous health consequences associated with worsening diabetes. Think losing limbs, neuropathy, and Alzheimer's. So here are my 10 steps:
1. Get Control of carbs
When you eat sugar, it leads to increases in your insulin levels. Carbs, whether from couscous or captain crunch turn into sugar and spike insulin.
Insulin is one of the most important hormones to understand for humans. This is especially true for a diabetic. Long before a diabetic becomes diabetic, they develop hypoglycemia. This is low blood sugar between meals. Have you ever felt a little light-headed when you haven't eaten for a few hours? This is one of the first signs of a dysfunctional metabolism. After hypoglycemia comes insulin resistance. The pancreas, which produces insulin, starts to wear out and produces less insulin. The cells also become less sensitive to the hormone insulin. More insulin is required from the dysfunctional pancreas to get blood sugar out of circulation. requiring MORE insulin. It's a vicious cycle.
One of the most effective ways to manage blood sugar levels is by reducing daily carbohydrate intake. Check out the graph below. In a comparison study, Diabetics ate either a standard American Diet, a Low Carb Diet, or practiced Fasting. By keeping carbs under 100 grams/day, subjects were able to reduce levels of blood insulin significantly!
To manage blood insulin levels, shoot for 100 grams of carbs per day or less. You can use a tracking app like My Fitness Pal to make life easier.
2. Stop Snacking
Our parents and grandparents ate 3 square meals a day. Snacking was unheard of. You could spoil your dinner!
Recently I was at the park with my 5-year-old. He played for about 30 minutes with another little boy about his age. During that time, the little boy's mom interrupted him TWICE to ask if he wanted a snack. I would have been shocked, but this was not an isolated incident. Many parents are convinced that their kids need a steady stream of carbohydrate-rich snacks all day long to keep energy levels up (or just to keep them quiet). What they don't realize is that humans are made with the built-in machinery to burn our own body fat between meals. There are serious health consequences (like diabetes) that can arise from eating too often. Our body needs consistent breaks from food so insulin levels can drop down and we can burn our fat.
American's are snacking more than ever. In the graph below, you'll see that people in the 1970's were eating just over 2 times/day. In 2006, that number had risen to nearly 6!
To give your body a chance to burn fat for fuel, Stop snacking between meals.
Instead, do something else. Drink water, sparkling water, or coffee. Go for a walk or talk to a human. Twiddle your thumbs! Do anything but eat.
3. Lift Heavy Weights
Alright, you get it. Insulin sensitivity is crucial. Exercise is a great way to make your body more sensitive to the hormone insulin. Of all the different types of exercise, lifting heavy weights is king.
Strength training requires maximal energy output in a very short amount of time. In response to this type of training, the body increases sensitivity to the hormone insulin.
Our three favorites strength exercises are the Squat, Deadlift, and Overhead Press. These exercises demand maximal output from our metabolism. In turn, we become better at regulating our metabolism all day long.
4. Get Accountability
You've heard the diabetes horror stories. Limbs going numb. Needing an amputation. Having to take a slew of medications. Yet even when you know you are headed for health destruction, making healthy changes is difficult. But if you want to be healthy, you don't have a choice. You have to change.
This is why you need a coach. You need accountability. You need structure.
Our 12-week Small Group Training and Nutrition Coaching program is designed to give you the accountability, personal training sessions, and nutrition coaching you need to be successful.
Interested? Click HERE to learn more.
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5. Stop eating fake sugar
"I'm a diabetic. Isn't it ok for me to eat artificial sugar and drink diet soda?"
No. You need to cut out fake sugar. For two reasons.
1. Artificial sugars still spike insulin levels. The sweetness stimulates the production of insulin in our bodies.
2. Dishonest communication. Imagine you tell 4-year-old granddaughter that you're going to take her to Disneyland next week. Then, you don't take her. Imagine you continue to make promises again and again but don't follow through. Eventually, she's going to stop trusting you.
This is what happens in our bodies when we eat fake sugar. We tell our bodies they are getting something sweet. They prepare for an influx of glucose. Then it doesn't come. It's confusing and leads to overeating and metabolic dysfunction. This makes us more hungry and leads to seeking out extra calories in the form of dietary carbs.
For maximal health, skip the fake sugar. This includes "natural" fake sugars like Stevia and Monk Fruit.
6. Ditch vegetable oil
Want better brain function, a healthy metabolism, and less inflammation?
Stop eating Vegetable Oil OR products with vegetable oil in them.
Vegetable oils are the fats that are extracted from things like soy, sunflower, safflower, corn, canola, and cottonseed. By themselves, things like sunflowers are not dangerous to eat. But they contain fragile poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA's). These fats are part of a healthy diet. HOWEVER, when these fats undergo the processing necessary to extract oil, they mutate. Small amounts of trans-fats are created in the process.
Canola oil has 2-4% trans-fatty acids.
Through deceptive labeling and small serving sizes, food manufacturers are able to get away with saying that their oils contain 0g trans fats. The amount of trans-fats per serving is less than 0.5 grams so they can round down to zero.
But consider something like Tylenol. A single serving is 500mg or .5 grams. Would you consider the amount insignificant just because it's only .5 grams? Would you take a bunch of servings and not worry about the effects? No way. We should treat vegetable oils the same. Even small amounts, in the long-run, can have serious health consequences.
The trans-fats in vegetable oils are very problematic for folks with diabetes or pre-diabetes. These fake fats create rampant inflammation. Through oxidation reactions, these fats lead to the formation of free radicals. If you're diabetic or pre-diabetic, your body is already working overtime to solve your daily blood sugar crisis. The last thing it needs is another problem in the form of chronic inflammation.
