Beginners guide to type 2 diabetes treatment

Type 2 diabetes is a long-term disease, in which your body doesn’t use insulin efficiently. This could be because your body isn’t producing enough insulin, or it isn’t responding well enough to the insulin it has.

This means that to treat type 2 diabetes you need to either increase the amount of insulin in your body or improve how your body responds to it. And the earlier you can treat your type 2 diabetes, the better you can manage your disease and lower your risk of long-term complications.

Here’s everything you need to know about type 2 diabetes treatment:

How is type 2 diabetes treated?

To treat diabetes, you need to either increase the amount of insulin in your body or improve how your body responds to insulin.

Lifestyle changes may be enough to do this. By following a balanced diet, exercising regularly and losing any excess weight, you may be able to successfully manage your type 2 diabetes.

If lifestyle modifications don’t improve your blood glucose level and your body’s response to insulin, then you may need medication.

Type 2 diabetes anti-diabetic medication

Anti-diabetic medication is medicine that helps stabilise and regulate your blood glucose level. Depending on the medicine, anti-diabetic medication is either taken orally or injected.

Diabetes type 2 medications include:

  • Biguanides – Reduce glucose production in your liver and enhance your body’s sensitivity to insulin, allowing you to use insulin more efficiently.
  • Sulfonylureas – Stimulate your body to produce more insulin.
  • Glinides – Stimulate your pancreas to quickly increase insulin production, for a short time.
  • Thiazolidinediones – Increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin and reduce insulin resistance.
  • DPP-4 inhibitors (a.k.a. gliptins) – Increase insulin production and decrease glucose production.
  • GLP-1 receptor agonists – Stimulate your pancreas to produce more insulin.
  • SGLT2 inhibitors – Prevent glucose from returning to your bloodstream. This results in more glucose being excreted in your urine, lowering your blood glucose level.

Type 2 diabetes insulin therapy

If making lifestyle changes (such as improving your diet, exercising regularly, and losing weight) and taking anti-diabetic medications don’t correct your blood glucose level, you may need type 2 diabetes insulin therapy.

Insulin therapy involves injecting yourself with insulin. This increases the insulin in your bloodstream and compensates for the insufficient amount your body is producing. There are different types of insulin, and they’re categorised by how long they last and how quickly they produce an effect – For example, there’s long-acting insulin which lasts for 24 hours, and there’s fast-acting insulin which takes effect between 1-20 minutes and lasts for 3-5 hours.

There are several different ways to take insulin doses:

  • Syringe – Syringes can be filled from a bottle of insulin whenever you need to give yourself an injection. Syringes can only be used once and should then be safely discarded.
  • Insulin pen – Insulin pens can be pre-filled, or you can load them with an insulin cartridge and manually set the amount of insulin to be injected. Insulin pens are easy and convenient to use, and you can reuse them multiple times by changing the needle.
  • Insulin pump – Insulin pumps are small, electronic devices that you wear 24 hours a day. They attach to a needle beneath your skin and can provide you with insulin throughout the day.

Monitoring your blood sugar level with type 2 diabetes

If you’re a type 2 diabetic and you’re not taking insulin, you may not need to check your blood sugar level – Though you may find it useful to monitor your blood sugar level for a set period to get a better understanding of how it can change following meals, exercise, etc.

If you’re a type 2 diabetic and you’re taking insulin, you will need to regularly check your blood sugar level – Usually several times a day.

To check your blood sugar level you’ll need to use a device, and there are a few different types available:

  • Blood glucose meter – Using a finger-prick device you draw a drop of blood, and then use the meter to test it.
  • Flash glucose monitoring – You place a sensor on the back of your arm. The sensor has a small electrode that’s inserted just under your skin, and when you pass a smartphone or smart device over it an app can tell you what your blood glucose level is.
  • Continuous glucose monitoring device (CGM) – A sensor is inserted under your skin and automatically measures your blood glucose level every few minutes, 24 hours a day.

Your doctor or diabetes educator will tell you whether or not you need to monitor your blood sugar level, the best way for you to do it, and how regularly you should check.

Can type 2 diabetes be reversed or cured?

It’s common for newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics to wonder, “Is type 2 diabetes curable?”

The answer is, unfortunately, there’s no cure for type 2 diabetes. However, it is possible to reverse type 2 diabetes, and achieve type 2 diabetes remission, without any medications.

The most common way to reverse type 2 diabetes is through weight loss. This is because excess weight is one of the highest risk factors for type 2 diabetes, so if you lose weight you can potentially reverse the disease.

