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Achieving Success with Diabetes Remission

Important Points:

  • Diabetes remission
  • Diabetes reversal
  • Sugar levels
  • Weight loss
  • Type 2 diabetes

Achieving Success with Diabetes Remission

Many people living with diabetes often wonder if diabetes remission is a possibility for them.  For most people this is an achievable goal. If you are willing enough to put in the hard work, you can go for years without taking any diabetes medication while still maintaining normal sugar levels. This article will show you how.

Type 2 diabetes is a serious chronic condition that can cause debilitating effects. It can be a lifelong condition worsening over time, or it can present no problems when going into long-term remission.

Most people embrace a triad approach to treating Type 2 diabetes: medication, diet, and exercise. Some lucky few are able to drop off their medication and still maintain normal blood sugar.  Research shows that many people can achieve a similar level of success in the management of diabetes.

Is diabetes reversal the same as diabetes remission?

Remission is often confused with diabetes reversal, but they mean totally different things. Whereas reversal implies that one is completely cured of diabetes, remission means that a person is living symptom-free for a long duration of time without being on medication. With remission, there is always the awareness that the disease might recur. Our article, seen here, on the difference between diabetes reversal and remission goes into more detail.

 What is diabetes remission?

Diabetes remission occurs in people, suffering from Type 2 diabetes, when they are able to maintain normal blood sugar levels without needing to take any diabetes medication. Diabetes remission is not a cure for diabetes; it simply indicates that Type 2 diabetes may or may not come back. If one resumes normal diet and an unhealthy lifestyle, then their blood sugar is likely to spike making the return of diabetes symptoms more likely.

In 2009, the American Diabetes Association divided Diabetes remission into three categories:

  • Partial remission: blood sugar which does not meet the classification for Type 2 Diabetes; fasting blood glucose 5.5 – 6.9 mmol/l for at least 1 year.
  • Complete remission: normal glucose values i.e. fasting blood glucose < 5.6 mmol/L for at least 1 year.
  • Prolonged remission: normal glucose values i.e.
    fasting blood glucose < 5.6 mmol/L for at least 5 years.

For all the three categories listed above, the patient must have been off all diabetic medication for the given duration of time. According to the American Diabetes Association, when a person combines diet and exercise with blood sugar lowering medication, such as Metformin, they do not qualify as being in remission.

How to Achieve Diabetes Remission

1.    Weight Loss

Losing weight around the waist can significantly increase your chances of remission.

Before embarking on a weight loss journey, it is important to first consult with your healthcare provider in order to make sure it’s safe for you especially if you have other health conditions. You might also need help in determining which weight loss approach would work best for you.

To understand how losing weight can cause remission, we need to draw the link between being overweight and Type 2 diabetes. The fat that builds up around the midsection is dangerous because it surrounds important organs like the liver and pancreas making it more difficult for those organs to work properly. This progression leads to Type 2 diabetes.

Research has shown that almost 50-80% of individuals with type 2 diabetes can achieve remission to a non-diabetic state through weight loss. This has been associated with early and sustained improvement in the functioning of pancreatic beta cells. The easiest way to determine if a person’s type 2 diabetes is reversible is to measure their C-Peptide levels because if they still produce C-Peptide, it’s more likely their diabetes is still reversible.

However, not everyone who develops Type 2 diabetes is overweight. Other factors such as age, ethnicity and family history come into play as well. These factors influence how well the liver and pancreas work, and also where we store our fat. As much as we cannot change these factors, we can influence diabetes type 2 by altering the factors within our control.

Losing extra weight is not a guarantee that one will go into remission, but weight loss on its own has significant health merits for a diabetic person, such as taking fewer meds and having less risk for complications.

2.    Making Diet and lifestyle changes

Research has shown that a low-calorie diet could help people lose weight and go into remission. Not only does switching to a non-inflammatory diet promote weight loss, but it can also reduce insulin resistance. Metabolic inflammation is a key driver for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, so improving insulin sensitivity can trigger remission.

Lifestyle changes, such as taking up regular exercise, will also help to achieve weight loss.

3.    Weight loss surgery for diabetes remission

Bariatric surgery can also help one to achieve remission by helping one eat less and achieve healthy and sustainable weight loss. Bariatric surgery is not a quick fix for obesity and diabetes, however, your doctor may recommend this approach in certain circumstances. Before considering this option, you should show dedication and discipline that you will be able to stick through the weight loss program.

What To Do When You Are In Remission

Diabetes remission may mean different things for different people. For many, it may last for a year before it recurs again, while for others it may disappear for extended periods of time. For most if not all, remission comes with reduced blood sugar, better cholesterol levels and reduced blood pressure. These signs are an indication of better health outcomes in the long run.

Once you are in remission, you should strive to maintain the positive health habits that triggered the remission in the first place. Keep going to your regular check-ups and speak to your healthcare team if you’re worried about anything or have any questions. Maintain a positive and hopeful spirit as you work towards achieving prolonged remission.

References

1.   Diabetes UK: What is diabetes? Retrieved from https://www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics/what-is-type-2-diabetes

2.   Diabetes UK: Diabetes Remission. Retrieved from https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/managing-your-diabetes/treating-your-diabetes/type2-diabetes-remission#remission%20research

3.  Science Daily (2018): Why weight loss produces remission of type 2 diabetes in some patients. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180802141722.html