Vegetable oils are also energetically inept. When we eat them, our body tries to store and burn them like regular fats. But they don't work like regular fats. As the body tries to burn them for fuel, it soon realizes they don't have the energy it needs. This leads to sugar cravings and eating more carbs.
Italian researchers conducted a fascinating experiment. They somehow connected little lightbulbs to specific fatty acids. Don't ask me how they did it but they did. They measured how well these fatty acids powered the bulbs.
They found that the main fatty acid found in olive oil (C18 mono-unsaturated) was the BEST source of cellular energy. 10 points for Olive Oil!
The second best source of energy was saturated fat. This is the fat found in beef, pork, and butter.
The WORST in terms of energy were the fragile PUFA fats C-18 Omega 3/6. These are the primary fats found in Vegetable oils.
Vegetable oils are poor sources of energy. When the fat in our diet comes mainly from vegetable oils, we too will have low energy levels. Worse, the body stores these fats for later use. When they are called upon to be used for energy, they don't deliver.
What do people do when they have low energy levels? They seek out quick energy in the form of sugar and carbs.
Vegetable oils propagate the vicious cycle of insulin resistance. Put an end to it by cutting vegetable oils out of your life.
Standard health advice say we need to do cardio. Jog on the treadmill, spin on the Peleton, or punish yourself in bootcamp class. Yet, this moderately intense, long-duration exercise can have a negative impact on blood sugar. When we do relatively high intensity aerobic exercise for 30+ minutes, we deplete our bodies stores of sugar. We use our blood sugar, muscle glycogen, and liver glycogen.
The body does not like this. In order to replenish stores, we are cued to seek quick burning sugars in response. This is why soda and baked goods taste so good after a long run or bike ride.
Have you seen the person who is always out running but still has a big belly? You may have thought, "how could they do all that exercise and still have extra fat?" They are still fat because our bodies have an incredible ability to replenish burned calories. We are especially good at seeking out quick energy in the form of sugar and carbs.
So what are the healthiest people in the world doing for exercise?
Let's take a look at the Blue Zones. These are regions of the world with a hyper-concentrated number of centenarians (people that live to 100+). Researchers found that these people were not riding a spin bike or doing Zumbalates. They were simply moving all day long. They walked everywhere, they hiked, they gardened, and they did all the chores around the house.
In other words, they avoided being sedentary. Be right back, I'm going to get up and move for a second....Ok, I'm back. Let's keep going!
Low level movement helps us to be sensitive to the hormone insulin.
My advice: walk often.
Set a daily goal and don't stop until you hit it each day. Our recommendation is 11,500 steps per day.
8. Intermitten Fasting
Intermittent fasting is very effective for reducing diabetes. It makes sense. High levels of insulin and insulin resistance are what cause diabetes. When you don't eat food, you don't spike insulin. Instead, you rely on body fat for fuel. This makes our bodies MORE sensitive to insulin.
Dr. Jason Fung, is a physician and pioneer in diabetes care. He advocates intermittent fasting for all his diabetic patients.
But what does the research say? Fasting works even better than a low calorie diet for reducing blood insulin levels.
Fasting is also extremely effective for weight loss.
I put fasting as the 8th of our 10 tips for a reason. It's important to put in place some basic health habits BEFORE attempting fasting. Otherwise, when you go to burn your body fat for fuel, you will not have good fuel to burn.
Here are a few simple questions to ask to know if you're ready for fasting:
Can you go from breakfast to lunch and lunch to dinner without snacks?
Can you think clearly between meals?
Do you have good energy between meals?
If you can answer yes to the above questions, you're ready to fast.
Start slow. Try skipping breakfast a few days a week. Then, when you're ready, try skipping breakfast and lunch. Before doing longer fasts, I would recommend doing some additional reading. The best book I've read on fasting is Jason Fung's The Complete Guide To Fasting. Many of the images in this post came from that book. I highly recommend it.
9. Fermented foods
Fermented foods have what researchers call "anti-diabetic" properties. These foods help to blunt the insulin response and keep our gut healthy. Why should gut health matter for folks with blood sugar issues? Well, a microbial imbalance in our gut has been associated with insulin resistance. Researchers performed a six-week study on type 2 diabetics using fermented milk . They found the fermented foods decreased A1C levels and improved insulin sensitivity in just a few weeks!
There are many different types of fermented foods. You just need to find a few you like and make them staples of your diet.
Here are some of our favorite fermented foods....
This blend of red cabbage, beets, and carrots is one I've been loving lately.
10. Be smart about your meds
If you’re already taking medications for diabetes, you need to listen up! Most people know that medications have potential harmful side-effects. But did you know that the most common diabetes treatment can actually make diabetes worse?
Many diabetes are prescribed insulin to treat their diabetes. Yet high levels of insulin are part of the problem. The diabetics cells are insensitive to insulin because they have been inundated with insulin. And our solution is to pump them full of more insulin?
Imagine you have a boat with a large hole in it. It's taking on water. You decide the best solution is to rapidly empty the boat with a bucket. You might be getting some water out each time but the hole is allowing water in at a faster rate. A much better solution would be to patch the darn hole!
It's the same with diabetes management. We need to "patch the hole". We need to fix insulin resistance. To do that, implement all the other things from this post!
Before going any further, I want to make something abundantly clear. Consult your physician before you stop taking any medications. Our population tends to be over-medicated. Over-medication can cause its own severe health problems. Any intelligent move to get off of unneeded medications can reap huge rewards on health.
When our clients bring up getting off medications, physicians are taken aback. Physicians are often delighted to help people who are willing to change their nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle habits. This is because most of their patients are unhealthy. They eat terribly, don’t exercise, and practice unhealthy behaviors. They demand prescription pills that fix all their problems. But you’re different! On the off-chance that your primary care physician is not receptive, we do highly recommend getting a second opinion.
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