I feel constantly bombarded with claims that Type 2 diabetes can be reversed and prevented. I even hear absurdities about how Type 2 diabetes can be cured. I expect these things from the scams that we all see in our email inboxes and across the web. But what really sets my hair on fire is the use of these words by people who should know better. Medical professionals and our government should know better. And unfortunately when the leaders of the conversation send out a confused message our entire society follows them down the wrong path. So why does it matter? It matters because these words communicate meaning and concepts and when these concepts are inaccurate and misleading they can be harmful. It can leaves people with diabetes confused about their condition, encouraged to pursue bad goals, feeling blame and shame that they “didn’t do it right” and full of false hope. Today, I’m going to focus on the phrase “Reversing Diabetes” and end with a plea that we stop using the term “reversing” and use the term “remission.” Nobody has ever shown that once you have Type 2 diabetes that you can reverse the condition to become non-diabetic. All we can do is slow or stop the progression. Let’s start using the term remission when we successfully manage the symptoms of diabetes, we all know that our diabetes is still there and can and will rear it’s ugly head if we stray from our treatment.
Don’t Say “Reverse Diabetes” It Makes My Hair Catch on Fire!
Hello, Brian. I just rejoined Tudiabetes.com and wanted to learn to navigate the site. I agree that “reversal” and “cure” are VERY misleading terms in relation to managing diabetes. Some might argue that “remission” is also a misleading term, but I do like the way it conveys the idea of health and success in controlling one’s condition. Feelings of discouragement are so common among diabetics, and getting rid of “reversal” and “cure” when discussing diabetes would go a long way in better educating everyone. Is any institution like ADA or the FDA trying to control the use of these terms as false advertising? 'Cause that’s what it is!!
I go one step further and say that telling people they can “reverse” diabetes is harmful.
Not only does it feed into the blame-and-shame game, it can get in the way of people receiving the treatment and medication that they need. How many people living with T2 delayed taking medication in the hope that if they only ate more vegetables, or exercised more, or lost 10 lbs. that this would all just go away.
We know that poorly managed blood glucose levels contribute to complications and serious co-morbidities. Why beat yourself up now and only end up setting yourself up for worse in the future?
In fact those of us on the pump (if we’re Type 1) may have the “good type” of diabetes. We can often manage our condition with a single self-managed treatment. Dealing with a complicated 3 drug or multi-injectable regime can leave one much more dependent on medical professionals for tweaks to treatment. And given the stress all of us have managing our disease, the less we need the doctors the better
Even “professionals” do it!! I’ve had a DCE who was at our school educating the staff re then 2 children who have diabetes, upon learning that I have Type 2, she made this hmmph sound and said “Ah, that’s nothing”!!
So right there…a dozen teachers learned in a split second that Type 2 is no biggie!!
Imagine blaming people for high blood pressure. Some can reduce symptoms or attain better control with lifestyle changes (as a friend of mine has done) but they’re not “cured” either. Providing false hope of “reversal” of any medical condition is indeed harmful.
Yeah, I don’t think diabetes has cornered the market on the whole “blame and shame” thing. Anyone living with a chronic health condition or illness that is in someway connected to lifestyle is subject to blame and shame.
Some people blame those with high blood pressure for eating too much salt, or being overweight, or being Type A.
As a T1 I’ve made that point before–allowing for the fact that there are NO “good” types, of course–but the very fact that T2 can start out as a pretty non-acute, gradual situation makes it more insidious to deal with in a lot of ways. Seems like it’s more common for people with T2 to get into complications before they realize they need to take it a lot more seriously. Whereas a T1 diagnosis has a way of grabbing your attention right from the get-go. The symptoms of incipient DKA aren’t easy to ignore, and the treatment doesn’t have much wiggle room in it. My close friend who was dx’d T2 a few years ago tells me “I take a Metformin in the morning and forget about it.” I can’t say I’d do any better in his position, whereas in mine I don’t have the choice.
Type 2 is genetic in nature, which is why only about 8% of the American population has been diagnosed with it, though 2/3rds are obese. And as we all know here, many people diagnosed with Type 2 are NOT obese but still have highly abnormal blood sugars.
What makes this even more infuriating is the reams of evidence that environmental toxins and pharmaceutical drugs are causing some of the genetic damage leading to Type 2 diabetes. Statins, SSRIs, atypical antipsychotics, all are associated with much higher rates of diabetes diagnoses. So are commonly used pesticides, herbicides, plasticizers, etc, etc. BPA has been shown to modify insulin resistance in the granddaughters of animals exposed to it. The replacement for BPA turns out to be just as toxic.
But as long as people are brainwashed into believing that Type 2 is caused by gluttony and sloth and easily “reversed” just by eating normally and going to the gym there will be zero effort to change these toxic exposures.
