Can You Get Rid of Diabetes with Diet and Exercise?

By Duncan Gumaer

Ask any diabetic and they’ll tell you managing diabetes can feel like a full-time job. Keeping tabs on your blood sugar levels, taking medications at regular intervals, and watching what you eat is the bare minimum that a diabetic needs to do to avoid facing life-threatening complications. But, for diabetics who are willing to do more than simply manage their condition, a cure may be possible.

Reversing Type 2 Diabetes

The single most important factor in turning around type 2 diabetes is weight loss. That’s because having extra body fat changes how our bodies use and produce insulin.  By losing weight and eating healthier, you can gradually reduce your blood sugar levels. For some people, that reduction may be significant enough to bring their blood sugar down to pre-diabetic levels.

Whether or not you can totally rid yourself of diabetes depends on a number of factors, including how long you’ve been diabetic, how severe your condition is, and your genetics.

One recent study of people with type 2 diabetes found that with a regular diabetic exercise routine and restricted caloric intake, about 1 in 10 diabetics were able to get off their diabetes medications or improve their blood sugar to a pre-diabetic range. The biggest predictors of success were people who managed to lose at least 10% of their body weight and had a newly diagnosed or less-severe case.

Unfortunately, this method won’t work for everyone. Some people simply have a genetic disposition to being diabetic. If you’re diabetic because of unhealthy dietary and lifestyle choices, there’s a good chance you can turn that around or, at the very least, reduce the severity of your symptoms. But if you’re a thin diabetic with a family history of diabetes, it’s far less likely you’ll be able to reduce your blood sugar to pre-diabetic levels.

Curing Diabetes with Food

Since body fat is a major contributing factor to diabetes, losing weight is the first priority for anyone serious about taking on their disease.  That means gradually reducing your caloric intake and replacing unhealthy foods with healthy ones.

A healthy diabetic diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Fiber-rich foods and complex carbohydrates are particularly important because they’re metabolized slower, helping your body moderate blood sugar. And it almost goes without saying, but alcohol and sweets should be avoided as much as possible.

Starting Your Diabetic Exercise Routine

If you’re not used to exercise, it’s important to start slow and build up intensity over several weeks. The American Diabetes Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderately intensive cardio 5 days each week. They also recommend at least 2 days of strength training each week.

But why does exercise help diabetics? Not only can activity help you achieve weight loss goals, it’s also been proven to help your body become more sensitive to insulin. That means the effect of exercise on diabetes is twofold—it reduces the severity of your symptoms while also protecting against the potential complications of diabetes.

Dedicating yourself to healthier choices is hard work. But with a little determination, many people may be able to free themselves of their diabetes once and for all. While being able to rid yourself of diabetes is definitely its own reward, healthy living is a very sweet bonus.