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A Whole-Person Approach to Type 2 Diabetes Management and Prevention

Chances are someone close to you is dealing with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Previously called adult-onset diabetes, the prevalence of T2DM is a worldwide epidemic impacting increasing numbers of children and young adults. Here at home, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 40 percent of Americans (1 in 10 adults) will develop DM in their lifetime, and for adults aged 65 and older, that number increases to 1 in every 4.

T2DM is characterized by hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugar), insulin resistance and impaired insulin secretion. Thus, the body’s ability to absorb and metabolize energy in the form of glucose becomes dysfunctional. The major contributory factors to these rising rates of T2DM are also the reasons why this disease is largely preventable—being overweight or obese, poor diet (overeating and possible nutritional deficiencies) and sedentary lifestyles. Additional factors can include: environmental toxicity, excess fat in the abdomen, family history, race (African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are at greater risk than Caucasians) and age.

While there is currently no cure for T2DM, a wealth of evidence supports the use of integrative approaches to effectively manage and even reverse the disease. These consist of a personalized combination of interventions addressing: dietary changes, physical activity and movement, proper sleep, detoxification, stress management, healing the gut, supporting a healthy microbiome and targeted supplements.

Dietary Changes

Since T2DM is a disease impacting the body’s ability to process carbohydrate effectively, diabetics should aim for proper portion control while reducing their total carbohydrate intake, paying particular attention to the glycemic impact of their choices and adequate consumption of proteins, healthy fats and dietary fiber. The actual gram goal of carbohydrate will vary by the individual’s specific needs and goals should be developed with the assistance of a licensed nutritionist, but generally keeping the total below 100 grams per day for those seeking a moderate restriction, and 30 to 45 grams for those seeking to follow a low-carb lifestyle. For those looking for a more gradual approach to improving their diet, considering a whole-food based or modified Mediterranean diet would be a great place to start.

The Importance of Getting your Zzz’s and Zen

Stress management and proper sleep go hand in hand for whole-body health. Poor quality of sleep and inadequate sleep will have a negative impact on stress hormones, which can in turn stimulate appetite, especially cravings for carbohydrates, while also reducing the insulin receptor sensitivity. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep each night. Sleep hygiene practices can help promote better sleep. Stress management tools and relaxation techniques can also improve glycemic control. Look at ways to incorporate one or more self-care practices such as yoga, massage, meditation, reiki and guided imagery into your diabetes management program.

Get Moving

Variety is the spice of life for diet and exercise. Consider a regimen that includes both cardio and strength training. Besides the calorie burning benefit, exercise also helps to detoxify the body, increases insulin receptor site sensitivity, controls hunger and cravings and has a positive impact on gene expression. Why consider including the strength training regardless of your current fitness level? Strength training burns glucose 19 times more efficiently than aerobic exercise, and helps to build lean muscle. More muscle means more tissue that can burn glucose even when at rest.

Supportive Supplementation

Studies have shown numerous supplements to be of benefit in the management of diabetes. However, just because something is available over the counter, that does not mean it is risk-free and safe for all populations. Consider the use of supplements as the addition to healthy lifestyle choices—not in place of them—and avoid beginning a supplement regimen without seeking the advice of a qualified, licensed professional. When working with a licensed, integrative practitioner, you may be given a recommendation for one or more of the following: curcumin, cinnamon, omega-3 fatty acids/fish oils, ALA (alpha lipoic acid), gymnema sylvestre, berberine, taurine, bilberry extract, EGCG and green tea, gingko biloba, resveratrol, magnesium, L-carnitine, ginseng, fenugreek, or gut rebalancing and microbiome support.

Be sure to work with a licensed, integrative and functional practitioner to determine which of these approaches is the best fit for you. You are the key to successfully managing or preventing T2DM.

Dana Elia, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND is an integrative and functional dietitian nutritionist. She is the owner of Fusion Integrative Health & Wellness, located at 270 Granite Run Dr., in Lancaster. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call 717-917-5259, email FusionIHW@gmail.com or visit FusionIHW.com.

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