Functional Medicine Approach to Type 2 Diabetes Treatment and Prevention
Type 2 diabetes is one of the few preventable diseases that is reaching epidemic proportions in the Western world, particularly in countries such as the USA. Once considered to mostly be a concern for older people, in more recent times, there has been a significant increase in the development of the disease among younger adults and even children.
Here we look at what type 2 diabetes is, the factors that lead to its development and how a functional medicine approach seeks to treat and prevent it.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that affects how individuals metabolize sugar, a vital process in the body involves insulin and affects how much glucose is in the bloodstream. High levels of glucose can cause fatigue, thirst and the need to urinate a lot leading to the development of the disease.
If no action is taken and the symptoms persist, it can lead to major health problems that include damage to the nerves, blood vessels, heart and eyes.
The prevalence of type 2 diabetes in modern society is extremely worrying. According to the World Health Organization (WHO):
- Between 1980 and 2014, the incidence of type 2 diabetes rose from 108 million worldwide to affect 422 million people.
- Often considered a disease of the affluent West, the incidence of type 2 diabetes is on the rise in low and middle-income countries.
- In 2016, both type 1 and 2 diabetes were a factor in 1.6 million deaths and 1 in 3 adults were considered pre-diabetic.
What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?
While there is a range of genetic and other factors involved in the development of type 2 diabetes, lifestyle factors including exercise and diet play a crucial role. Sedentary lifestyles and diets that are often dominated by refined foods have led to an epidemic of obesity that is closely linked to the development of diabetes.
Functional Medicine: Effective Prevention, Treatment and Management of Type 2 Diabetes
Conventional approaches such as the sole use of medication have failed to find a solution to type 2 diabetes and its growing prevalence around the world. This has led many to recommend a functional medicine approach that tackles the root causes of the disease.
A major criticism of traditional medicine is that it seeks often to treat the symptoms of a disease rather than address the initial causes. Functional medicine takes a more holistic approach looking at the patient as a whole rather than simply focusing on the disease itself.
The functional medicine approach looks at treating the individual by finding the root cause of the condition and working out how it can be prevented.
The functional medicine approach looks at the main cause of diabetes and is largely focused on lifestyle changes to provide solutions.
This could mean, for example, changing someone’s diet so that they eat fresh food and less sugar and get more exercise, reducing weight and their potential to develop the disease. One of the reasons why we in the Western world have an issue with diabetes is the consumption of high carb diets which have become increasingly popular since the early 80s.
Low carb diets have been shown consistently to help prevent the onset of diabetes and reduce dangerous spikes in blood sugar levels.
Diabetes Treatment and Management
Once someone has developed type 2 diabetes, a functional medicine approach has also been shown to be effective. Functional medicine can look more deeply at the individual and discover which foods are likely to spike their blood sugar, for example.
Compare this to a more conventional approach, where individuals will often be given prescription medicines that have numerous side-effects and do little to tackle the underlying cause. Effective dietary and exercise changes can have a profound effect on the management of type 2 diabetes, even putting the disease into remission.
Many people who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese and losing a significant number of pounds can make a huge difference. Exercise is an important part of this and the current recommendations are that an individual should have around 150 minutes of moderate activity each week.
Indeed, recent evidence suggests that physical activity combined with weight loss and a good diet reduces the risk of developing the disease by as much as 58% in high-risk populations