Aditya, a young entrepreneur, was ambitious and in a bid to jump start his career, he pulled all-nighters, ate convenience foods, didn’t have time to exercise and focused all his energy on work. Within five years his business was a success, but at the cost of his health.
When he came to see me he had back and neck aches, constipation, headaches, and weight gain plagued him. In an annual medical check-up, his reports indicated that he had reached the prediabetic stage: a serious health condition where blood sugars are higher than normal. Alarmed, and with no family history of diabetes, Aditya was given three months to correct his lifestyle, or be moved to daily medications to prevent an array of complexities including kidney and heart health.
Inspired to make the necessary lifestyle shift, he focused on the fundamentals of healthy living – a regular exercise regime, more wholesome foods three times a day, deep breathing, and a work-life balance. Fast forward three months and Aditya has not only found a new lifestyle that allows him to be his best self, but he has also reversed his prediabetes.
Like Aditya, millions are living with prediabetes – or borderline diabetes –today. The statistics state that at least one in four individuals are prediabetic; and of those, more than 84 per cent don’t even know they have it . That places them an increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease.
What is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes is the body’s early warning signal to make necessary lifestyle changes before it develops into Type 2 diabetes. It simply means that sugar levels have started to increase, but it isn’t high enough to be categorised as diabetes. Those at risk include people who are obese or carrying a lot of belly fat, those with insulin resistance, young girls and women with PCOS and people with a familial history of diabetes
Although diabetes is considered to be a silent illness that quietly brews inside the body, there are some symptoms of possible prediabetes that an individual can watch out for: darkening of the skin, belly fat, decreased HDL levels and increased triglycerides, and disrupted liver enzymes
But prediabetes is reversible because it is a lifestyle disease. When a wrong lifestyle can cause prediabetes, and diabetes, a corrective lifestyle can reverse it too. In almost all cases of prediabetes, medicines can be avoided, provided you’re willing to make lifestyle changes.
While there are several everyday changes that can be made, here are the top five that have been helping our patients across the globe to improve and eventually reverse prediabetes:
Walk After Meals
A gentle stroll, even for 5-10 minutes, is a great way to promote insulin sensitivity and gain better control over post meal sugar spikes. If taking a walk isn’t possible, try to get in some physical activity (a couple of squats or jumping jacks) at least within the hour after eating.
Drink Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has the unique ability to stimulate your muscles to take up glucose from the bloodstream. If apple cider vinegar suits you, try having a tablespoon of it mixed in a glass of water half an hour before lunch and dinner.
Eat In the Right Order
You may not always have control over exactly what you eat, especially if you’re eating on the go or at a restaurant, but you have control over the sequence in which you eat. Whether it’s diabetes or prediabetes, your weight or metabolism that you are trying to improve, the following sequence is scientifically known to work well: start your meal with raw salad, then, eat cooked vegetables or vegetable soup. Next, eat protein and fats and finally, eat carbohydrates (grain/starch/cereal)
This way, not only do you end up eating smaller portions of carbohydrates but you also gain better control over any blood glucose rise.
Paying attention to your emotional wellbeing is one of the most important ways to stay on top of your health. Even doctors acknowledge the impact of stress on sugar levels. When I was in Bangalore at a medical university, we were doing hospital rounds, and I asked: “What is the number one reason for diabetes?” Expecting the response to be sugar or junk food, the doctor surprised me when he said: “chronic stress”.
This is because when you are stressed, you produce cortisol. A little stress isn’t going to hurt you but when you are chronically stressed, your cortisol levels are perpetually high. It impacts every other hormone in the human body, including insulin. Elevated levels of stress have a direct impact on diabetes. When cortisol increases, your insulin decreases. Chronic stress = low insulin = high blood sugar.
So if you have more stress in your life, you need to have more outlets to release it. Practice meditation, get a hobby, surround yourself with good friends, spend time with your family and kids, and practice acceptance, letting go, and forgiveness.
Eat Dinner Early
Our bodies aren’t designed to digest late-night meals. We might eat late because we had to spend longer in the office, or are going out, but it isn’t good for us. All of us operate according to the circadian rhythm – the natural, internal process that regulates our sleep-wake pattern and repeats every 24 hours – and our metabolism slows down as the sun sets. So if you have ever felt heavy and full in the morning after a late meal the previous night, know that’s because your body is still digesting food. Eating at or close to sunset is one of the best strategies to balance sugar levels, metabolism, weight, and digestive health.
Portion out your carbs well. This doesn’t mean no carb, but low carb. Try to add more vegetables, protein and ‘good’ unsaturated fat to your meals, such as nuts, seeds and fish, and trim down the portion of carbohydrates you consume.
Even when it comes to fruits, be careful of how many you eat in a day and in what form. Just because fruits are healthy, it doesn’t mean that fruit juices or fruit platters are healthy too, especially if you are predisposed to developing diabetes. The carbohydrate dump from eating too many fruits at a time is way too high. When we coach our diabetic patients, we even go to the extent of removing fruits completely for two weeks until the blood sugars normalise, and focus on adding a variety of vegetables to fulfil the vitamins, minerals and antioxidant requirements of the body.
Get these six small wins in. They works. Yes, it needs discipline and consistency, like everything you want to achieve. The prediabetic stage is more critical than the diabetic stage because it allows you to choose the path of either reversing diabetes or to continue to develop it, and the power to make that choice is yours.
Disclaimer: Make informed decisions. Never stop your meds without supervision. Practice patience as you make these changes – if it has worked for others, it can work for you.
About Luke Coutinho
Luke Coutinho is an award-winning and globally renowned author in holistic nutrition and lifestyle medicine. He has co-authored several books with Indian celebrities including Shilpa Shetty and Tammannah. His approach to prevention and recovery revolves around four pillars: balanced nutrition, adequate exercise, quality sleep, and emotional detox.
Luke and his team specialise in handling cases of cancer, diabetes, thyroid, cardiovascular, autoimmune conditions, obesity, and even rare syndromes with tremendous success by changing lifestyles, respecting bio-individuality, and addressing the root cause using a holistic approach.