If your doctor is concerned that your blood sugars are too high and mentions a diagnosis of prediabetes, you may be wondering how to reverse prediabetes naturally. The good news is that it’s totally possible. Here are 5 science-backed ways to reverse prediabetes without medication.
Any new medical diagnosis is scary, but hearing the words “prediabetes” might send you into a tailspin. What is prediabetes? Does it mean I will get diabetes? Can prediabetes be reversed? Do I need to take medication?
All of these concerns are completely valid. Thankfully, a prediabetes diagnosis means that you do have higher than normal blood sugars but that they’re not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. By changing your diet and lifestyle, you may be able to reverse your prediabetes diagnosis naturally, without medication.
What is prediabetes?
To diagnose prediabetes, your doctor will look at your blood sugar levels, including your fasting blood sugar and your A1C (a lab that measures your average blood sugar over the past 2-3 months). If these labs fall within the following ranges, you may be diagnosed with pre-diabetes:
- Fasting blood sugar: 100-125 mg/dL
- A1C: 5.7% to 6.4%
This diagnosis means that your cells are not responding to insulin they way that they should. They have likely become insulin resistant– meaning that insulin cannot effectively shuttle glucose from the bloodstream into your cells for energy.
To understand how this process works, think of a lock on each cell. Insulin acts as the key, opening the cell so that the glucose in your bloodstream from the food you eat can be let into the cells and used as energy. When your cells become insulin resistant, the key only works sometimes and not on every lock, making it harder for the sugar to get into the cells to do its job.
Eventually, your blood sugar rises higher and higher, increasing the risk for diabetes and damage to your blood vessels from the excess sugar. A prediabetes diagnosis is an alarm that’s alerting you of potential damage if it’s not corrected.
Ways to reverse prediabetes naturally
Instead of just waiting to see what happens, taking a proactive approach can help reverse your prediabetes diagnosis and get your health on the right track. Here are five diet and lifestyle changes proven to help improve insulin resistance and reverse prediabetes.
Swap processed foods for whole foods
One of the easiest, and most helpful ways, to change your diet and how your body processes sugar is by swapping processed foods for whole foods.
Foods that are highly processed like cakes, candies, ice cream, and white bread cause big spikes in your blood sugar that can make your cells less sensitive to insulin over time. While you don’t have to give up sweets, enjoy them in moderation and try to include more blood sugar-friendly desserts instead.
Eat more nutrient-rich foods that help increase the overall fiber, lean protein, and healthy fats in your diet. Foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fish, and healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds can all help to increase your insulin sensitivity and improve your blood sugars.
Get more sleep
Years of research have proven that sleep is directly related to diabetes risk. With prediabetes, working on your sleep hygiene and aiming for sound sleep, especially when life is stressful, can help reverse your diagnosis.
Without enough sleep, your mood, appetite, and insulin sensitivity are affected. One study found that just one week of restricted sleep (5 hours a night) increased insulin resistance.
If you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep at night, here are a few tips to make each night more restful and restorative:
- Create a relaxing nighttime routine.
- Limit caffeine after noon.
- Avoid sugar or high-fat foods before bed, and fuel yourself with foods that help you sleep.
- Exercise during the day (avoiding intense exercise at night).
- Get outside during daylight hours, and use light-blocking curtains at night.
If you’re letting a prediabetes diagnosis add to the stress of your daily life, it could be making it worse.
Chronic stress raises a hormone in the body known as cortisol, which can then lead to higher blood sugar, insulin resistance, and a larger waist circumference. More stress leads to more cortisol, which increases your risk of prediabetes.
Getting your stress under control to lower your blood sugar is easier said than done, but there are a few strategies you can try. Working with a licensed mental health therapist is a great way to work through major life stressors like work, family, and any health complications.
Staying active, getting enough sleep, practicing deep breathing, getting outdoors, and eating regular meals will all help to regulate your nervous system and lower your cortisol levels.
Focus on fat loss
Many people think losing weight is the key to reversing prediabetes, but that’s not the whole story. Fat loss, particularly from the belly, can help increase your cells sensitivity to insulin.
A waist measurement of over 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women is linked to a higher risk of insulin resistance, regardless of weight or BMI. Excess belly fat can lead to higher levels of inflammation, which is directly related to prediabetes.
Increasing physical activity and soluble fiber are great ways to actively decrease belly fat. When starting an exercise program, make sure to check with your doctor and start slowly. Not sure what to do? Try walking! One study found that walking for one hour, 3 days a week significantly reduced belly fat and improved insulin resistance.
Take care of your gut
In recent years, gut health has become a hot topic– and for good reason! We know that taking care of the gut can impact mood, stress levels, and virtually every other system in the body. Taking care of your gut is essential to preventing diabetes.
Research has found that high-fat diets can change the gut microbiome, increasing the risk for insulin resistance. Even if you’re taking probiotics or eating probiotic foods, those good bacteria need “food” to survive and thrive.
The food that probiotics need to keep your gut healthy (and decrease your risk of developing diabetes) is known as prebiotics. Prebiotics are indigestible plant fibers from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. While your body can’t digest these fibers, the good bacteria in your gut use them for energy and to produce beneficial byproducts that keep your body healthy.
Here are just a few delicious prebiotic foods that will help keep your gut healthy:
A prediabetes diagnosis does not mean you’re destined to have diabetes, especially if you commit to making the right lifestyle changes. Eating more whole foods, taking care of your gut, and managing your stress and sleep are all ways that you can help to reverse your prediabetes diagnosis without medication.