- Article by Natural Netwalking member Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa, Director and GP at Your Doctor www.your-doctor.co.uk -

Diabetes is one of the fastest rising chronic diseases in the UK and the cost to patient quality of life and the NHS is devastating.  Obesity is the single most contributory factor to development of Type 2 diabetes, which is not to be mistaken for Type 1 which is an autoimmune condition.

Until very recently it was believed that Type 2 diabetes was a chronic, progressive disease but now it is understood that is possible to reverse Type 2 diabetes in many of us. Type 2 and pre-diabetes are often caused by insulin resistance which starts years if not decades before we even know about it. Due to chronic sugar overload, our bodies stop responding to the insulin the pancreas is naturally producing so our ability to regulate sugar starts to diminish. The good news is that in many of us, insulin resistance can be altered by simply cutting down on sugar and burning off excess weight we may carry.  

Some of the main symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes to look out for are:-

  1. Unexplained weight loss
  2. Hungry or excessive thirsty, even after meals
  3. Urinating excessively
  4. Fatigue
  5. Slow healing of cuts or sores
  6. Recurrent infections e.g. urine infections
  7. Numbness or tingling in feet or hands
  8. Itchy skin all over


  1. Mediterranean diet - Low carb Mediterranean diets which include unsaturated fats like oily fish, avocado, olive oil, and nuts like almonds and are rich in a variety of vegetables are very effective. Aim for about 50% of your plate to be brightly coloured vegetables and only 25% to be carbs.  Processed and white carbohydrates such as bread and pasta should be avoided. Better choices of carbohydrates include bulgar wheat, couscous, and quinoa.  We need to remove as much processed food from our diets as possible. 
  2. Consume less sugar – Too much sugar causes our blood glucose levels to rise. Obesity and a high sugar intake are intrinsically linked to the development of Type 2 diabetes.  UK obesity figures are alarming with 61% of adults being overweight or obese and 1 in 5 children are overweight by the age of 11.
  3. Avoid snacking & drink water – We often eat excess sugar, salt, carbs and empty calories through bad snacking. Try to work out if you are really hungry or eating for another reason like you are tired or need a reward. If you do need a snack, try to eat healthy snacks like celery or a handful of nuts. 
  4. Emotional eating – Did you know hunger is only one of up to thirty reasons why we eat. Some of the many other reasons we eat include stress, fatigue, boredom, or a need for reward or because of feelings of failure. Focusing on the reasons we overeat can be the stepping stone to implementing the journey to change. 
  5. Very low-calorie diets – Although this diet may be the hardest to sustain, it has been shown to be effective at reversing Type 2 diabetes. Through weight loss, fat is removed from essential organs and cells which helps insulin function better. Sticking to around 800kcal per day has been shown to have drastic effects on weight reduction and in turn blood glucose control. However, this diet is definitely not for everyone and can cause other health implications so consult your GP if you intend to try this diet.
  6. Exercise – Movement burns off the extra sugar in our blood stream. Aerobic exercise helps burn calories away and can really help push back on insulin resistance putting diabetes into remission. Aim for 30 mins of exercise or movement at least five times per week. Involve the family to motivate you and make it a routine. Brisk walking, swimming, running, or cycling are all great forms of cardio. In fact, any movement is good whether that is hoovering the house, getting off the bus early, or stretching whilst you make a cup of tea.
  7. Stress – Everyone’s bodies deal with stress differently and research suggests that some people with diabetes experience an increase in sugar levels as their body’s response to stress. Give yourself space to think, reflect and unwind. Meditation helps keeps our inner system calmer and more relaxed. Try to reduce your stress levels in whatever ways you can.
  8. Overnight fasting – Fung’s study on overnight fasting showed that the participants who had to take regular doses of insulin daily were able to stop self-medicating just 18 days after engaging in intermittent fasting. Although research in this field is still in its infancy, this may well be a method to help reverse the effects of diabetes.  Try not to eat for 12 hours in a row.
  9. Sleep – Getting at least eight hours of shut-eye a night may to help prevent the risk factors associated with diabetes. Sleep deprivation influences insulin levels causing less of it to be released into the body after having eaten. Therefore, sleeping properly will help to ensure a sufficient amount of insulin is being secreted into the blood stream to help reverse diabetic symptoms.
  10. Vitamin D – Several studies have further found that low levels of vitamin D may also contribute to insulin resistance so make sure you are getting enough daily sunlight or alternatively you can purchase Vit D supplements over the counter. 

Any advice around adjusting diets/losing weight and stopping medication must be implemented with the support of a healthcare professional. Not all cases of type 2 are reversible but a healthy lifestyle will also help in all areas of your life.

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