A functional medicine approach can help control glycemic indices, and it can also help reduce many health problems related to type 2 diabetes and autoimmune diseases. In particular, dietary change as a first-line treatment has been shown to be successful in reversing diabetes.

How to prevent type 2 diabetes from functional medicine?

Type 2 diabetes is a disease process that can be treated naturally and even reversed in certain situations.

The key is not to think about managing type 2 diabetes, but to help the patient with diabetes or prediabetes to fix the underlying cause or causes, before the condition is irreversible.

1. Improve your intestinal health.

Recent studies have identified a previously unknown effect of metformin on the gut microbiota. The drug increases levels of Akkermansia muciniphila, a commensal gut bacteria associated with reduced inflammation and better metabolic health. This recently discovered effect of metformin indicates that the gut microbiota plays a critical role in type 2 diabetes.

Several prebiotics and probiotics have been investigated for their antidiabetic effects that promote gut health:

In animal studies, mannanoligosaccharide, a prebiotic fiber found in mushrooms and konjac root, has been found to  increase the blood sugar lowering effects of metformin. Inulin, a prebiotic in chicory, garlic, onion, leek, and asparagus, lowers fasting blood glucose while promoting a more metabolically healthy gut microbiota.

Some probiotic strains also demonstrate antidiabetic effects. The supplementation of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria improves biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in type 2 diabetics and reduces fasting blood sugar to promoting an anti – inflammatory intestinal microbiota. Anti-inflammatory gut bacteria, in turn, help correct the underlying inflammation in diabetes and improve metabolic function.

2. Do exercises and activities outdoors.

A sedentary lifestyle is not a good ally for people with a tendency to develop diabetes, and even for anyone, since it promotes health complications. A sedentary lifestyle is a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes, so exercise should be a central part of any treatment plan for the disease.

And you don’t have to be an athlete or play extreme sports to get there. Research indicates that walking just 30 minutes a day reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by about 50 percent. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) also appears beneficial: it reduces fasting blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c, and cardiovascular complications in type 2 diabetes and is more effective than continuous aerobic activity (such as jogging) to improve blood sugar control.

In addition to exercising more, it is also essential to reduce sedentary time in daily life.  Activities such as sitting at the desk and taking walks or using a treadmill should be alternated. Breaking the prolonged sitting session and standing or walking has been shown to improve post-meal blood sugar response in those at risk for diabetes.

3. Get enough sleep.

The dramatic increase in the incidence of type 2 diabetes in recent decades has paralleled a progressive decrease in sleep duration reported by adults. Is loss of sleep related to diabetes? Research indicates that this is indeed the case: a short duration of sleep, defined as sleeping less than seven to eight hours a night, has become a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Loss of sleep can promote type 2 diabetes by interfering with energy metabolism and increasing insulin sensitivity. Loss of sleep also disrupts satiety, causing cravings and excessive consumption of sugary processed foods that increase the risk of diabetes.

The obstructive apnea sleep (AOS), a common cause of sleep loss, promotes type 2 diabetes to the hypoxia inducing (when the body does not receive enough oxygen), which in damaging both the production of insulin by the pancreatic beta cells . Strategies that correct OSA, such as use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine and weight loss, reduce the severity of OSA and improve blood sugar control.

To improve blood sugar control and prevent type 2 diabetes, try to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

4. Normalize your circadian rhythm.

Your circadian rhythm is a set of biochemical processes that occur in the body on a 24-hour schedule and regulate many aspects of your behavior and physiology. Factors that disrupt the human circadian rhythm, such as jet lag, an irregular eating schedule, and exposure to blue light at night, affect the function of circadian rhythm-regulated pancreatic beta cells and increase the risk of type diabetes 2.

While much of the research on circadian disruption and diabetes risk has been conducted in animals, the substantially elevated risk of type 2 diabetes seen in night shift workers suggests that circadian disruption also promotes diabetes in humans.

5. Reduce your stress levels.

The chronic stress is another factor overlooked past but significant risk for type 2 diabetes Hormonal changes that go hand in hand with chronic stress cause imbalances in blood sugar. High perceived stress is associated with insulin resistance and a significantly increased risk of type 2 diabetes in adults.

The profound effect of stress on blood sugar is mediated by the HPA axis, the body’s stress response system. Chronic activation of the HPA axis causes beta cell dysfunction, inhibiting the effects of insulin and inducing insulin resistance.

The research indicates that reducing psychological stress can improve control of blood sugar in type 2 diabetes. Meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises have been found to lower fasting blood glucose and post-meal glucose in diabetics.  If you are new to the concept of mindfulness, you could start with an app like Calm or Headspace, which offers guided meditations and breathing exercises that are simple and effective for stress relief.

6. Avoid environmental toxins.

Environmental toxins have more recently drawn attention for their potential role in the development of type 2 diabetes. Accumulating evidence suggests that BPA, phthalates, and POPs contribute to diabetes, so it makes sense to reduce our exposure to them.

BPA is a chemical found in polycarbonate water bottles, dental sealants, the lining of cans, and cash register receipts. Exposure to BPA contributes to diabetes by causing stress on pancreatic beta cells, which disrupts insulin secretion.

It also lowers the levels of adiponectin, a protein hormone that regulates glucose levels, reducing insulin sensitivity in fat cells, the skeletal muscle system, and the liver.  Importantly, BPS, a chemical alternative to BPA that is commonly used in “BPA-free” products, may not be safer for the body.

Phthalates are a common type of plasticizer found in children’s toys, vinyl, and personal care products. Phthalates exacerbate type 2 diabetes by disrupting the PI3K/AKT pathway, reducing the number of glucose receptors in the pancreas, and inducing insulin resistance. To reduce exposure to phthalates, avoid buying plastic products as much as possible and use only natural plant-based shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and other personal care products.

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), a category of environmental toxins that include organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, and fluorinated compounds, reduce insulin secretion from pancreatic beta cells, causing hyperglycemia . The metabolic toxicity of POPs increases when these compounds are combined. To reduce your exposure to POPs, buy organic products and filter your water because conventionally grown produce and tap water are a major source of persistent organic pollutants.

The constant implementation of several of these points, together with an attitude of change, can be a fundamental ally in preventing type 2 diabetes and other conditions related to autoimmune diseases.