Let’s begin with a couple disclaimers. I am not a medical professional. I am simply a woman who has been battling Type 2 Diabetes for the last four years. I am also not on medications. Please always check with your doctor and other medical professionals. I link a wonderful resource doctor at the end, but there are many other experts only a click away.
Anyone who has heard the words “you have diabetes” knows it’s one of those heartbeat pause moments. Now what? What does that mean? I’m sick? I’m going to have to jab myself with needles?
Then you get your number … The Number. Your A1C reading (also known as HbA1c or Hemoglobin A1C).
I might be the only one, but once that number was handed to me on that little slip of paper, it felt like it wrapped itself around my wrist and hung on, always there, always on my mind. Add to that the every three month trip back to the doctor for another finger stick and another little slip of paper. Now the calendar was ticking down days right in front of my eyes! The more visits I had, the more I began to notice something curious.
The first test that landed me from Pre-D to the Big D was 6.5%, then 6.7%, and finally to the highest 7%. In the world of diabetes I know that is still relatively low, but with the constant reminders that my eyeballs were going to die and my kidneys jump ship with them, I was scared. I made some changes and then slipped up. Stressed out. Made more changes. Slipped up again, because life. When I went for my next check up I was begging my organs to forgive the mistakes. I got my new reading. Had they really acquiesced? It was a beautiful Pre-D 6.4%. While I wanted to celebrate the thought kept coming back - without significant dietary changes or weight loss, why did it get better?
What was this number that was now controlling my life anyway?
The more questions the more the hunt for answers pushed me away from the packets of helpful tips and guides the doctors had handed me and onto the web. This was where I found Dr. Jason Fung, among others, and began to realize not only could the A1C be thrown off by a myriad of things (how long red blood cells live, vitamin C intake, etc.), it was not even the “trick” to “curing” (a debate for another time) diabetes once and for all - my main objective!
So I began again. Diabetes is not about sugar. Stick with me here, I know that seems strange with all the focus in health media over the last many years. Sugar (glucose) is a red herring of sorts. It does not tell the story of how insulin resistant you are.
There it is! The key to really making an impact on Diabetes. It’s not all about the A1C, the insulin levels, sugars, etc. It’s how your body uses the insulin it has.
I won’t go into all of the steps recommended as it varies by person, severity of diabetes, medications, etc. But the goal, in short, is to make the body insulin sensitive again. The more sensitive it is, the less cry the brain will send out to make more, overloading us and drowning us under the Big D diagnosis along with its complement of minions to send our health spiraling.
In short it comes down to allowing insulin levels to drop, so the receptors get “hungry” for them. Easier said than done with the overabundance most of us have in available foods that are over processed, nutrient poor, and calorie dense, that keep the insulin fires burning bright and the receptors dulled.
We need to relieve and nurture the system, because we are not just blood, or kidneys, or eyes. We are a whole system, everything working in conjunction with everything else.
And this lands us right back at the basics, the true basics - Eat Well, Move, Sleep, Relax
Choose foods that are nutrient dense and as close to whole as possible. Watch portions as well, you should feel not hungry but not full either when done.
As the song playfully says “you’ve got to move it, move it” and you can certainly dance, walk, or even just stretching a few times a day can help make a difference. As my doctor recently told me, it doesn’t have to be “exercise” just wiggle your body!
Sleep is the great reset for our bodies allowing cleaning, renewal, and regeneration at a cellular level. To reap these benefits adults need at least 7 hours per night.
Stress is one of our biggest enemies in the fight to reclaim health. Among many other things, it releases spikes of cortisol that jam signals making our efforts at regaining sensitivity all the harder. Whether you turn to prayer, long walks, calming tunes, hot showers - find your way to unwind and make it a daily practice. Just 5 minutes of deep breathing can lower your heart rate and blood pressure and requires nothing more than your lungs!
The A1C doesn’t need to be thrown out completely, but keep it in its place, a directional number. Focus instead of regaining insulin sensitivity by gentle lifestyle changes - eating well, moving more, sleeping more or better, and taking time to relax.
Let’s get well together!
To learn more about Dr. Jason Fung and his mission to reverse diabetes, go to https://www.youtube.com/@drjasonfung.