Two ways type 2 diabetics often lose weight are:

  • Strict diet and exercise – If you manage your diet, limit the number of calories or carbohydrates you eat, and exercise regularly, you can typically lose weight.
  • Bariatric surgery – An option for people who have a high body mass index (BMI), bariatric surgery is surgery that affects your stomach and how your food is digested. It makes your stomach smaller, so you eat less and lose weight. As with any surgery, there are risks involved.

It’s generally believed that the earlier you start managing your type 2 diabetes, the better your chances are of being able to reverse it – The longer you wait, the less effective your body becomes at producing and responding to insulin, and the lower your chance of being able to reverse the disease.

What alternative treatments for type 2 diabetes are available?

As well as lifestyle and insulin therapy treatments, there are also alternative type 2 diabetes treatments such as Ayurvedic and homeopathic medicine.

Importantly though, there’s not enough evidence to support either of these treatments and they’re generally not recommended. If you’re interested in Ayurvedic treatment for diabetes type 2, or homeopathic medicine for diabetes type 2, you should consult with your doctor first

Ayurvedic medicine for diabetes type 2

Ayurveda is an ancient medical practice that began in India over 3000 years ago. It’s built on the principle that the health of the body and mind depend on three constitutions, or life forces, known as doshas.

In Ayurveda diabetes is referred to as ‘madhumeha’ and is considered a urinary disorder – It’s characterised by a person needing to urinate more, and their urine becoming sweet like honey, cloudy and pale. It’s generally believed to be caused by poor digestion.

The Ayurvedic treatment for madhumeha is to avoid foods that increase blood glucose level. These include:

  • sweets
  • wheat
  • dairy
  • carbohydrates
  • red meat

Exercise, herbal supplements and meditation are also advised as part of Ayurvedic treatment.

However, as there’s no conclusive evidence to support Ayurvedic treatment for diabetes type 2 it’s not recommended you pursue it as an alternative treatment method. If you’re interested in Ayurvedic medicine as an alternative treatment for your diabetes type 2 you should consult with your doctor.

Homeopathic medicine for diabetes type 2

Another alternative treatment is homeopathic medicine for diabetes type 2.

Homeopathy is based on the idea that ailments can be treated by taking a small dose of a substance that, in larger amounts, would cause the symptoms of the original ailment.

For type 2 diabetes, this would mean taking small doses of substances that, in larger quantities, would cause symptoms such as excessive thirst and urination, increased hunger, and fatigue.

Again, there’s no strong evidence that homeopathic medicine for diabetes type 2 is effective and it’s not recommended you pursue it as a treatment method. If you’re interested in homeopathy as an alternative treatment for your diabetes type 2 you should consult your doctor first.

What now - How to get started living with type 2 diabetes?

A type 2 diabetes diagnosis is tough to receive. However, it’s important to remember that the earlier you start to treat and manage your type 2 diabetes, the greater your chance of:

  • reducing the severity of your symptoms,
  • living a long, happy and healthy life,
  • and potentially reversing your type 2 diabetes and sending it into remission.

So, you should start treatment for your type 2 diabetes as soon as possible. As type 2 diabetes is typically caused by lifestyle, you have several options available to you that will help you effectively manage your disease. These include:

  • Eating healthily and exercising – Being overweight is a high-risk factor for type 2 diabetes. By eating right and exercising, you can reduce your risk of complications from the disease. In addition, being a healthy weight and physically fit will also help keep the rest of your body healthy, including your mind.
  • If applicable, check your blood sugar regularly – If your doctor has recommended you check your blood sugar level regularly, make sure you do it. By monitoring your blood sugar level, and having a good understanding of how your body reacts to things like meals and exercise, you’ll be able to better manage your type 2 diabetes.
  • Avoid stress – Stress can have a significant effect on blood sugar level. By avoiding stress, you can reduce the risk of it affecting your blood sugar level. Relaxing, meditating and practising breathing exercises can all help to reduce stress and improve your mental state.
  • Seek support from your network and medical team – Type 2 diabetes is an ongoing, long-term disease, and can have serious complications. By maintaining contact with your medical team and scheduling routine checkups, you can help avoid these complications. And by maintaining strong relationships with your family and friends, you will be more resilient and able to cope better with your diabetes.

Living with type 2 diabetes is challenging, but the choices you make can have a direct impact on your disease and improve your health.

And you can enjoy a long and happy life for years to come.

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