What if you could reverse your type 2 diabetes (T2D) by changing one thing? Would you do it?
You might push back a bit and say, “That’s a long shot. I take so many medications for my T2D and a host of other conditions. That’s impossible!” Then a hopeful look might come across your face and you wonder, “Is it really possible to reverse my T2D?” 1
Yes. It is!
Recent studies have shown that by changing what you eat, you can start reversing your T2D and slowly move away from taking medication to manage your blood sugar. Other chronic conditions also improve when you change what your eat and avoid carbs. The Virta Health studies were first to prove that T2D can be reversed. By reducing the percent of calories from carbs that you eat from 60-80% to only 5%, you can start reversing your diabetes no matter how long you’ve had it. The CEO of the American Diabetes Association, Tracy Brown, has had Diabetes for 16 years and successfully turned her condition around with a low carb high fat lifestyle.2
What is a Carbohydrate?
A carb, slang form of carbohydrate, is one of three macronutrients available in the human diet. The other two macronutrients are fat and protein. Our bodies cannot make the two fatty acids that we need or the protein our bodies use grow muscle and bone and so we MUST eat them. Because our bodies cannot make them, science tells us that these two fatty acids and proteins are “essential’ for life. On the other hand, our bodies can make glucose, a carbohydrate. Because our bodies CAN make glucose, science tells us it is not necessary for us to eat carbs for our body to run smoothly and therefore, scientists have labeled carbs as non-essential. This is great news. We don’t need to eat carbs for our bodies to work. It’s true that some of the body’s processes require glucose for a quick burn. For this, our bodies prefer to use glucose made in the liver. So what happens to all those carbs we ate? They are stored as fat for our bodies to use latter. But there usually is no “later” if our bodies prefer to use what we make rather than what we ate. If the stored fat is not used, the body continues to store it, and store it, and store it.
To understand more about how eating fewer carbs affects blood sugar, it helps to know a bit about how our bodies digest carbs and how we use them. Carbohydrates are found in nearly all processed foods, starches, pasta, bread, starchy vegetables, and fruit. The digestion of carbs starts in the mouth from enzymes found in our saliva that are released when we chew. When carbs arrive in the small intestine, they are further digested with the help of enzymes. Once the carbs are broken down into simple sugars no further digestion is needed and they are absorbed into the blood stream through the brush-like border of the small intestine call villi. After that, they are sent to the liver.
Carbs not digested in the small intestine pass to the large intestine where they provide food for our microbiome 4 and are converted into short chain fatty acids (SCFA).4 Excess amounts of the SCFA, gluten, or lactose, can lead to diarrhea and abdominal cramping after eating.
Metabolism is what happens to the carbs after they have been broken down into simple sugars and absorbed into the blood stream. One simple sugar broken down in the small intestine and sent to the liver is glucose.
What is important to understand is metabolism is different for each of us especially for someone living with a chronic condition. There are some generalizations we can make from the work of scientists studying blood sugar metabolism. For example, the body of someone with diabetes cannot process the carbohydrates they eat and so this is what happens instead.
- When our blood sugar is low, the pancreas makes the hormone, Glucagon, to tell the liver to make glucose.
- A rise in blood sugar after a meal causes the pancreas to make the hormone, Insulin. Insulin tells the body to move the blood sugar that enter our blood stream from a meal into our cells and store it as fat. Normally the pancreas turns off Glucagon production to make Insulin.
- But in diabetes, the pancreas keeps making Glucagon pushing the liver to make more glucose even after glucose has hit the blood stream from a carbohydrate rich meal.
- The body now has 2 sources of glucose: glucose from the meal and the excess glucose made by the liver. The body does its best to manage the glucose load by storing the glucose as fat wherever it can. Some places you may not have thought of where the body store fat are the liver, abdomen, tongue, or neck.
- Someone with T2D over produces glucose 24 hours a day making it impossible to lower their blood sugar other than storing the glucose as fat.
- The amount of glucose in your blood stream after a meal is solely influenced by the amount of carbohydrates eaten.
- Because of this, the person with T2D does not need the addition of more glucose from carbohydrate rich foods.
A Simple Answer
We only need 4 grams of glucose in our system at anytime and for this, the body prefers to use the glucose made in the liver. This means that every carbohydrate you eat is stored as fat. The answer to a healthier life and reversing T2D is truly in your hands. What you eat makes a difference in your health and what you can do to reverse T2D. Contact us if you would like some help to get started.
1. Per Virta Health,” reversal means an HbA1c < 6.5% with out diabetes medications or only with metformin.”
2. Mullens, A. & Scher, B. (2020 February 2). Breaking news: American Diabetes Association CEO manages her diabetes with a low-carb diet. Retrieved November 24, 2020 from American Diabetes Association CEO manages her diabetes with a low-carb diet (dietdoctor.com)
3. Waasdorp Hurtado, C. Carbohydrate digestion and absorption. Downloaded November 24, 2020 from https://www.naspghan.org/files/documents/pdfs/training/curriculum-resources/physiology-series/Carbohydrate_digestion_NASPGHAN.pdf
4. Short-chain fatty acids are produced by the bacteria in our gut. They are involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. Our body’s gut microbiome dictates the amount of SCFAs available to our bodies. Our microbiome is the total of all the microbes living on or in our body. The microbes on and in our body outnumber cells by 10:1 and have a vital role in human health. They outnumber our cells 10:1.