I recently wrote about my initial experiments with diabetes management in an earlier blog post. If you missed it, you can find it here. This is part II of that blog post. Here the most important message that I wanted to share is the following: Type 2 diabetes can be reversed without any medication as I managed. Of course I am not a doctor and I do not pretend to be one so please consult your doctor before you venture into any experimentation. I certainly did. I see my cardiologist and endocrinologist on a regular basis and share with them my experiments and observations. Based on my experience, I believe most people who are tagged as pre-diabetic can totally reverse their condition. If I can do it, I think anyone can do it.
There is another reason why I am obsessed with this Diabetes problem. Every elder in my family in India takes a cocktail of pills for all kinds of complications that are the result of them not really changing their lifestyle to manage their diabetes condition. This is the case for those who are still alive. On a more serious note, my dad passed away because of a cardiovascular disease which was due to his diabetic condition. Two of my aunts passed away because of complications due to diabetes. One of my aunts went blind due to Diabetic Retinopathy, or in other words diabetic eye disease. Another aunt lost her toe and had a heart attack. If they had managed their risk of Diabetic Retinopathy through better management of their blood pressure and blood glucose level (HbA1c) they could have changed their fatal condition. They all thought managing their condition was about religiously taking their pills. Yes, you should take your pills if you are in the advanced stages but if you are able to detect the condition early then lifestyle changes may have a much deeper impact than taking any pill.
Most of the things that I changed in my life are common sense and most people know intuitively how to do it. But for some reason I don’t know, most of us do not make the change. We fall back into the routine of doing things that are not good for us. I am a strong believer that in order to change something I need to understand the root cause of the condition. In the startup world this is referred to as First Principles Thinking. I have a deeper understanding of my condition and therefore I can meaningfully make changes and see the results of my actions.
In my previous blog post I wrote about food and how I found out what food items were not absorbed by my body correctly. In my case it was simple carbohydrates that were easily available in my environment. A small observation but something that I noticed while I was experimenting with food was that not all carbohydrates are absorbed equally in my body. I think that is true for everyone. For example, rice had no impact on my blood glucose level where as wheat and other simple carbohydrates that are easily available in Iceland had a meaningful impact. It is too simplistic to follow a specific diet and I encourage anyone who is on a diet, whether it is Vegan or Keto or Atkins or South Beach or whatever, you should measure the impact on your biomarkers. The simplest biomarkers that you can capture are your resting heart rate that most of the wearable devices capture these days. If you want to get more scientific about this then measuring your blood sugar level one hour after you have a meal is a good measure. Also measuring your blood pressure on a regular basis allows you to set a baseline.
I started experimenting with intermittent fasting as this naturally regulates your blood sugar level and it also brought a level of clarity in my head which lead me to go into fasting on a regular basis. You can read more about intermittent fasting made popular by Dr. Jason Fung here. I have fasted on several intervals and now I have settled into eating just one meal a day. I eat my breakfast around 14:00! Yes, 2pm in the afternoon and I try to not eat after 20:00. It is not always easy because of eating activities with family but I recommend fasting to everyone as a simple way to start getting their bodies into balance.
Exercise or Movement
I have run 8 marathons, the last one was the 2014 Boston Marathon. I used to run on average 60 kms a week so I was moving alright but it was not the right kind of movement for my condition. When I ran as much as I did my body craved easily digestible food, which are carbohydrates. When I realized that simple carbohydrates were having a bad influence on me I stopped eating them on a regular basis and also changed the exercise. Long distance running is great but it also eats your muscles. Show me one long distance runner who is muscular. If you are over 40 (I am 45 turning 46 this year), your body is losing muscle and muscles are natural storers of glucose.
Your body stores glucose in your liver and then in your muscle. If you are eating the same amount and composition of food before and after you are 40 then it creates an imbalance in your body. The reason we lose muscles after 40 is because our body naturally adjusts the hormones as we go through different stages in our life. This is programmed into us but if we are able to change our behavior, then a number of these hormonal systems start kicking back up. I started doing more weights and putting back on the muscles that I was losing because of my excessive running. This takes time and I started seeing measurable results in about a month. So I encourage everyone who is over 40 to do some weight lifting and high intensity interval training (HIIT). There are enough resources available about exercises and muscle development and I am no expert in this but AthleanX is a good resource that I use.
In part III I will cover other lifestyle changes that I have implemented around meditation, breathing and cold water therapy made popular by Wim Hoff. It is a little bit on the edge and please consult your doctor or healthcare professional before you start any program like Wim Hoff.