I totally agree that type 2 is genetic. I was blogging about it another day and came upon a site that said something to the effect that it CAN BE autoimmune. This was published in 2011 and never mentioned ever since. Sounds like almost politically incorrect.
Genetic is like nature vs nurture where at the end, nature wins. Oh well.
If a type 2 doesn’t have to take meds, it doesn’t mean that they’re cured. It only means that they are able to manage their condition without meds but they still have their T2D.
I used to have a boyfriend that thought I could control my levels with exercise, ionic water, etc… He just could not understand that genetics may be the biggest factor. His lack of understanding made me feel like I was doing something wrong when I was doing everything right and my body would not behave. There needs to be more education on the facts to everyone. On my medical IDs I mostly have ‘On Insulin’ or IDDM. All diabetic conditions are serious so I avoid putting T2 on IDs to avoid people thinking I only take Oral Meds. My Endo said T2 peeps have a lot of risk factors. I’ll do my best to combat those risk factors.
I was very fortunate that I had been normal weight and physically active all my life before my diagnosis, so I wasn’t hampered by the guilt and shame that afflicts so many people given Type 2 diagnoses. I credit that with being why I was able to dive in and do so much research, back in a time (in the late 1990s) when “everyone” knew that Type 2 was caused by being a fat slob.
The most gratifying thing to me about my web site has been how many people have written to me over the years that reading what I’d put out there helped them get past the shame that was keeping in denial and worsening their health.
Hear, hear. If I hadn’t been indoctrinated to believe that T2 was only a “moderate” problem, I would have demanded insulin at least a decade before I actually did, and I would be that much better off now.
Last spring I listened to a 5-day series of video interviews advertised as the Diabetes World Summit. For the most part, the experts that were interviewed were “functional medicine” practitioners. These were practitioners that highly valued nutrition, exercise, and supplements to treat various disorders, including diabetes.
During an early interview in the series, the host, Dr. Brian Mowll, a chiropractor, certified diabetes educator, and an Institute of Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner, used the term “reversing diabetes.” I responded in the comment thread that I thought this was an inappropriate and misleading term. I made the point that while symptoms of diabetes could be reversed, the underlying condition, diabetes, will not be reversed. Neither he nor anyone else responded to my comment.
Using the term, reversing diabetes, reminds me of the fraudulent pushing of patent medicines in the 19th century to desperate people. These were medicines that claimed to cure a long list of health concerns, indeed a miracle! The miracle was in dishonestly separating hard working people from their money.
I agree that words do matter. I dislike the use of the term reversing diabetes and think it discredits some otherwise good practices. A lot of the practitioners on the video series advocated reducing carbs to help control diabetes. Some of them were not too precise in differentiating between type I and type II diabetes.
It appears to me that they’re reluctant to reject that terminology and I think it does their cause harm.
David_DNS, Thanks for your very kind words and for helping to spread the message.
One of the great coincidences of my life was that Bernstein’s book was on the New Books shelf at the library the day I was diagnosed. I knew zero about diabetes as I’d always been told that since I was thin I could ignore my elevated sugars, and anyway my FBG was always normal though after meals was in the 200s. But I took the book home and Bernstein’s woke me up fast. I had no idea what"complications" meant until reading him.
They had lent me a meter and 10 strips at the clinic. I tested after a couple meals and saw those highs and immediately started cutting carbs the way Bernstein said to, to make the most of my strips.
It made such a dramatic difference that when I went back and gave them back the meter they told me I was fine and they wouldn’t pay for strips for the next two years. That was Kaiser, who fortunately went out of business in New England. After that I got strips paid for.
But if I hadn’t read Bernstein I would have continued ignoring everything, as I had been told to do during my two previous diabetic pregnancies.
But I can really relate to the most clueless reader, because that was me back in 1998.
Not to get political or anything but without naming names I’d like to point out that one of our major political parties has a candidate running who has leant his name to an infomercial hawking a “diabetes cure.” I feel not a little righteous wrath toward this particular candidate.
Life is full of coincidences, synchronicities and similar eyebrow-raisers. Bernstein was my ticket to proper care as well. I had a shelf of diabetes books that I mostly hadn’t read, and I was a long time T2 who did the bare minimum. I managed to keep my A1c in the mid to high sixes for years, then it started creeping up into the sevens regardless of any efforts.
I was seeing my Naturopath (about something else) and the subject of diabetes came up. She told me to get Bernstein’s book and read it. I said, it’s sitting on my shelf gathering dust. She got kind of stern and said, “Take it down and read it.” So I did, and it was like stepping into a different world. Things made sense that never had before, and I marched into my doctor’s office and demanded insulin. It triggered a permanent lifetime knowledge quest that I don’t expect will ever end.
As must be obvious by now, Bernstein’s book is one of the ones I always recommend. Gary Scheiner’s is another.