Overview of Type 2 Diabetes
Functional medicine for diabetes helps you implement food and lifestyle modifications to prevent and even reverse diabetes. Diabetes is one of the most stressful and severe chronic diseases a person can ever face, and the prevalence of diabetes only continues to grow in the future affecting over 8.5% of the population worldwide. Diabetes is characterized by a group of metabolic disorders that results in chronic hyperglycemic conditions arising from defects in insulin secretion, insulin action, or both. The person suffering from diabetes may experience symptoms like Dysuria (frequent urination), dyspepsia (feeling thirsty), feeling hungry, fatigue, blurry vision, weight loss, and tingling pain or sensation in the feet and hands. There are two types of diabetes, Type I and Type II, of which Type II diabetes is found to be more prevalent.
Type 1 diabetes results from an autoimmune reaction to proteins of the islet cells of the pancreas. The pathogenesis of selective β-cell destruction within the islet is challenging due to the marked heterogeneity of the pancreatic lesions.
Type 2 diabetes – is a result of genetic factors related to impaired insulin resistance and insulin secretion and environmental factors such as overeating, obesity, lack of exercise and stress, and aging. The impairment of pancreatic β cell function notably shows progression over time.
Functional Medicine Approach For Type 2 Diabetes
Functional medicine takes a patient-centric approach and tries to identify the root cause. Many patients with diabetes need to know what they can do to maintain their eyesight, preserve renal function, reduce foot issues, and prevent dental disease. The current standard of care frequently emphasizes glycemic control, but recent research suggests that this metric might not deliver the health effects patients desire. Going beyond the focus on glycemic control is crucial to help patients achieve the health outcomes they need.
Benefits of Functional Medicine for Type 2 Diabetes
A Functional Medicine approach can control glycemic indices and help reduce many associated health difficulties. The Functional Medicine model, which uses food as first-line therapy, has successfully reversed diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes can be reversed by following strict lifestyle changes and functional medicine approaches as determined by a Functional Medicine doctor or practitioner. It is an excellent option to consider that may help you get rid of endless medications. These recommendations are for informational purposes only – and have a combination of common sense, good lifestyle habits, and personalized treatment plans prescribed by the expert after running some specialized tests.
Types of holistic treatments
1. Eliminate stress– one of the best ways to fight stress is to stay fit and healthy. Research has shown that meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises decrease fasting blood glucose and post-meal glucose levels in diabetics. Limiting various stressors in your life, like mental, physical, family, and emotional stress is possible by eating healthy and exercising.
2. Good sleep– Sleeping for at least 7-8 hours at night can balance the circadian rhythm. Following a regular circadian rhythm can enhance your sleep quality further, which helps the neuroendocrine system function properly.
3. Exercise– Research indicates that walking for just 30 minutes a day reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by approximately 50 percent. Exercise can help reduce fasting blood sugar, hemoglobin A1C, and cardiovascular complications in type 2 diabetes. Exercise can help reduce cravings for food and hunger, filter out your body waste and increase insulin receptor sensitivity. Walking is more effective than continuous aerobic activity for improving blood sugar control.
4. Dietary changes– Reducing the intake of excessive dietary carbohydrates can produce a significant improvement in HbA1c, triglycerides, and cholesterol, while also lowering patients with diabetes medication requirements. Ketogenic, gluten-free seafood, spices, fruits, and vegetables effectively control sugar levels.
5. Nutraceutical therapy– Nutraceuticals like vitamin D supplementation, magnesium, folate, Berberine Alpha-lipoic, and B12 supplementation falls under functional medicine for diabetes. Nutraceutical therapy can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in diabetic patients. Berberine and alpha-lipoic acid can help improve symptoms of insulin resistance and insulin secretion, such as diabetic retinopathy, inhibits the generation of glucose in the liver, and activates AMPK protein that has blood sugar-lowering effects. They also help reduce the absorption of glucose and promote anti-inflammatory gut microbiota.
6. Chromium – Chromium found in brewer’s yeast is known to possess a glucose tolerance factor (GTF) that can prevent diabetes by substantially lowering plasma glucose levels in the blood. Chromium can reduce excessive cholesterol and triglycerides and help decrease insulin levels.
7. Alpha-lipoic acid– It’s a naturally existing compound that acts as a potent anti-oxidant and functions effectively in lipid and glucose metabolism, thus helping control blood sugar levels in the blood. This compound also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and improves the function of nerves damaged due to diabetic retinopathy.
