Medically Reviewed By: Tom Iarocci, MD

It is estimated that close to 22 million Americans now suffer from diabetes, and the vast majority of people have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented, its onset delayed and its course even reversed in some cases, when the right lifestyle changes and intensive efforts are made. There are many things you can do to try to ward off diabetes naturally, and if you already have diabetes, you may be able to reduce your need medication with these non-drug strategies as well.

The bottom line, though, is that your blood sugar, or blood glucose, needs to be controlled; yes, you can do a lot through diet and exercise, but you should not feel badly if you require glucose-lowering medication to accomplish this.

Understanding The Disease and It's Treatments:

There are two different types of diabetes, and both involve insulin, a natural hormone that the body requires for proper use of glucose. Type 1 diabetes, which accounts for only about 5 percent of diabetics, develops when the pancreas stops producing insulin, somewhat drastically. Type 2 diabetes develops over time when the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to meet the body’s needs, or the cells are becoming too resistant to the action of insulin, or a combination of both—so that the body can't use the insulin that's produced effectively enough to process the glucose. Both types of diabetes lead to high blood sugar, but in type 1 diabetes there is little or no insulin from your own body to work with. With type 2 diabetes, weight loss and lifestyle changes can make a huge difference in your glucose control, often working with your own body’s insulin at first, and this can help direct how well you do with your disease down the line.

Preventing and Treating Diabetes Naturally:

In both cases, diabetes causes blood sugar to climb. Over time, having elevated glucose levels is one of the things that contributes to the clogging up of the blood vessels and many different complications—like cardiovascular disease, problems with wound healing, problems with vision, kidney disease, circulatory problems, heart attack and stroke.

People with type 2 diabetes are often overweight or obese and may be physically inactive when diagnosed. The less physical activity, the more likely the diabetes will progress and worsen. With extra body weight comes worse glucose control as the cells in the body develop more resistance to insulin.

Daily Exercise Is Recommended:

Since being overweight or obese directly impacts your life with diabetes, a routine of daily exercise along with a good nutrition plan, to help to shed those excess pounds, is strongly advised. Studies have shown that participating in regular exercise programs for a minimum of 30 minutes a day can help you get control of your blood sugar.

Low Fat, Balanced Diet Needed:

Part of eating healthy when you have diabetes is cutting out some of those saturated fats, such as in full-fat dairy products and non-lean meats. The partially hydrogenated or trans fats should also be avoided, whether you are diabetic or not. The best nutrition programs also offer items that are high in fiber and rich in antioxidants, including fresh fruits and non-starchy vegetables, including greens and herbs.

But fats are only part of the picture. You also need to be making sure you get the right nutritional value in your food while being careful not to consume an overabundance—of anything, if possible.

People with type 2 diabetes often have no symptoms early on and may be unaware of their condition. That is why screening and the notion of pre-diabetes is so important. Eating healthy and shedding extra weight reduces your risk for pre-diabetes and diabetes, but if you have already been diagnosed, it also helps you control your blood sugar.