8. Magnesium is the main co-factor that drives numerous enzymatic reactions and regulates insulin signaling. It promotes glucose uptake by phosphorylation of insulin receptor kinase in the post-receptorial action of insulin.
9. Biotin – Vitamin B7/Biotin is involved in several metabolic processes, and supplementing biotin alone or in combination with chromium exerts potential anti-diabetic activities by increasing the activity of the enzyme glucokinase that promotes the uptake of glucose. It also has anti-inflammatory mechanisms and modulates various receptors of IRS-1, PPAR-γ, and NF-κB proteins.
10. Carnitine – Carnitine may improve insulin sensitivity and glucose disposal in healthy subjects by its indispensable role in lipid and glucose metabolism. Carnitine supplements can help patients with type 2 diabetes.
Studies for Functional Medicine for Diabetes Type 2
1. A Low-Fat Vegan Diet Improves Glycemic Control and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in a Randomized Clinical Trial in Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes..
The study included 99 individuals with type 2 diabetes who were randomly assigned into two groups a low-fat vegan diet (n = 49) that included vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes or a diet following the American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines (n = 50) that consisted of protein, saturated fat, carbohydrate, monounsaturated fat, and cholesterol. Parameters like body weight, cholesterol, no diabetic medications, HbA1c, and urinary albumin were evaluated at baseline and 22 weeks.
The results showed that both groups had improved glycemic and lipid control by the end of 22 weeks, and there was a 43% reduction in the dose requirement of diabetic medication in a low vegan diet group. In contrast, the ADA group showed a 26% reduction. However, the improvements were more significant with a low-fat vegan diet.
2. Effects of probiotic supplements on insulin resistance in gestational diabetes mellitus: A double‐blind, randomized controlled trial..
57 Pregnant women with gestational diabetes mellitus at 24–28 weeks of gestation were enrolled in the study to determine the positive effects of probiotics on glucose metabolism. They were divided into two groups: one (n=28) group received probiotic supplements containing Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, and the other group (n=29) was randomized to receive a placebo treatment daily for around four weeks. Primary outcome measures included evaluating mean differences in insulin resistance, fasting insulin and fasting plasma glucose between the two groups. Secondary outcome measures included evaluating changes in maternal weight after the intervention.
The results showed significant improvement in metabolic parameters in the probiotic group after randomization compared with the placebo group, including fasting plasma glucose, fasting plasma insulin mean difference, and homeostatic model assessment for insulin resistance.
3. A recent study found that diabetic retinopathy and related blindness and vision impairment have been increasing steadily worldwide, despite a focus on glycemic control. Renal failure and degeneration also showed no improvements. This is despite the increased focus on glycemic control, now supported by an assortment of clinical guidelines.
4. In a review, Mayo Clinic researchers found that tight glycemic control was generally not supported by the literature; it didn’t lower the risk of progression to dialysis, renal transplant, blindness, neuropathy, all-cause mortality, or stroke.  Further, tight glycemic control in the frail elderly can cause dementia and hypoglycemia and create episodes of neuropathy in addition to treatment. [8,9] While drugs can normalize glucose numbers, this strategy fails to stem the tide of diabetes complications. Research indicates that diet-based approaches have better outcomes, such as omega-3 fatty acid interventions that successfully reduce retinopathy.
At least for a few patients, nutrition and exercise interventions may outperform medications. For example, in one Danish study, 47 participants (73.5 percent) in the Lifestyle group) attained a decrease in Glucose-lowering drugs, compared to just nine participants with improvements (26.4 percent) in the standard care group. The intervention consisted of an aerobic training program and a diet for attaining a BMI of less than 25.6. In a different study, participants with poor glycemic control who undertook a multidisciplinary lifestyle regimen enjoyed significant improvements in A1c, BMI, waist circumference, and blood pressure up to two years following the study.
Diabetes can be reversed by the Functional Medicine (FM) approach with dietary and lifestyle modifications. Intervention strategies like functional medicine can be used to meet the metabolic goals and individual preferences of the person suffering from diabetes. Functional medicine for diabetes care focuses on identifying and treating the etiologies behind the disease by addressing the root causes. Functional medicine has shown success in reversing diabetes and many other health-related issues. It uses food as a first-line treatment to control and bring down glycemic indices in diabetes. Functional medicine can also be used as a complementary therapy to conventional diabetes treatment. However, further exploration of the interface between functional medicine and conventional diabetes management is warranted.